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There they were... marching upright and billiard-ball smooth down the assembly line to the packing bays. Bottles! Milk bottles by the thousands...

So began an article on Redfearn National Glass by John Blunt which appeared in the May 5, 1970 edition of the Yorkshire Evening Press.

The company, at the time, was the third largest glass factory in the country, blowing more than 28 million pint bottles a year at its plants in York and Barnsley, Mr Blunt reported, with 3,000 employees between the two sites.

Sadly, the days when we all had fresh milk delivered to our doorstep in a recyclable glass bottle are long gone for most of us.

And sadly, Redfearn is long gone too: it closed on December 23, 1983, ushering in a bleak Christmas for the 300 workers who lost their jobs. 

Chairman John Pratt said then that the company had lost £1 million in six months from October 1982 to March 1983, and said price competition, the rise of non-glass containers and the recession were to blame.

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He said: “Glassmaking has been carried out on this site for nearly 200 years and York has had an excellent reputation. I feel very sad about it. I started work here at the age of 18, as a taker-in, taking bottles from the machines.”

According to local historian Paul Chrystal in his book York Industries through time, the first Fishergate glassworks was opened in 1794 by Hampston & Prince to make flint glass and medicinal phials. The York Flint Glass Company was set up in 1835, and in 1930 was incorporated as the National Glass Works (York), which became Redfearn National Glass in 1967

The factory had three chimneys for many years, but they were replaced by a single 180ft chimney, to send emissions higher into the sky, cutting pollution. In 1982, an extension was added, taking it to 235ft – making it the only structure in York taller than the Minster.

The chimney was brought down on 20 April 1986, following the demolition of the rest of the factory, and the Minster regained top spot in the city after the four-year interruption.

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As reader Roy Grayson told The Press last year, the problem with the chimney was that smoke used to belch out.

“If the weather was wrong it used to come down on all the houses and gardens,” he said. Roy was a 25-year-old scaffolder with HB Raylor when he was part of a team called in to hep build the 50-foot extension to the Redfearn chimney, which rose from roughly where the Novotel is now.