Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter is to benefit from additional
protection for its distinctive and well preserved historic buildings.
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
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
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
* 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
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.