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|Founded||Dartington Hall Trust|
Based in Torrington in north Devon, England, Dartington Crystal manufactures crystal glassware using traditional Swedish glass blowing techniques. Many of their ranges continue to be hand crafted in their North Devon factory and Dartington Crystal is now the only crystal brand still producing in the UK.
The company was founded by the Dartington Hall Trust, a charity which then aimed to assist the economic regeneration of rural areas through business, education and the arts.
In the early sixties the trust had become concerned that north Devon was becoming depopulated as a lack of job opportunities forced people to move elsewhere to find work. The glass-making factory was intended to be a solution this problem, conceived as a centre of employment giving local people a reason to stay in the area.
To achieve this vision the trust recruited Eskil Vilhemson, a Swedish glass manufacturer, to be the company's Managing Director. A team of Scandinavian glass blowers came with him to Torrington, some of whom are still there to this day, and the factory opened in June 1967 under the name of Dartington Glass. A year later in 1969 more glass blowers followed, one Italian and a couple from Denmark.
The company thrived from here growing into a worldwide brand recognised for its quality and design led manufacturing. Frank Thrower, the company's designer created some of the most important glassware designs of the 20th century, many of which are still produced by the company to this day (Sharon, Exmoor and Dimple date back to the late 1960s and early 1970s).
Demand outstripped production in the 1970s and the factory had to be expanded. By the 1980s the modern image of Dartington had attracted the attention of Wedgwood who took up a large stake in the business, allowing for further expansion.
Sadly, in 1987, Frank Thrower MBE died of cancer, but the business still boomed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1989 Dartington Hall Trust sold a controlling interest to the Rockware Group, whose investment in the business allowed a modern batch mixing plant and new retail shop to be built. The business underwent a management buyout in 1994 from BTR, who had previously acquired the Rockware Group and Dartington Hall Trust sold their remaining stake in the business. The business was later acquired by US giftware giant Enesco in 2004, following the company briefly going into administration.
Dartington Crystal underwent another Management Buy Out in April 2006, safeguarding many skilled jobs in the area. Dartington Crystal bought Scottish-based Caithness Glass out of receivership in October 2006 and also owns Royal Brierley Crystal which is based in the West Midlands.
Today Dartington Crystal is the major employer in Torrington and a very important to the South West, some Dartington Crystal is still produced in Torrington meaning the factory is the only working hand-made tableware producing crystal factory left in the UK, however, the company also sources ranges and items of (especially machine-made) crystal from overseas (mainly from Slovakia's Poltar crystal glass factory).
Dartington is also a major tourist attraction for the area, over 250,000 people visit the site each year to see the unique Factory Experience, Visitors Centre, extensive Glass Shop and Restaurant.
Dartington Crystal celebrated its 40th Birthday in June 2007.
Dartington Crystal's most famous products date back to the 1970s, Frank Thrower's Scandinavian influenced designs such as Sharon, Exmoor, and Dimple set Dartington out from the others who concentrated on the now seemingly 'old fashioned' cut crystal styles. Indeed, this has given Dartington a modern and contemporary image which has kept it ahead of others, and makes it much easier to sell in the modern market. Today's most popular ranges include Wine Master, Florabundance as well as Sharon, Exmoor, and Dimple which are still made today and are just as popular as they were in the early years.
Dartington Crystal's most famous products date back to the 1970s, Frank Thrower's Scandinavian influenced designs such as Sharon, Exmoor and Dimple set Dartington apart from the others who concentrated on the now seemingly 'old fashioned' cut crystal styles. Indeed, this has given Dartington a modern and contemporary image which has kept it ahead of others and makes it relevant today. Some of the most popular ranges include Wine Master, Florabundance as well as Sharon, Exmoor and Dimple which are just as popular as they were in the early years. Today Dartington provides a choice of options in terms of materials, design, style and cost. Dartington provide a variety of Crystal glassware that’s both classic and contemporary whatever your requirements may be. Fine clear crystal is hand made using the finest materials to provide simple and elegant designs for the home or to give as gifts. The luxurious weight, feel and sparkle of 24% lead crystal makes it perfect for those seeking premium quality and classic enduring looks, some collections are machine made lead free crystal. Quality glassware items from selected European factories have been used to create both clear and coloured items that are competitively priced and have wide appeal.
The company is also known for its personalised, corporate gifts and special commissions including an FA cup replica used in the celebrations of the 30th anniversary of Sunderland's FA Cup triumph over Leeds United. This replica can be seen in the Visitors Centre at the Torrington site.
Dartington and its associated brands are used by many prestigious businesses and organizations for their corporate and promotional gifts as most standard pieces are well suited to etching a logo or inscription. The unique design and hand making capability has created many bespoke solutions for presentation pieces and awards.
Over time Dartington Crystal have been selected by many leading companies and organisations to supply tailor made crystal for their own business needs. Commissions include Holland & Holland, Rolls Royce Motor, P&O Cruises and Chivas Regal as well as many other prestigious names.
Dartington are the only remaining large scale producer of crystal and glass in the UK and they remain an important regional employer with 150 staff. All of their crystal is still made in Devon while they design and source other glassware from selected European suppliers. In addition to Dartington crystal and glass products, the Company owns and markets the world renowned Caithness Glass and Royal Brierley Crystal brands. They also sell and distribute John Beswick ceramic character sculptures.
- "Trip down memory lane pays tribute to cup final heroes". The Northern Echo. 2003-05-03.