Fairy Lamp Newsletter
Issue XIV, February 2000
Nailsea Or Verre Moiré Fairy Lamps, by FJ Vyn
The article on Unusual Nailsea is a good study topic. We first look at Nineteenth Century Glass, Its Genesis and Development, by A.C. Revi. What we would describe as Nailsea, he calls a "Verre- Moiré" fairy lamp with threads of white glass in a "pulled" pattern on a colored ground. He states they were made by English, Continental, and American glass factories, circa 1880. T. Robert Anthony's examples are called Verre Moiré (Nailsea). Plate 9, Item 11 (shown below) is an unusual variation.
Fairy Lamps, by Amelia MacSwiggan refers to the Nailsea Glass Works in Nailsea, 1790 to 1873. They may have been the first to make or name this type of glass but not the primary supplier of fairy lamps in the late 1800's. Other shapes for Nailsea glass include perfume bottles, lampshades, pitchers and a variety of fairy lamp parts. Pages 100 and 116 also equate Nailsea with Moiré and Verre Moiré. The literal French to English translation of verre means glass. Moiré is a fabric, as of silk, with a watery or wavelike appearance. The Moiré could relate to a series of whitecaps on the surface of an ocean of blue water or a waterfall. Look at R-101 for this idea.
Here are observations from some of my collection. A light blue Nailsea dome resides in a candle cup that is a dark teal color. The cup lacks any identification and has a star molded into the base. Without concern for Clarke patents this cup was probably made after his patents expired (see Ruf, Appendix D, page 232, cup #6). This week this dome has found a new home in a fairy-size R-505 base. The color of the dome and blue in the base is identical, suggesting design coordination. (See U-167, Undocumented pg. 42) Jims Clarke candle cup with an American patent number 352296 protects the design of the cup, not the inventors name. Why he did not add his name may be known when a copy of the patent documents arrive, compared to information in Ruf's book. This might have a clue leading to who made American candle cups, and domes.
Doing a size check of many Nailsea and Burmese domes show significant variations of all dimensions including bottom inside diameter, top vent hole I.D., and height. The surface treatment of the top holes vary between smooth fired and ground. Our Burmese dome heights are in all .125" increments from 3.25" up to 3.75" for a woodbine decorated dome. Domes with identical fired bottom edges vary in height, so this is not a repair issue.
Another Nailsea dome that we will call "ARCADIAN", has a strange size with very thick transparent light blue glass, and five sets of rising (upside down) wide white loops (shown above). You can see and feel the layer of white loops. A normal pyramid dome is 2.75" high. This example is 3.25" tall equal to my shortest red Nailsea fairy-size dome. Therefore, it has the height of a fairy dome and diameter of a pyramid dome. The height of this example with its cup is 4.25."
The glass for the dome and its candle cup is poor in quality with rough surfaces, bubbles, and foreign object inclusions. The bottom diameter of the dome is a tight fit in a Clarke candle cup but fits perfectly with its companion cup. I am sure the unusual shape cup and dome belong with each other.
Where you would see the Clarke name on the inside bottom of the cup, for this example you see "Arcadian Light," (R-25). I will pass on this second unusual fairy lamp as the next research project.
A good friend sent me a booklet titled The Fabulous Houston. Plate 7 shows several fairy lamps with a few Nailsea examples. One (shown below) has a red ground dome with wide white loops. If it had a blue ground, it would look like a waterfall.
British Glass by C. Hadjamach has information on Nailsea glass. Nailsea glass is made by dragging a spiral or loop of colored glass threads through the surface of a gather of glass, and then stretching the combination by blowing the glass to a larger size. For Jim's examples the usual 6-loop example has also been twisted while his unusual 4-loop dome is straight to produce symmetrical loop patterns. Examples of Nailsea design glass were made in many shapes by more glass companies than those in the cities Nailsea and Bristol, going back to the early 1800s. Maybe the Arcadian lamp precedes the later most advanced generations of Clarke/Nailsea fairy lamps. To answer Jims questions size variations, different loop designs, and other differences for Nailsea lamps are not uncommon.
Article: Unusual Nailsea, Fairy Lamp Newsletter, Issue XIII, November 1999, pg. 6.
- Albert Christian Revi, Nineteenth Century Glass Its Genesis and Development, Galahad Books, pg. 123.
- T. Robert Anthony, 19th Century Fairy Lamps, Forward Color Productions, Plate 9, Item 11.
- Amelia E. MacSwiggan, Fairy Lamps, Evenings Glow of Yesteryear, Fountainhead Publishers, Inc, 1962, pg. 94.
- Robert W. Miller, The Fabulous Houston A Museum of Fine Antiques, Chattanooga, Tennessee.