The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter takes the visitor back in time, giving a glimpse of what it was like to work in this hive of industry in days gone by. Read on to discover more about this treasure trove of an attraction and see images taken by members of the IGers Bimirngham community when we visited on Monday.
This treasure trove is built around the old workshops of family-business Smith & Pepper (an uncle and nephew). In 1899 their address at 77/78 Vyse Street was the site of two terraced houses with a single storey workshop at the back that they built in the garden.
By 1914 the business was doing well enough to replace the two old houses with a new front office block, linked to the workshop at the back.
From the 1930s until they ceased trading in 1981, Eric, Tom and Olive who were the children of one of the founders ran the firm. They operated in a virtually unchanged fashion throughout that period. In 1981 when the siblings had reached their seventies and eighties and with no direct heirs to take on the business, they took the decision to close Smith & Pepper.
When they closed it was as if they had simply left for the evening with the expectation of returning the next day – papers were left scattered in the office; tools, cigarette packets and tea mugs were left in the workshop.
For many years this was left undisturbed. In 1990 the Ironbridge Institute started the process of developing the site in to a museum and began the enormous task of photographing, cataloguing, restoring / preserving every single detail of the building. Once this had been completed, they then put everything back. Over 70,000 items were involved – from a milk bill from 1899 to the machines, tools, dies, records, and even a half-empty jar of Marmite in the office.
As you can see from these photos, the vast array of items, machine and tools are laid out in such a way that you can really see exactly what it was like when it was in operation. The Museum’s enablers present the history of the area, the traditional way that the company operated in, and the stories of people that worked there in a knowledgeable and interactive way, including demonstrations of some of the equipment.
As part of the development of the museum, Birmingham Museums Trust occupied two of the neighbouring buildings to provide modern visitor facilities, displays, a tea room and gallery space (where you can see the IGers Birmingham exhibition until the end of this month of course!).
IGersBirmingham visited the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter courtesy of Birmingham Museums Trust. With huge thanks to Jenny and William from Birmingham Museums Trust for facilitating and for providing an excellent, informative and interesting tour. Information in this instablogpost is based upon the tour and the guide book produced by the museum however any errors are by IGersBirmingham!
Visit the museum’s website to plan your own visit.