ABOUT SEAHAM SEAGLASS

During the late 1800s and early 20th century Seaham was home to England’s largest bottle works, The Seaham Bottle Company, later The Londonderry Bottle Co. run by John Candlish, a visionary businessman who had a unique relationship with his workers. During a difficult financial time when the company’s bankers collapsed, leaving Candlish penniless, his workers chose to continue working without pay for a whole month. This gave Candlish the chance to save the company and the desire to reward the generous spirit of his employees. He not only paid them back all the wages he owed them, but he invested in their hard work by building a school and other social amenities for them to use free of charge. As the company went from strength to strength, Candlish continued to share his success with his workers, looking after them by providing good working conditions and good local housing in the community.

The company were making around 20,000 bottles a day and also some art glass too and at the end of the day the waste material from the bottle works was dumped over the cliff into the sea.  Of course, nowadays this would not happen, but in those days pollution and recycling were not considered in the way they are now.

 The bottle works in Seaham finally closed down in 1921, leaving tons of glass out in the sea, being tossed amongst the pebbles, back and forth onto the beaches by the tide. Many colours of smooth frosted glass could be seen laying on the beaches, generally only picked up by children attracted to the bright colours.

Once the bottle works had closed, coal mining was the main industry in the town and employed many men in a total of three mines. Things were to change in the 1980’s and early 90’s when the mines closed down leaving much unemployment in Seaham leading to the town becoming run down and generally very poor. Despite the beauty of the coastline this was never a tourist spot and even today it’s difficult to buy a postcard or a bucket and spade.

However in a way that ‘what goes around comes around’ so has Seaham in a rather unexpected way. With the growing popularity of up-cycling, seaglass is now considered very collectable for it’s beauty and uniqueness, bringing in people from all over the world, particularly the United States, where Seaham glass is much coveted for it’s smooth, frosted qualities and diversity of colours, especially the ‘multi’s’ or ‘end of days’ where the waste glass was mixed together before going over the cliff. As a result of this beautiful glass, many visitors now come to the town, searching the beaches in the hope of finding these ultimate treasures and with the aid of a regeneration programme, clearing away industrial waste and creating a picturesque harbour this town is now thriving. The seafront now boasts many tea shops, bistros and bars, gift shops and commemorative art works and statues. It looks inviting and cared for. In fact you could say that the tide has turned for Seaham and what was once considered abandoned waste from a closed down bottle works, the amazing power of nature, has done all the recycling work and created a gold mine of much sort after natural gems, boosting the economy again as John Candlish once did when he opened the original bottle works over a century ago.