The company began in 1836 as Ward and Nixon, when James Henry Nixon joined forces with Thomas Ward. In the early 1850s, a pupil of Nixon, Henry Hughes, became the partner of Thomas Ward, and the company was renamed Ward and Hughes.
Perhaps the most prestigious stained glass commission of the 19th century, the re-glazing of the East Window of Lincoln Cathedral, went to Ward and Nixon in 1855. The largest 13th century window in the world, the simple harmony of the tracery in Geometric Decorated Gothic is the ultimate splendour in what has been acclaimed as "the finest cathedral in England". (John Ruskin and others). Ward and Nixon used a conservative design, its overall appearance being in keeping with the date of the stonework and drawing for effect on the visual texture of the variations within its formal arrangement and the glorious luminescence of its colour.