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A specialised centre of fine metal working since the late 1700s, ...
A specialised centre of fine metal working since the late 1700s,

Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter is to benefit from additional

protection for its distinctive and well preserved historic buildings.

Acting on the advice of English Heritage, heritage minister Andrew

McIntosh will today list a total of 106 buildings in the area, the

majority being manufactories or former works with workshops attached.

Announcing his decision Mr McIntosh said:

'Today's listings allow us to define and celebrate the very special

architectural and historic character of the Birmingham Jewellery


'Nowhere in Britain, or anywhere else in the world, is there an urban

industrial centre quite like it. The Jewellery Quarter is unique,

exceptional in the large number of historic buildings still intact

and still in use for their original purpose. It is a wonderful

example of a vibrant 21st century community, thriving in its original

architectural environment.'

The unusual character of the area derives from its initial

development as a fashionable suburb for Birmingham's wealthier

residents. The arrival of a new canal and the industries in its wake

put the middle classes to flight, paving the way for workshops

accommodated within houses or buildings at the rear. Purpose built

factories, warehouses and showrooms emerged in the mid-19th century,

but these remained relatively small in scale, a result of both the

intense specialisation of the jewellery trade and a reflection of the

domestic workshops which continued to operate.

Most individual buildings will be listed in their own right, with a

small number being designated for their group value. Two will be

protected as Grade II* listed buildings, while the remainder will be

Grade II.

Some Gems from the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter

* The birthplace of viable electroplating, bringing cheaper jewellery

to the masses. The most famous example of local plate is the< p/="">Wimbledon Ladies Singles Trophy.

* Home of the first mass producer of pen nibs, democratising writing

by reducing the cost by 99.9%. Birmingham (and the Jewellery Quarter

in particular) went on to supply the world with cheap pen nibs for

130 years. At the peak 5000 workers produced 1,500 million pen nibs

per year, not too far short of the world population at the time.

* Home of Thomas Fattorini Ltd., makers of badges and medals, who

designed the original FA cup and still make the Lonsdale and

Commonwealth belts for boxing.

* Site of the invention of the police whistle in 1883, the sound from

which could carry over a mile. The Metropolitan Police commissioner

had to loan inventor Joseph Hudson£20 to buy enough brass to fill

the order for 21,000 whistles - and the Met still use Hudson whistles


* Hudson also made the first whistle ever used by a football referee

(in a match held at Nottingham Forest in 1878), and the whistles for

the Titanic's lifeboats. A handful of Hudson whistles were recovered

from the wreckage, and one of these was blown by Kate Winslet in the

blockbuster Titanic.

* Alexander Parkes invented plastic in the Jewellery Quarter. It was

initially named Parkesine.

* Washington Irving wrote Rip Van Winkle and the Legend of Sleepy

Hollow, establishing him as the first commercially successful

American author.


1. The main purpose of listing a building is to ensure that care will

be taken over decisions affecting its future, that any alterations

respect the particular character and interest of the building, and

that the case for its preservation is taken fully into account in

considering the merits of any redevelopment proposals.

2. The thematic survey of the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter was begun

in July 2000 in collaboration with Birmingham City Council, who in

2001 designated the Jewellery Quarter a conservation area, made up of

three existing conservation areas.

3. The re search revealed a range of specialist building types had

evolved from the late C18 to the early C20, beginning with the

conversion of dwellings to workshop use by 'small masters', followed

by the rapid development of purpose-built manufactories, warehouses

and showrooms. These developments transformed the area into a

specialist manufacturing quarter characterised by a hierarchy of

inter-related manufacturing processes.

3. At the same time, English Heritage and Birmingham City Council

agreed to jointly fund the development of a conservation area

appraisal and management plan, including supplementary planning

advice with which to assess and manage development proposals within

the conservation area.

4. The decision to list was informed and enhanced by detailed

historical research and survey. The availability of recently

completed detailed research enhanced contextual information against

which individual building assessments could be tested.

5. Birmingham Jewellery Quarter today:

* Birmingham's Assay Office in the Jewellery Quarter is the busiest

in the world, testing between 40,000 and 80,000 items per day.

* Self-employed and small family businesses still predominate, with

6000 people employed by 1,500 separate businesses.

* Around 1,000 million whistles have been made in the Jewellery

Quarter since 1870.

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