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Chance Brothers History

Chance Glass Limited is what now remains of the famous Chance Brothers Limited which was based in Smethwick near Birmingham. The original company was formed in the 1820s, a few years before the Pilkington Brothers formed theirs.

BuildingThe company produced plain and figured glass for buildings (including making the glass for the Crystal Palace in 1851) and glass tubing. It was also the foundation for the British optical glass industry. Chance developed, characterised and produced all the early optical types in the same era as Abbe/Zeiss/Schott. It also made the lens and prism systems for all the lighthouses scattered around the old British Empire.

Smethwick was the only UK location for the production of optical glass up to the end of the 1930s. By now Pilkington had an interest in Chance and was absorbing the technology for figured (patterned) glass production. During the war the Government required the creation of a shadow optical glass factory at Pilkington in St Helens because of the bombing risk to the single source at Smethwick. All production used pot melting and non continuous remoulding.

In 1957, optical glass production at Smethwick and St Helens ceased when a new continuous optical glass melting plant was built at St Asaph in North Wales, named Chance-Pilkington Optical Works, now called Pilkington Special Glass. (A decade later, Chance-Pilkington's 'Instrument Division' was moved to a new factory over the road and incorporating the participation of Perkin Elmer, created PPE, the beginning of Pilkington's Electro-Optics Division).

In 1946 Chance Brothers established a branch operation in Malvern, to manufacture glass interchangeable syringes using its precision bore know how, and a modest range of laboratory glassware. The operation diversified its precision bore product range in the late 60s as plastic disposable syringes displaced glass.

In 1981, the Smethwick plant was closed with all flat glass production being absorbed by Pilkington's St Helens factories. Remaining glass tube processing was moved to Malvern where the operation was incorporated as an arms-length subsidiary of Pilkington, under the old name Chance Brothers Ltd. Since then the company has continued to develop its range of products and capabilities.

In 1992, during a period of rationalisation at Pilkington, Chance once again became an independent company, changing its registered name to Chance Glass Limited, but retaining the historical Chance logo. Further processes have since been added.

Industries now served include Pharmaceutical, Chemical, Metrology, Electronics and Lighting. The company takes pride in the service provided, which in addition to consistently high quality products, includes supply reliability and a responsive approach to developing new product solutions.

For more historical information on Chance Brothers and related topics, please visit Chance Encounters.