The Venetian island of Murano was the centre of European glassmaking, peaking in popularity in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. During the sixteenth century Northern European countries attempted to set up local glasshouses which could imitate Murano ‘cristallo’. The Venetian authorities tried to prevent (under pain of death) the migration of skilled glassworkers. The town of Altare, near Genoa, had developed a flourishing glass industry independently from Venice. Their glassmakers were not prevented from taking their skills elsewhere. Those who settled in England tended to arrive via the Low Countries.
In 1567 Jean Carré [John Carre] arrived from Antwerp in London as a religious refugee. That same year he obtained a license from Queen Elizabeth to build two furnaces for the production of window glass. By September letters of patent were issued to Carré and his Flemish partner Anthonie Becku for the exclusive production of window glass for twenty-one years. Carré brought a number of Venetian and Altarian craftsmen to his London workshop and opened a second furnace outside the city to produce vessel and green glass.
The first glassmaker to be engaged by Carré for his London operation was a Jewish glassmaker from Altare named Ognia ben Luteri, in 1571. By the end of the sixteenth century glasshouses in Bohemia, Germany, and the Low Countries were employing Italian glassmakers to produce a colourless glass, called ‘façon de Venise’. By the seventeenth century, John Baptista da Costa, John Odaccio, and John Dagnia, were prominent Altarian glassmakers working in England. The joint enterprise started by George Ravenscroft (entrepreneur) and Da Costa (master glassmaker) in July 1673 at the Savoy Palace, Strand, is considered the starting point of English glass making.