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“Childhood favourite”

National Glass Centre
Ranked #3 of 51 things to do in Sunderland
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: Based in a unique, contemporary glass and steel building, the National Glass Centre houses exhibition galleries, artists' studios and production facilities, a craft & design shop and an award winning café/restaurant. National Glass Centre is part of the University of Sunderland. We deliver a programme of changing exhibitions, education programmes and events for schools, families, adults and children. We are dedicated to exploring ideas through glass and providing opportunities for people to be creative, enjoy themselves and feel inspired.
Reviewed 11 July 2014

Growing up in Sunderland in the 90s, the glass centre was a constant visiting place. I've continued to go whenever I'm in the area and it's always a gem of culture and performance, seeing the artistry of blowing glass first hand is quite fascinating, as well as the constant student work going on giving it a vibrant feel. Great for kids and adults, with a lot of the art for sale too.

Oh and a glass roof for those not afraid of looking down.

1  Thank C H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
NGC_GlassCentre, Public Relations Manager at National Glass Centre, responded to this reviewResponded 14 July 2014

Thank you for your positive review of our Centre. We are glad you enjoyed your experience. For details about our forthcoming exhibitions, courses and classes and events please check National Glass centre's website.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Reviewed 25 June 2014

How many of you know that Sunderland, a place perhaps traditionally associated with ship-building and coal and nowadays known for a Premiership football team and as the place where Nissan makes over 500,000 cars a year, was once a major centre of glass production.

The National Glass Centre is located on the north banks of the River Wear, on the site of what was once a shipyard, many of which once lined the banks of the river.

Benedict Biscop is credited as introducing glass making not just to Wearside or the North-East but to Britain. The nearby St Peter’s Church was built in 674AD as part of the Monkwearmouth- Jarrow Priory, and the Bishop hired French glaziers to make the windows for the priory.

However the local glass-making industry exploded in the eighteenth century, driven by an abundance of cheap coal and high-quality imported sand.

And the glass was of a very good quality indeed.

In 1823 the Flint Glass works provided a glass table service of 230 pieces for the Marquess of Londonderry: the price tag in 1823 was a cool 2,000 guineas!

However the glass made in Sunderland was not to be found only in the mansions of the gentry.

Have you ever been in a Victorian railway station and looked up at a large expanse of glass roof, or been inside a factory or mill of the same era with their large skylights?

Chances are that glass came from Sunderland. Hartleys Wear Glass works was established in 1836 and in 1838 acquired the patent to manufacture rolled plate glass. By the 1860s the firm produced one third of all the sheet glass used in England.

Have you ever cooked a casserole in the oven or taken part in a science class at school? Chances are you used ‘Pyrex’. Guess where it came from? Yes, Sunderland.

In 1913 Ernest Jobling acquired the patent for Pyrex – heat-proof glassware – from
Corning of the USA. Between 1922 and 2007 the Joblings factory produced Pyrex used in kitchens, laboratories, schools, hospitals, etc, all over the world and at its peak employed 3,000 plus people.

This amazing glass heritage, as well as the incredible skills of today’s glass craftsmen and artists, is now celebrated in a wonderful National Glass Centre overlooking the Wear.

From the roof of the Centre - a roof made of glass, naturally – there are great views up and down the river. And even better views below your feet as you look down on people two floors below!

The Glass Centre is part-museum, part-gallery for artists, part shop, part conference centre, part restaurant, part educational facility: a wonderful mix of activities that feed off each other.

On the day we visited there was an exhibition of the work of final degree students From the University of Sunderland. The work was creative, interesting, colourful, and technically-accomplished. When you see work of this quality you can be assured that the future of glass – whether as a household-utensil, as architectural tools, or as fine art is safe.

There was also a free demonstration of glass-blowing. Having seen such demonstrations in Venice and elsewhere I could have given this a miss. Glad I didn’t – the demonstration at the Glass Centre was informative, fascinating and enjoyable, possibly better than those seen in Venice.

As entry to the Glass Centre is free, you may very well be tempted to part with money and buy some wonderful glassware before you leave in the lovely shop. And there are some great pieces of work to tempt you.

Or to sample the food in the ground floor restaurant, where you can sit indoors or outside, looking across the river.

Or even to sign up for one of the many courses that are offered by the Glass Centre – who knows you may discover a hidden talent and end up selling your work in the shop, or even starting a new glass industry to rival those of years gone by?

The Glass Centre combines the opportunity to see ancient crafts and up-to-date creations in one, attractive, modern setting. A great place to visit!

1  Thank MFPthetraveller
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
NGC_GlassCentre, Public Relations Manager at National Glass Centre, responded to this reviewResponded 14 July 2014

Thank you for your positive review of our Centre. We are glad you enjoyed your experience. For details about our forthcoming exhibitions, courses and classes and events please check National Glass centre's website.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 17 June 2014

I've been to quite a few glass centres on my travels but I have to say in my opinion, the Glass Centre had nothing going for it. The glass 'ornaments' were lovely and it would have been nice to see glass being blown instead of staring through a window at a couple of people. I appreciate it's free and probably relies on donations but come on Sunderland, I'm sure you can do better. The situation of the cafe is the only thing, again in my opinion, that would make you linger. It was a nice fine day today so was lovely to just watch the two chaps fishing and watch the world go by. It was a shame there was only filter coffee and tea. My husband and I shared a bacon sandwich which could have done with more than one slice of bacon between two slices of bread. I thought the food was a bit price - over £8 for the bacon sandwich and tea and filter coffee.

1  Thank Adviser2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
NGC_GlassCentre, Public Relations Manager at National Glass Centre, responded to this reviewResponded 19 June 2014

Thank you for your feedback about National Glass Centre. We are sorry that you felt that your experience was unsatisfactory. We do offer Free Glass Blowing Demonstrations with Commentary 3 times per day in our Hot Glass Studio. It sounds like you may have missed the signage directing you into the Hot Glass Demonstration area and only looked through the window at our production studio (we are currently looking at ways to improve our signage directing visitors to this area). We wonder whether you entered the Centre using the lower riverside door and were unaware that there is an upper level? Our Visitor Services Desk is situated on our upper floor and a member of our team would have been able to provide you with a venue map and guidance as to what was happening on the day of your visit. Our upper floor also has 3 gallery areas which explore the history of glass making in Sunderland and are currently displaying a large scale exhibition of works in glass by three international artists. Your comments regarding the Brasserie have been passed on to the relevant department. If you have any additional comments or would like to receive a more detailed response please email info@nationalglasscentre.com and we would be delighted to discuss further with you, as we always welcome suggestions about ways in which we can improve our Centre.

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Reviewed 17 June 2014

We called in more by accident than design and were really pleased we did. Several people on here have commented on the glass blowing demonstration and It was fascinating to watch but we also found the "tube work" demonstration by Norman fascinating. How does he get those 5p pieces in to the mice and owls without them turning black. I'm not going to let the secret out you'll have to go and find out.

As well as the practical demonstrations the history of glass making in Sunderland was very interesting to find out about. I'd never realised that for quite some time all Pyrex manufacturing in the UK was done in Sunderland. Also the exhibition space had some wonderful art glass on display, from the beautiful to the bizarre and peoples of idea of each may well be different to mine.

If your in the area definitely worth a visit, especially as entry is free.

Thank SeeAPlaneNGetOnIt
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
NGC_GlassCentre, Public Relations Manager at National Glass Centre, responded to this reviewResponded 19 June 2014

Many thanks for your positive review of National Glass Centre - we are delighted you enjoyed your experience with us. If you would like to keep up to date with the different events, courses and exhibitions we run throughout the year, please visit our website and sign up to our e-newsletter!

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Reviewed 15 June 2014

I love glass and ceramics but found this museum soul less. Shame because it is such an interesting subject and so much more could be made of it to engage young and old a like.

Thank PercivalSpratt
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
NGC_GlassCentre, Public Relations Manager at National Glass Centre, responded to this reviewResponded 17 June 2014

Many thanks for your review of our Centre. We are always looking for feedback from our visitors. If you have suggestions about what sort of activities and exhibitions you would like to see happen here, please email us at info@nationalglasscentre.com

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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