Lighthouses have guided mariners for thousands of years – on hills, mountains, and rocky outcrops. In the1800s, Chance Brothers Glassworks in Smethwick became a production hub for lighthouse lenses, which were used in over 2,500 lighthouses around the world.
From the lighthouse that received the SOS call from the Titanic, to the stormy shores of Tasmania, they certainly ended up in some interesting locations.
Our goal is to map where these lenses ended up around the world. In the process, we’ll create an explorable and interactive resource that can be used by anyone to reveal the intricate connections between local lives and global history – including power, trade, commonwealth, and control of empire.
Made in Smethwick
For over 150 years, the former Chance Brothers Glassworks in Smethwick was the world’s leading glass manufacturer and a pioneer of British glass-making technology, operating from 1824 to 1976 and finally closing in 1981.
In that time, the factory produced glass used in places like the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben’s clockface, and the Crystal Palace in London. It also developed specialist glass for telescopes and lanterns and, in 1848, began working on lenses which were eventually used in around 2,500 lighthouses around the world.
This project aims to map the global reach of products created at the Chance Brothers Glassworks factory in Smethwick during its lifetime, and to explore how those links persist today.
What we’ll do
Our goal is to map where the Chance Brothers lighthouse lenses ended up, and discover what they are doing now. Are they still in working lighthouses? Have they been decommissioned? And can they still be visited today? More than that, we want to reveal how their locations tie into global history.
With around 2,500 lighthouses to map, we need your help to explore these connections, and locate them all.
Using the power of the crowd, and our combined sleuthing skills, we will locate as many of these lighthouses – and their stories – as possible.
Whether you are local to Smethwick, or live further afield, you might find that this project brings you surprisingly close to home…
How it works
This project will progress in two stages. You can take part in Stage 1, Stage 2, or both.
Stage 1 / Adding Chance lighthouses to the map / Thu 09 June – Sun 03 July 2022
We’ll start by introducing you to the fascinating world of lighthouses; their history, their technology, and their place in the world – from trade to Empire. You’ll then learn to locate Chance lighthouses, hunt down their stories, and add them to the map.
After your first training session, you’ll also have access to a help forum, and an optional 45 minute ‘Lighthouse Lesson’ – a weekly tutorial where you can learn more about lighthouses, catch up on the latest progress, discover our ‘lighthouse of the week’, share your highlights, and ask questions.
Plus you can join us for a final event on Thu 18 August.
This stage will be entirely online so anyone, anywhere can contribute.
Stage 2 / Enriching the lighthouse map / Thu 15 July – Sun 02 August 2022
Once every Chance lighthouse has been pinned to the map, we’ll aim to enrich the map with photographs, soundscapes, and an assessment of their current condition – including risks from climate change.
We’ll start with some basic training and, once again, you’ll have access to a help forum, and an optional 45 minute ‘Lighthouse Lesson’.
Plus you can join us for a final event on Thu 18 August.
This stage will combine online research, with the option to head off on a ‘field visit’ to capture new information about these lighthouses. Again, anyone, anywhere can contribute – especially if you live close to one of our lighthouses!
What you’ll get out of it
You’ll be part of a community-wide effort to create an interactive global map. You’ll gain new skills and increase your confidence in using digital tools to uncover and record historical information about the Chance Brothers lighthouses.
It will be a rich and rewarding experience for anyone who is curious about history, and enjoys working towards a common goal.
In the process, you’ll learn about:
• The fascinating history of lighthouses, their technology, and how their locations relate to global history
• How to to find current and historical lighthouse locations around the world
• How to uncover historic details using online resources
• How to crowdsource information and create open-access resources with a world-wide community
• How to assess condition and identify locations that are at risk from climate change
WHERE IS THIS PROJECT HAPPENING?
All training and tutorials are provided via Zoom. You’ll also have access to our mapping tool, and a help forum.
WHAT IF I CAN’T ATTEND THE LIVE ZOOM SESSIONS?
All training will be recorded and available to watch afterwards, for maximum flexibility.
WHO CAN TAKE PART?
Anyone! If you’re curious, want to learn, contribute to something fun, and have access to internet, you can take part. It’s designed for adults, but young adults and parent-child pairs are welcome too.
HOW MUCH TIME DO I NEED?
Everyone who wants to contribute must attend or watch our training before starting. After that, it’s up to you. You can pin just one lighthouse to our map, or as many as you like.
We estimate that each lighthouse will take 20-60 minutes – depending on how tricky it is to track down.
WHAT’S THE SCHEDULE?
Stage 1 – Creating the Map
Thu 09 June / 18:00-19:30 (BST) / Welcome and Orientation – Training for Stage 1
Thu 16 June / 18:00-18:45 (BST) / Lighthouse Lessons – Weekly tutorial and support for Stage 1
Tue 21 June / 18:00-18:30 (BST) / Optional Leader Training – Additional training for anyone who wants to advance their skills and become a ‘Lighthouse Leader’ and support others
Thu 23 June / 18:00-18:45 (BST) / Weekly tutorial and support for Stage 1
Thu 30 June / 18:00-18:45 (BST) / Lighthouse Lessons – Weekly tutorial and support for Stage 1
Sun 02 July / 23:59 (BST) / End of Stage 1 – Final additions to the map
Stage 2 – Enriching the Map
Thu 14 July / 18:00-19:30 (BST) / Welcome and Orientation – Training for Stage 2
Thu 21 July 18:00-18:45 (BST) / Lighthouse Lessons – Weekly tutorial and support for Stage 2
Thu 28 July 18:00-18:45 (BST) / Lighthouse Lessons – Weekly tutorial and support for Stage 2
Sun 31 July / 23:58 (BST) / End of Stage 2 – Final additions to the map
Stage 1 and 2 Final Reunion Event
Thu 18 August / 18:00-19:00 (BST) / Lighthouse Reunion – Explore the completed map and celebrate your achievements!
Remember, all sessions will be recorded and available to watch afterwards.
WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN STAGE 1 AND 2?
Stage 1 aims to locate all the lighthouses that have, or had, a lens made in the Chance Brothers Glassworks in Smethwick. This stage will be entirely desk based and will focus on gathering pre-existing information on the lighthouses.
Stage 2 aims to enrich this information with photos, soundscapes, and condition or environmental-risk surveys. generated for the project. We are encouraging people (where safe to do so) to visit the lighthouses and lens and collect photos and soundscapes to add to the map.
Anyone who joins either stage is welcome to join our final reunion event on 18 August.
DO I HAVE TO TAKE PART ON BOTH STAGES?
No, you don’t have to take part in both stages. You can take part in Stage 1, Stage 2, or both stages. We will send all the information out to everyone who has signed up to the project, so even if you initially only want to join for one of the stages you will still be able to join in and participate in the other if you change your mind.
When registering select which stage(s) of the project you would like to participate in so we have an idea of numbers.
DO I NEED TO BRING ANYTHING?
No, you don’t need to bring anything! You only need a computer, an internet connection, and a pinch of curiosity.
WHAT IS A LIGHTHOUSE LEADER?
We know from experience that some people love helping others, and want to advance their skills and confidence even further.
Becoming a ‘Leader’ is an option for anyone who is enjoying the project and wants to take things to the next level, by helping to review and verify new lighthouse pins, and providing help, support, and encouragement to others.
No prior skills or knowledge are needed to become a Leader, just time to invest and an eagerness to learn!
We will hold a separate workshop in Week 2 to teach you everything you will need to know.
If you are interested in becoming a Lighthouse Leader please note this when registering. This is not a commitment, you can change your mind after starting the project. You do not have to become a Leader to participate fully in the project.
WHAT IS MADE IN SMETHWICK?
This project is part of Made in Smethwick – an exciting season of events and activities taking place in and around Smethwick, highlighting how local lives are part of global history.
Focusing on stories relating to two former industrial sites – Chance Brothers Glassworks and Soho Foundry and Mint – the events are a chance for people to explore the town’s industrial heritage, discover the history of their neighbourhood, and share their own ideas about what it’s like to live, work, and grow up in the area.
VIEW THE FULL PROGRAMME
This isn’t the only Made in Smethwick event! Check out the full programme here.
This project has been funded by the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund.
HAVE YOUR SAY: HOW SHOULD OUR OLD INDUSTRIAL BUILDINGS BE USED?
Chance Heritage Trust is on a mission to raise the cultural profile of Smethwick’s industrial heritage, and bring former industrial buildings – like the iconic Chance Glassworks – back into use within the community.
Now, with help from the Community Renewal Fund, Chance Heritage Trust is starting to develop plans for the Chance Glassworks site.
This survey is part of a wider programme of community consultation, which will help to shape these plans.
How would you like to see these buildings used? And, apart from living and working spaces, what kind of opportunities and facilities should they contain for community use?