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The Jewellery Quarter

St Pauls Church
St Pauls Church

The House of York is in the historic Jewellery Quarter, close to the Assay Office, which stands on the corner of Charlotte Street and Newhall Street. Charlotte Street runs into St Pauls Square with its church and tree lined churchyard, now largely planted as public gardens. The surrounding area has many pubs, restaurants and cafes making it a sought after area of the city.

In 1762 silver smiths were making buttons, buckles, spoons and other small articles in Birmingham, but the nearest Assay Office for Hallmarking was in Chester. This was a serious handicap to his business incurring expense and delay, even for those articles which did survive the perils of travelling 70 miles each way in horse-drawn carriages, over bad roads frequented by highwaymen. Items were also damaged sometimes by careless packing, and designs could copied by the Chester silversmiths.

The Assay Office
The Assay Office

The Assay Office

Matthew Boulton relocated his family business from Snow Hill to the purpose built Soho Manufactory in Handsworth, then just outside the Birmingham boundary, where he made a major investment in a new factory employing over 700 people. Boulton resolved to take action on behalf of all Birmingham silversmiths at a time when the city and some of its most famous entrepreneurs were playing a leading role in the Industrial Revolution. As a result the Birmingham Assay Office was founded in 1773.

The Birmingham Assay Office hallmark is an anchor, perhaps an unexpected choice for a city so far from the sea. The story is that when Matthew Boulton was in London lobbying Parliament, he stayed at the Crown & Anchor Tavern in the Strand and that hallmarks were needed for new assay offices in both Birmingham and Sheffield. A toss of a coin decided that Birmingham had the anchor as its hallmarking symbol and Sheffield the crown (subsequently changed to the rose).

New Hall Works
New Hall Works

Pen Making

The Pen Room (Pen Museum and Learning Centre) is situated in a former pen factory, a Grade II Listed Building, in Frederick Street. It promotes the fact that Birmingham was the centre of the world pen trade through displays demonstrations and activities.

Charlotte Street was the home of pen makers in the early 1820s when Birmingham manufacturers began to use their metalwork manufacturing skills to mass produce pen nibs, leading to a dramatic reduction in prices. Other pen makers were based in St Paul’s Square, George Street and New John Street West, all in the the Jewellery Quarter.

In the late eighteenth century the impressive New Hall Works in George Street were occupied by Edelston, Williams & Co, who later changed their name to D F Tayler, when they merged with that firm. They made steel, copper and brass wire, and pins. Their wire was used for many purposes, including fencing, electrical wiring, piano wire, umbrella frames, wire ropes, springs and fish hooks.

Royal Birmingham Society of Artists

The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists (RBSA) is an artist-led charity which supports artists and promotes engagement with the visual arts through a range of inclusive activities, including exhibitions, workshops, demonstrations and other events. It is an independent institution led by artists and dedicated to the enjoyment and understanding of the visual arts.

The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists is one of the oldest Art Societies in the UK. As early as 1807, Samuel Lines opened an Academy teaching students, several of whom became famous in the art world and is located in Dakota House in St. Paul’s Square, where it now displays the best of Midlands’ Artists and Craftsmen. There are two Galleries displaying a changing programme of work by Members, Associates, Friends and Visiting Exhibitions. These will be available for rent by Artists, Craftsmen or Societies, subject to availability and approval.

The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists
Underneath Newhall Street.
Underneath Newhall Street.

The Birmingham & Fazeley Canal

The Birmingham & Fazeley Canal runs parallel to Charlotte Street and crosses under Newhall Street near the Assay Office before passing close to the BT Tower. The canal opened in 1789 and runs to Fazeley Junction, near Tamworth where it joins the Coventry Canal. It also offers a route to the Grand Union Canal, via the Digbeth Branch Canal.

The Birmingham & Fazeley Canal is well used and boats can often be seen working their way up the flight of 13 locks up to the city centre. Boats coming up from the Grand Union Canal could have come from as far as London, where the Grand Union joins the Thames, or from one of the many places it serves on its route, including Watford, Berkhamstead, Milton Keynes, Leamington Spa and Warwick. The network of canals around Birmingham offer several circular cruising routes to boaters, with the added bonus of a stop in the city as well as miles of rural scenery.