UK Book Launch

On 18th November, the Smethwick Heritage Centre hosted the launch of Lighthouses. Attended by about 60 invited guests, the occasion was an opportunity for members of the Chance family, former employees of Chance Brothers, the media and other local personages with an interest in the firm and lighthouses, to mingle and reminisce about this historic firm.



Peter Williams & Toby Chance at the launch


Guests included Ken Sutton-Jones, the manager of the Chance lighthouse works when the business was sold to Stone Platt in 1955. Ken went on to run that business for another ten years until he was appointed Managing Director of Pharos Marine, who had inherited the Aga lighthouse business. Thus, we had a direct link between the ancient and modern in lighthouses, so to speak, and it was a great honour for the authors to have this distinguished businessman and lighthouse historian join us all the way from Crawley.



Peter Williams & Toby Chance signing books before the launch


Also present were Sir Jeremy and Lady Chance, Toby Chance’s parents, and Giles and Michael Chance whose father Jack ran the Chance Brothers London office for many years and was a close friend of Ken Sutton-Jones. To find a common ancestor between their side of the family and Toby’s one has to go all the way back to William Chance, born in 1749, who had three sons – Robert Lucas Chance, founder of Chance Brothers; William Chance, father of Sir James Timmins Chance and Toby’s great great grandfather; and George Chance, Giles and Michael’s great grandfather, who ran the firm’s New York office in the 1840s and 50s. George’s son, Alexander Macomb Chance, ran Chance & Hunt, which was an off-shoot of Chance Brothers set up to provide chemicals for the glass works. It was later to form part of Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI). George’s grandson through his son William, Edward Ferguson Chance, was chairman of Chance Brothers in the early 20th Century. Coincidentally, Giles and Michael’s parents (like Toby’s) are cousins – their father Jack being Edward’s son while their mother Wendy being Alexander’s grand daughter! (See the Chance family tree for more info).



Toby Chance & Isobel Armstrong


Back to the book launch! Smethwick Heritage Centre, under the able direction of David Bryant, decorated the hall with Chance Brothers memorabilia including products from the firm, newspaper cuttings and family collectibles. Also on display was the bust of Sir James Timmins Chance, donated to the Centre by Sir Jeremy and Lady Chance, sculpted by Hamo Thorneycroft RA in 1894 to mark James’ 80th birthday. The original bust sits in the University of Birmingham Department of Engineering.



Press Clippings & Products


Among our guests we were privileged to have Isobel Armstrong, an acclaimed author whose book Victorian Glassworlds, published in July 2008 by Oxford University Press http://www.oup.com/uk/catalogue/?ci=9780199205202 features two chapters on Chance Brothers. Isobel is a big fan of Robert Lucas Chance so she travelled from Southampton to be with us and joined the family for dinner at an excellent nearby Indian restaurant.

Another guest was David Encill, whose book Chance Expressions is the first comprehensive description of Chance Brothers tableware to appear in print. It is a wonderfully produced and illustrated book, and took years of painstaking work to research and complete. The book can be bought from David’s website www.chanceglass.net/

Download the article from The Express & Star

The Express and Star newspaper did a nice write up on the launch which can be viewed here.

Prof Carl Chinn interview

On the Sunday before the launch, local historian Professor Carl Chinn interviewed Sir Jeremy Chance and Toby Chance on his weekly BBC West Midlands programme. They spent half an hour chatting about the book and the significance of Chance Brothers to the industrial and social development of the West Midlands. You can listen to the interview here.

For more info on Carl’s programme click here

Click here to download a pdf of the launch


Lighthouses attempts to fill the gap in lighthouse history concerning the development of illumination technology during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The main characters are James Chance, who started the lighthouse department at the firm founded by his uncle Lucas Chance in 1822; and Sir David Brewster, a radical Scottish optical scientist whose entreaties to the British establishment to take the lighthouse question seriously from the 1820s were largely ignored until a Royal Commission on...read more
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