On this day in 1701, Thomas Bowrey purchased a number of looking glasses from James Hudgebout at the Looking Glass and Cabinet by the Royal Exchange. The looking glasses, or mirrors, were to form part of the cargo of the Worcester.
Ancient mirrors of highly polished metal were known as long ago as ancient Egypt but glass mirrors, as we know today, were not developed until the 17th century. The Venetian’s developed the process of coating the reverse of blown glass with metal to form a mirror but, because of the way they were made, they were small, slightly curved and very expensive.
In 1625, Sir Robert Mansell opened a glass house in Newcastle where looking glasses were made by blowing glass cylinders that were split, opened out and laid flat. By the 1670s, larger mirrors were being made in Vauxhall and Lambeth.
Hudgebout sold twelve types of looking glasses in painted frames, presumably twelve different sizes. Based on the prices paid (and assuming the largest mirror cost the most), the smallest cost seven (old) pence and the largest six shillings (from less than £5 to almost £45 in today’s values). This delivery was for 216 looking glasses.