Silica sand, soda, limestone, potash (or potassium carbonate) and a kiln fired to fifteen hundred degrees Celsius – the basic requirements for making glass.
But that’s by no means everything! A steady hand, a strong pair of lungs, and above all, the knowledge and skills of generations are essential to this occupation. Glass-blowing involves a highly complex interaction between heat and cold, water and air.
In the second half of the 19th century, Radeberg was a centre of artisanal glass-making in Central Germany. The first glass-making business was established here in 1858, shortly after the town was connected to the railway network. One Wilhelm Rönsch from Silesia had married into the Hirsch family and joined forces with his two brothers-in-law to establish a company. He built accommodation for his workers in the grounds of the works in Radeberg – to care for his staff on the one hand, but also to ensure they had a very short commute.
That’s because in a glassworks, the smelting process sets the timetable, and if it’s completed in the middle of the night, work needs to start immediately.
Both moulded glass and glass lampshades were produced in Radeberg. But the real art was in manually producing plate glass – in other words, sheets of glass, window panes. If you’d like to discover how that’s done, and how a huge, hot bubble of glass becomes a flat pane, do check out the media station on the wall.
Glass-making in Radeberg was mainly controlled by the Hirsch and Rönsch families, who were related. Max Hirsch, who operated his own glass factory from 1879, was a great admirer of King Albert of Saxony. Accordingly, he erected a bronze statue honouring the king in Radeberg’s market square. The monument no longer exists, but if you look at the shelves on the opposite wall, you can discover the last surviving remnant. It’s next to the beer mug made by Hirsch and decorated with the monarch’s portrait.
All depictions: © Stadt- und Fachwerkmuseum Eppingen