Friggers

Also known as whimseys in the United States, are glass oddities or ornaments, made by glassworkers in their downtime, and using the poorer quality metal in the bottom of the glass pot, known as tail-glass, or end-of-day glass.

A glass novelty pipe, known as a frigger.

This practice of making novelties or friggers, was actively encouraged by the factory owners for two reasons. It emptied the pot of the impure metal before it was refilled with the next batch; and it helped apprentices to practice their skills in manipulating the hot glass allowing them and their gaffers to showcase their expertise and imagination.

Friggers parades developed from the glassworkers parading their friggers around local pubs and ale houses to earn a little extra money. They were often colourful, humorous, and contemporary in design. The glass-makers imagination reflected the world around them, apprentices made simple objects like swans, with their long necks and folded wings shaped in hot glass. They progressed to blown glass objects such as a bugle copied from those played in Sunday School. If two colours of glass were available, they would twist them together in a long cane, to make walking sticks, without function but very decorative. This twisted length of glass, whilst still hot could be rolled on the marver and cut into small chunks, with further rolling they would make marbles; a welcome and simple game to distract them from everyday life, large colourful marbles became coveted and collectable, adding competition to their amusement.

Glass walking sticks and canes

Experienced glassmakers would use the tail glass to push the boundaries of handling the metal making more elaborate items. In 1823 in Bristol, glassmakers at a Royal Parade wore glass feathers in their hats and carried glass swords; and in 1827 in Newcastle the 1st Duke of Wellington who became Prime Minister in April of that year, was welcomed with a parade led by a locally made glass cannon celebrating his achievements of the Battlefield.


Bird cage lampworked in red, green and clear glass under glass dome on wooden base with stuffed yellow canary inside. Victorian. Dudley Museum Collection BH1283

Friggers Parades became annual events in Stourbridge; public processions, with picnics with entertainments, and usually paid for by factory owners, a precursor to annual paid holidays. In Stourbridge, the parades culminated on Stevens Park with ox roasts and fairground rides. The parades were also a chance for the unions and their members to lead with their banners as a show of solidarity and power and to encourage apprentices to join the workers union.

A comprehensive chapter on Friggers and Novelties can be found in British Glass 1800-1915, Charles R Hajdamach, Published by The Antique Collectors Club; p379.

Published by Kate Round

My name is Dr Kate Round; I am an outreach presenter and tour guide for Dudley Museum Service In my previous life, I was a research chemist so understand the chemistry of glass having worked on the synthesis of ‘zeolites’ (silica based materials) with my work published in International Journals. I have always lived in the Black Country and have a strong industrial family heritage.

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