Visit to JW Evans Silver Factory, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham 24th June 2022

The visit by the Sutton Coldfield Local History Group was arranged by a member who subscribed to the English Heritage organisation.  Straightaway, the tour guide told us that the firm’s name was a misnomer, as they weren’t actually involved in the silver plating of the items they made.  That procedure was carried out elsewhere in the Jewellery Quarter.

Words such as ‘moulds’, ‘dies’, ‘drop stamps’, ‘hammer-heads’ and ‘soldering’, were constantly being used as we followed the guide around the numerous rooms.  It was obvious that the factory was made up of converted housing which had been vastly extended into working premises following the firm’s foundation in 1881.  The gardens to the houses were also used to build upon.

In its operative years, before today’s stringent Health and Safety Rules, hazards abounded.  It was an extremely cluttered environment and we were warned not to touch anything and be very careful where we moved!

This firm never threw anything away and everything was left in situ when English Heritage took over in 2008.

The attached photos depict roughly the route we followed.

We were shown how dies were made from moulds which, in turn, were fashioned into many types of objects, practical and decorative, such as candlesticks, plates, salt cellars, spoons, knobs, etc.  The complicated machinery reflected the high skill needed to use them.  All family members were involved. 

One very small comical item was pointed out to us.  It represented an old fashioned “nightcap” such as one might see worn by Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol’.  It was, in fact, a drinking vessel, but it would not stand on a table and therefore any drink had to be taken in one gulp!

There was little organisation to the storage of items and workers just had to remember where they belonged.  A notice was put up for them – “Did you put it back”- as a reminder!

Finished items were trundled through the streets in a large, wheelable wicker basket to the nearby silvering factory by young children.

Our visit was rounded off nicely by a lunch at the nearby ‘Pig and Tail’ gastropub in Albion Street, which everyone enjoyed!

If you want to know more, please refer to the excellent website below.

Janet Jordan

24th June 2022

Friday, 24 June 2022