Antique and vintage glass rolling pins vary from simple clear examples, to the famous Bristol Blue colours, to elaborate multi-coloured Nailsea examples and to examples with motifs and words. Glass rolling pins although functional developed into quite an art form and also became known as love tokens as they were often given by departing sailors to there loved ones with words on such as ‘be true to me’, ‘remember me’, ‘forget me not’ etc.
They were often hung upon parlour walls and prized as emblems of good luck, only to be taken down when pastry was ceremoniously prepared for a wedding feast. Such pastry was believed to bring good fortune to all who ate it.
Nautical themes were also common on rolling pins with sea-faring motifs, ships, mottos and inscriptions. These would be applied as painting, gilding and printing. Some of the designs are quite intricate and attractive original Victorian are much sought after. Rarer examples include anti-slavery messages, and those marking special events such as coronations.
They were hollow in form and often served as dual purpose for holding salt. They would have had a cord and would have been hung in the kitchen or by a fire to keep the salt dry. During the 17th to 19th centuries salt was taxed heavily and was considered a luxury item. Later, in a clearer bottle glass, they were used also as containers of tea and the standard rolling pin measuring 15 inches in length and 2 inches in diameter will hold exactly one pound of tea. They were also sold as fairings with sweets and treats inside. The rolling pin used to hold salt or tea or comfits was fitted at one end with a ground-in ballheaded stopper of glass: when the purely ornamental rolling pin came into fashion both ends consisted of matching solid knobs.
The production of a Nailsea glass rolling pin
The Nailsea examples were not only made at the Nailsea works in Somerset but also Bristol, Newcastle, Sunderland, Wrockwardine Wood in Shropshire, Alloa in Scotland and elsewhere. Nailsea has become the generic term for the type of glass produced in these areas. These rolling pins were created from hot molten glass and rolled in coloured and/or white enamel chips which were sprinkled on the marver plate. The glass is then reheated and blown into shape with the glass rolling pin incorporating the selected colour such a purple, blue, mottled and striped.