Stoke & Staffordshire

Final cut for Tutbury's crystal glass industry

Georgian Crystal
Image caption The factory shop furnaces were switched off a few weeks ago

The village of Tutbury, in Staffordshire, has been a centre of glass manufacturing since 1472.

But spiralling fuel costs have now forced the last remaining factory in the village to close.

On the other side of the River Dove, in the Derbyshire village of Hatton, Nestle has just announced 300 new jobs as part of an expansion to its coffee plant.

It represents an industry that is thriving but, in what seems to be a tale of two villages, a mile down the road, another has died.

"It's another British manufacturing industry that's gone down the pan," said Darron Shaw, managing director at Georgian Crystal.

The factory's furnaces were switched off a few weeks ago and the factory shop is set to shut this weekend.

The company was formed in the 1980s by glassworkers who had been made redundant from another factory.

"I started out here as a sweeper-upper and I finished as managing director - all with the same company," said Mr Shaw.

"But now, I feel like I've let people down."

Redundancy notices were handed out in early November and Mr Shaw had to write his own.

He complained of a lack of support by the coalition government for smaller businesses.

Image caption The factory shop is waiting to sell the last of the glass made there

"Prices for the acid we used in the manufacturing process doubled and the fuel costs snowballed from £500 to more than £1,300 a month.

"I was doing everything by the book, paying my VAT on time and everything, but in return I felt that there was no help, nothing."

Ian Jackson, senior lecturer in economics at Staffordshire University, said: "There is very little protection for these smaller companies, particularly when they're hit hard by a sudden change in economic circumstance.

"In a sense, what this is is a change in economic activity and you are going to get winners and losers."

Mr Jackson said that while it was important to attract inward investment from multinational companies, it was equally vital to make sure that smaller businesses can flourish and be resilient in times of economic problems.

"Perhaps at the moment, government policy could do more to help traditional industries and fuel intensive industries.

'Double tragedy'

"It's tragic for those made redundant. They've committed long apprenticeships and they've given their entire working life to these industries.

"Once it ends, the skills die with them.

"So it's a double tragedy. Job skills are lost now, but in the future, these skills will completely disappear."

George Shaw was the master glass-blower at the factory. Now he is looking for work, aged 61.

"All I know is glass-making. I started out in 1965 when I was 15-years-old.

"I did five or six years as an apprentice. Now everything I know will be gone.

"It's very sad. Everybody used to come to here to see glass being made. It was like a tourist attraction.

"Tutbury will be dead. There's nothing. There's no industry like that around here now."

Georgian Crystal was founded from the ashes of the old Webb Corbett glassware factory which was closed down by Royal Doulton in 1980.

Some of the workers pooled their redundancy money to set up Georgian Crystal the following year.

Mr Shaw added: "I'm 45 years old, I've been in the glass industry all my life. I haven't got a clue what's round the corner for me or the rest of the lads.

"Signing on was confusing and frustrating. For someone who's been in work all the time, never had anything off the state, I felt like I was a failure.

"It's a horrible feeling, I wouldn't wish it on anyone."

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