A historic glassworks in Merseyside is set to close its doors for the final time, marking the end of nearly two centuries of production. Located in St Helens, this site holds significance as the birthplace of the modern float glass process pioneered by glassmaker Pilkington UK, a technique now utilized globally.

The production activities at Watson Street Works will be relocated to Pilkington’s nearby Greengate site, part of a substantial project representing one of the largest investments the company has made in the UK in decades. The transition is expected to be achieved without any job losses.

The move is not only a pivotal moment for the company’s operations but also for the iconic Victorian industrial architecture that has served as a backdrop for numerous Hollywood and TV productions. Renowned actors such as Samuel L. Jackson, Olivia Colman, and Cillian Murphy have graced the location while filming Marvel’s Secret Invasion and BBC’s Peaky Blinders.

Neil Syder, the Managing Director, expressed the emotional significance of shutting down the production of textured and patterned glass at Watson Street Works. He highlighted the site’s rich history of glass innovation, emphasizing its pivotal role in shaping modern glass technology worldwide. The relocation to Greengate represents a continuation of this legacy and a commitment to advancing innovation while contributing to essential carbon savings.

Neil Syder to the BBC:

We’ve been making glass here and actually developing and innovating glass here for 200 years.

Most of the modern glass you see in the world has come from technology that has been developed here in Watson Street.

It’s also an important step. I see what we are doing here today as confirming that innovation. Moving it to Greengate where we can continue to improve and continue to make the savings in carbon that the country needs.

The project, supported by a £3.7 million grant from the government’s Industrial Energy Transformation Fund, aims to save an estimated 15,000 tonnes of CO2 annually.

The relocation not only secures the future of Pilkington but also contributes to carbon reduction and ensures the retention of employment for local residents in St Helens. As the last set of glass comes off the line at Watson Street Works, it marks the end of an era and the beginning of a new chapter in the company’s continued commitment to innovation and sustainability.

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