As David says, I've been delving into the history of United Glass/ Sherdley/ Ravenhead. My interest started with the screen-printed tumblers designed for Sherdley and then Ravenhead by Alexander Hardie Williamson. You can see my ever-expanding collection in the Glass Gallery at http://glassgallery.yobunny.org.uk/thumbnails.php?album=254
The company history is incredibly complex, but the following is my current best understanding:
1913 - six bottle manufacturers in and around St Helens (Nuttall & Co, Alfred Alexander & Co Ltd, E Brefflit, Robert Candlish, Cannington Shaw, and Moore & Nettlefield) merge to create United Glass Bottle Manufacturers Limited. The merger enables the six factories to pool resources to purchase new automatic bottle-making machinery from the US glass manufacturer Owens-Illinois.
1932 - UGB installs new American automatic tableware machines, two pressing machines and a machine for making thin blown tumblers, at the former Cannington Shaw site in Sherdley. Begins making tableware under the trademark Sherdley Ware.
1948 - UGB installs Westlake machine, made by Libbey division of US bottle-maker Owens-Illinois, fully automating production of stemware at Ravenhead.
1959 - UGB renamed United Glass. Producing a third of all container glass made in the UK.
1964 - Sherdley works closed. Tableware production moves to Ravenhead factory; bottle production to new factory at adjacent Peasley site.
1987 - United Glass bought by Owens-Illinois. Ravenhead becomes part of Libbey St Clair, a Canadian branch of Libbey Glass.
1990 - Ravenhead factory sold to Rand & Simoni.
1992 - Ravenhead acquired by Bankers Trust and then bought by Belgian glassmakers Durobor.
late 1990s - Ravenhead the largest manufacturer of table glass in the UK, employing about 1,100 people, exporting to over 100 countries, and producing up to 100 million glasses a year.
1999 - Ravenhead goes into administration.
2000 - Ravenhead brand acquired by the Rayware Group.
2001 - Ravenhead factory closes, making 300 staff redundant. Most are over 50 and are told that they will receive only statutory redundancy pay, and that they will have their pensions reduced by about 20 per cent, as the pension scheme contained a Â£5 million black hole. Machinery shipped to Zhuhai on the south China coast.
2003 - Rayware Group announce purchase of the former Ravenhead site, which it intends to use to revitalise the Ravenhead brand, re-branding pint pots and other traditional glasses with the Ravenhead name. It hopes to create 200 new jobs at the site.
2007 - Rayware marketing glasses, ovenware and vacuum flasks under the Ravenhead brand.
I have some information about the firms which combined to form UGB, but nothing like a complete picture. I think the connection with Pilkingtons is rather earlier than your information suggests: in 1872, Nuttall & Co sold their factory at Ravenhead to Pilkington Brothers and transferred production to a new factory with gas-fired furnaces on a thirteen acre site at Ravenhead.
The United Glass container operation continues to this day as a subsidiary of Owens-Illinois. The United Glass name was kept until 2005, when it changed to O-I as part of a global re-branding of Owens-Illinois. The Peasley Cross factory in St Helens closed in 1999 and production concentrated at Alloa, Scotland and Harlow, Essex.
As David says, the principal designer associated with Sherdley/ Ravenhead is Alexander Hardie Williamson, who worked for them from 1944 until his retirement in 1974. Thereafter, designers included John Clappison (best known as a ceramicist working for Hornsea Pottery and later Royal Doulton), who worked for Ravenhead from 1972 to 1976; Annette Meech, still working as a studio glassmaker, who worked for Ravenhead from 1972 to 1983; and David Queensbury of the Queensbury Hunt design partnership, who was head of ceramics at the Royal College of Art.
There is, as you say, very little published material on Sherdley/ Ravenhead. In addition to the books mentioned by Max and Ivo, there is some more information about AHW's work in a leaflet produced by Broadfield House Glass Museum to accompany their 1996 exhibition Slim Jims and Tubbies
. There is also a chapter on Sherdley/ Ravenhead in British Table and Ornamental Glass
, L M Angus-Butterworth, 1956. John Clappison's designs for Ravenhead are covered in a new biography by Pauline Coyle: http://www.hornsea-pottery.co.uk
. If you've found other sources, I'd be very interested to hear about them.
Hope this helps - and apologies for the length of this posting!