Rednoses December 2015 Winter Blog Post

December 2015 Winter Blog

Bluenoses December 2015 Winter Blog Post



How St Helens Changed the World!

The town of St Helens has been home to some major brands over the years, from Thomas Beecham's Pills to Thomas Greenall's brewery, but one brand that stands out from the rest, is Pilkington's Glass. The glass making industry in St Helens has not only had a massive impact on the town itself, but the entire planet!

St Helens Glass Innovation Changed the World

You may be reading this blog post on your mobile phone, iPad, Tablet or Laptop device, whilst sitting in your office, apartment or even the backseat of a car. You may be wondering to yourself, what on earth has St Helens ever done for me! If you are, well you couldn't be any more niave to the truth. In fact, the very touch screen mobile phone, iPad, Tablet or Laptop device you may be reading this on, owes itself to a groundbreaking innovation that was first invented in the town of St Helens. The very window in your luxury office, apartment or even car also owes itself to that very same St Helens invention.

Sir Alastair Pilkington's Float Glass Process

Before 1952, the glass industry was limited to making small, often brittle panes of glass. The production of large flat glass was too difficult to develop. St Helens had already established itself as a centre for glass making, jointly one of the main players in a pack of manufactures of glass. That was until engineer Alastair Pilkington arrived in the town. He joined the "Pilkington Brothers" in 1952, coincidentally sharing the same surname as the firm's founding family, but bearing no relation. He first conceived the idea of float glass while he was doing the dishes. He was intrigued at the sight of a glass plate floating on the water. He wondered whether glass could be produced in a similar way. Between the years of 1953 and 1959, along with Kenneth Bickerstaff, he fine-tuned the process. Pilkington Brothers Limited invested over £7 Million in his revolutionary process, that's around £100 Million in today's money. They built a full scale development line to bring to fruition his invention. The huge investment almost bankrupted the Pilkington Brothers, but thankfully for them it paid off, bigtime!

The Pilkington's & St Helens Glass Making Timeline

Event Date
Glass production first began in St Helens at Lower Hey in Sutton. 1688
The "British Cast Plate Glass Company" established in Ravenhead as St Helens became the market leader for glass production. 1786
The Pilkington family founded the large glass works in the town. 1826
The "St Helens Crown Glass Company" was founded after a partnership between the Pilkington and Greenall families. 1826
Following the departure of the last Greenall family member, the company became known as the "Pilkington Brothers". 1845
"Pilkington Brothers" was incorporated under the name "Pilkington Brothers Limited". 1894
Alastair Pilkington invented a revolutionary new method of creating glass - the "Float Glass Process". 1952
Over the next three years, Alastair Pilkington and Kenneth Bickerstaff embarked on fine-tuning the Float Glass Process. 1952
The "Pilkington Brothers Limited" invested heavily in a full scale development line to create the new innovative flat glass. 1955
The "Pilkington Brothers Limited" float glass process turned the town of St Helens into the world's leading glass producer. 1956
The "Float Glass Process" began to transform the face of the planet, later making Pilkington's billions of pounds in the process. 1956
The World of Glass Museum was opened in St Helens to celebrate the town's rich history of glass production. 2000

One of the greatest industrial inventions of the age!

The new 'Float Glass Process' proved to be an almighty success, earning the Pilkington Brothers an enormous return on their initial investment, making them billions of pounds. Other companies had to pay to use the innovative technology that quickly became the universal method of creating glass. The 'Float Glass Process' became one of the greatest industrial inventions of the age! It catapulted St Helens into the world's greatest glass making centre.

The Pilkington Brothers Limited Global Domination

Following Sir Alastair Pilkington's invention, the Pilkington Brothers Limited used their royalties to invest in new float glass plants throughout the world. Opening new facilities in Argentina, Australia, Canada and Sweden during the 1960's and 70's. They also bought into existing glass companies in Germany and the United States, further cementing their monopoly on the production of glass.

What Changes the St Helens Float Glass Process Brought About!

Architectural Changes

Glass designed architechure would not have been possible without the Float Glass Process! Glass designed architechure would not have been possible without the Float Glass Process! The Float Glass Process brought about huge architectural changes to our city skylines. Buildings began to look a lot more different than they did before the 1940's. Massive newly designed sky scrapers appeared all over the world, allowing architects to design buildings that have completely changed the aesthetics of our major cities. None of the super skyscrapers you see today would not have been possible, if it weren't for the innovation that the town of St Helens brought about.

Solar Power Technology

Solar Panels are designed using the Float Glass Process! Solar Panels are designed using the Float Glass Process! The green revolution relies heavily on the invention of solar panels, which would not have came about had it not been for the Float Glass Process. Solar power technology has helped the human race cut back on our global carbon footprint. The use of solar panels is only going to increase in the years to come, as the need to harness the power of the sun intensifies. The solar panels you see today would not have been possible, had it not been for St Helens revolutionary Float Glass Process.

Touch Screen Phone Technology

Touch Screen Phones are designed using the Float Glass Process! Touch Screen Phones are designed using the Float Glass Process! Touch Screen Mobile Phone Technology was made possible due to the early innovation of float glass. Today, almost all new mobile phones have built-in touch screen technology. The rise of held-held mobile phones with touch screen technology owe much to the inspiration of Sir Alastair Pilkington and the St Helens glass firm that invested in the Float Glass Process. Had it not been for that initial spark of genius, the world and our way of life would be so much different today!

Automobile Windows

Pilkington Glass manufacturer a number of windows for the transport industry! Pilkington Glass manufacturer a number of windows for the transport industry! Modern day car, bus, coach and train windows are all designed using the Float Glass Process. Sir Alastair Pilkington's invention allowed us to revolutionise our transport industry. Allowing us to design vehicles with more stronger, streamlined and safer windows. The contemporary design of vehicles today would not have been possible, if it weren't for the Float Glass Process. Today, Pilkington Glass still manufacturer a number of windows for the transport industry.

Flat Screen TV Technology

Modern day TV Screens are designed using the Float Glass Process! Modern day TV Screens are designed using the Float Glass Process! Next time you sit down with the family in the living room to watch the Merseyside Derby on your brand new high definition flat screen television, spare a thought for the man who made it all possible! The technology that brought you flat screen televisions wouldn't have came about had it not been for Sir Alastair Pilkington's Float Glass Process. All modern day television screens are designed using his innovative method of creating glass that was designed in the St Helens glass works.

Touch Screen Tablet Technology

Tablet Devices are designed using the Float Glass Process! Tablet Devices are designed using the Float Glass Process! What have iPads and the Washing Up got in common? Well had it not been for Sir Alastair Pilkington's fascination with how a glass plate floated on the water whilst he was doing the dishes, he wouldn't of invented the Float Glass Process, thus, there wouldn't be any iPads or Tablet devices. It's remarkable to think how the world would be so much different today, had it not been for his spark of genius that came about from some dirty plates. Think about that next time you're doing the dishes.

The Float Glass Process Today

Today, there are around 450 float glass lines in the world. Each line producing hundreds of tonnes of glass every day and running 24/7, 365 days a year for over 15 years. Altogether, over 1 million tonnes of glass comes off the float glass lines every year.

The conclusion.

Pilkington Glass eventually lost their monopoly on glass production, finally being taken over in 2006 by a larger firm based in Japan called, the "NSG Group". While the world headquarters of Pilkington Glass are still dominating the skyline of St Helens, their main organisational hub has moved over to Germany. It's such a shame that the firm's operations have diminished in the town over the years. A town that was once the epicentre of the glass making industry. Thanks to the town of St Helens, the Pilkington Brothers and indeed Sir Alastair Pilkington, the face of the world has changed insurmountably.
The Pilkington Brothers are no longer, but their impact on the town of St Helens and the rest of the world should never be underestimated.