In 1783,Beethoven was publishing his first works and the world’s first hot air balloon flight took place in Paris. In Waterford City the Penroses, George and William, petitioned Parliament for aid to establish the manufacture of flint glass in their Waterford Glass House. Their requests were successful and they thereby established an extensive glass manufactory in Waterford city on the 3rd October 1783.
In 1785, a Mr. John Hill, a great glass manufacturer, was brought in to the company as a compounder, and the only man who knew the secret of mixing the glass materials. It was also Hill’s decision to polish the glass after cutting, therefore removing the frosted appearance, which later became one of Waterford’s key signatures.
John Hill only remained three years until a member of the Penrose family created a false rift, accusing Mr. Hill of something he did not do, upon which a heartbroken Mr. Hill left Waterford forever, but before he left,he passed his secret formula to a clerk, Jonathan Gatchell, in appreciation for support he had extended to Mr. Hill during the turbulence.
William Penrose died in 1796 and the family carried on until 1797, when the business was advertised for sale but it was not until 1799 that the new company took over. The new partners were James Ramsey, Ambrose Barcroft and Jonathan Gatchell, whose skill in compounding had now earned him a partnership. Mr Ramsey died and the partnership was dissolved, and Mr. Gatchell became sole proprietor of the glasshouse and remained until his passing in 1823. It is thought that he had the greatest influence on the Waterford glasshouse.
The business was willed to George, Mr. Gatchell’s son, who did his best with the business until it went belly up in 1896, when the production of flint glass ceased. This ended the first phase of the House of Waterford.