During the first part of the eighteenth century, England led the world in the production of fine lead crystal. In 1745, however, this came to an abrupt end when the Glass Excise Duty was enacted. Since this law taxed glass by weight, it severely inhabited the production of heavy lead crystal and made it impossible for England to compete with France, Bohemia, and Ireland.
English glass manufacturers suffered under this tax for one hundred years. When the law was finally repealed in 1845, the glass industry began to flourish. One of the great signs of England’s recovery from the tax was the building of the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition in 1851. The building itself was over a third of a mile long, over four hundred feet wide, and enclosed some eighteen acres. Almost one million square feet of glass was used in its construction. The Illustrated London News considered it the most remarkable building in the world. Within its walls, glass objects of every imaginable kind, size, shape, and origin were displayed.
English manufacturers were quick to imitate the successful styles and techniques of the French factories displayed at the Exhibition. Soon, millefiori paperweights were being produced by factories in London and Birmingham. Perhaps in response to the lifting of the repressive glass tax, the English glasshouses often produced extremely large, or magum-size weights, inkwells, and doorstops.