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|Founded||Dartington Hall Trust|
Based in Torrington in north Devon, England, Dartington Crystal manufactures crystal glassware using traditional hand-making glass blowing techniques. Many of their ranges continue to be made in their North Devon factory and Dartington Crystal is now one of only a few crystal brands 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.
On the recommendation of Frank Thrower, a ceramic salesman and self-taught glassware designer, 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, most of whom stayed for many years.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.
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 in 1982, allowing for further expansion.
In 1987, Frank Thrower MBE died of cancer, but the business still boomed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. In 1989 The 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 The 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 was based in the West Midlands.
Today Dartington Crystal is the major private employer in Torrington and surrounding rural areas, which is very important to the South West and UK economy. All hand-made crystal items are still produced at Dartington Crystal in Torrington meaning the factory is the only working hand-made tableware producing crystal factory left in the UK, Given the demand for this product, the company does however outsource some ranges of items from within the EU (especially machine-made) crystal where Dartington still continue a rigorous quality control process.
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.
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.
Commissions include Holland & Holland, Rolls Royce Motor, P&O Cruises and Chivas Regal as well as many others.
Dartington are one of just a few remaining large scale producers of crystal and glass in the UK, with 150 staff. Not all of their crystal is made in Devon while they design and source other glassware from European suppliers. In addition to Dartington crystal and glass products, the Company owns and markets the 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. 3 May 2003.
- "Dartington Crystal". Dartington Crystal. Retrieved 3 April 2015.