Let’s take a peek at the area’s history, why it is such a historic landmark with international
The Birmingham Jewellery Quarter is reputed to be an urban and industrial neighbourhood that has consistently proved itself to be second to none as an industrial and residential hub. As appealing as it is vibrant, it is known by such hip and illustrious nicknames as “the city of all trades” or “the city of a thousand trades” or even “the JQ”.
The Jewellery Quarter is known worldwide as the pioneer of jewellery trade in Europe, being today home to some of the most notably-skilled goldsmiths and jewellery makers as it continues to attract prestigious craftsmen from around the world. Today, there are more than 600 businesses that are jewellery-related, including jewellery manufacturers and jewellery retailers.
The Jewellery Quarter is designated a rich and dynamic conservation area containing more than 200 listed buildings. It’s rich industrial history forms the base from which the city of Birmingham has expanded and continues to expand. This makes it a community of endless possibilities.
The Jewellery Quarter has earned it’s place as a piece of the history of the UK. The English Heritage has described The Jewellery Quarter as a “national treasure” and as having “structures associated with jewellery and metalworking that doesn’t seem to exist elsewhere in the world”.
The history of the Jewellery Quarter goes way back, as far back as the 16th century.
By this time Birmingham already had a thriving metalworks industry which specialised mainly in manufacturing metal that require a high level of precision and skill. These metals included nails, cutlery, swords, corkscrews, candle snuffers, inkstands, buttons and cufflinks, watch chains, guns and so much more.
Slowly gold and silver saw increasing use in addition to manufacturing in steel, copper and brass. A Birmingham survey carried out in 1553 named Roger Pemberton as one of the first goldsmith’s to settle in Birmingham. A Birmingham directory had, by the year 1780, listed about 26 jewellers and more than 12 jewellery manufacturing companies.
The Jewellery Quarter, has indeed been world renowned for pioneering major technological advancements from since the mid-1700s. As a direct result, there was by the early 18th century a demand for houses due to the prosperous middle class population growing outside the expanding industrial town.
The Colmore family, who in the mid-18th century owned the large impressive Colmore estate situated on the north-western edge of the Birmingham town, played a pivotal role in the emergence of the now world-acclaimed Jewellery Quarter.
In 1746, the Colmore family successfully obtained permits via a private Act of Parliament, and sold the estate. In 1777, Charles Colmore began by donating 3 acres land lower down the hill plus £1000 towards the developing of a high-class fashionable suburb containing Georgian villas and the St Paul’s Square adjacent to the Jewellery Quarter, at the centre of which would be the St Paul’s Church, also known as The Jeweller’s Church.
It was during the Industrial Revolution that the Jewellery Quarter emerged as the powerhouse of Birmingham and indeed the British Empire. The mid-18th century to 19th century saw Britain as the world's leading commercial nation due to the Quarter's boom during the Industrial Revolution.
Around 1760, as the world (particularly Great Britain and the US) transitioned to technological innovations like mechanised factory systems, mass production technology, chemical manufacturing and steam powered engines, Birmingham and the Jewellery Quarter benefited immensely, and a vast array of everyday items were now being manufactured easily including glassworks.
And along with the technological advancements came a boom in population as well. Workers migrated from all over the country to take up residence in the Quarter.
New roads and new factories were needed to meet the rising demand. This led to the construction of the Birmingham School of Jewellery and the famous Assay office in 1773 (which was designed for testing the purity of metals), both of which are the largest of their kind in the whole world.
Also notable among the commercial highways was the opening of a new canal system as commercial highways and the unprecedented amount of industry it attracted. In 1769, The Birmingham Canal to Wednesbury was opened and linked in 1789 to the Birmingham & Fazeley Canal.
Along with the new commercial highways and the volume of industry they attracted came the need to construct wharves, warehouses, yards being cleared out for more factories and by 1800 even new streets. The Jewellery Quarter occupied a prime location, enjoying close proximity to central rail connections and canal networks which facilitated exports to Africa, Asia and the Americas..
Like glass production, metalworking and other industries, mining precious stones also became a whole lot easier. People would become self-employed and would literally convert their homes to factories to produce jewellery items themselves. By the year 1800, as many as 400 jewellers were listed in the local directory. Such was the rapid pace of development and industrial demand in the Birmingham city and the Quarter.
The jewellery trade bloomed around the Warstone lane area in Hockley and Vyse St., and the area around St Paul's Church got converted to factories and workshops because the district developed at an astronomical rate. Warstone Lane and Vyse Street were the main thoroughfare of the Quarter.
Even today, post the Industrial Revolution, the industry is still flourishing. Nowhere else in Europe can there be found a greater concentration of dedicated and sophisticated jewellers as in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.
There are now more than 700 jewellery-related businesses, both wholesale and retail, located in the Quarter. Of this number, 400 are jewellery manufacturers, exceptional in their own right, producing 40% of the jewellery that comes from Great Britain.
Dark clouds were cast over the Quarter and Birmingham in a period beginning from the end of World War 1 through War 2 which witnessed strategic bombing raids that went damaging villas and flattening factories. This caused the quality of the fashionable district of Jewellery Quarter declined steadily.
Also, the Great Recession brought along with it various economic problems. A slight recovery began after World War 2 but a lack of space soon hindered further progress.
However, even before the end of World War 2, in 1943 the Birmingham Jewellers' and Silversmiths' Association (which was one of a number of initiatives created for the area since 1887) pioneered the regeneration of the jewellery industry in the Jewellery Quarter. And despite numerous challenges over the course of the years that followed, the Jewellery Quarter has till date not ceased to grow and flourish.
The English Heritage and the Birmingham City Council both recognised the historical significance of the Jewellery Quarter in the 1970s. 1971 was four years after the Civic Amenities Act which gave birth to the designation of conservation areas, and it was in that year that the St Paul's Square Conservation Area was formed, being recognised as Birmingham's last remaining Georgian square.
In the years that followed, the St Paul's Square Conservation Area kept getting extended to include other streets and blocks that were deemed worthy of receiving protection by reason of their status as cultural artifacts.
As a crowning glory, the English Heritage carried out a survey in 1998 of all the buildings located in the Jewellery Quarter, and in September 1999 published a report known as The Birmingham Jewellery Quarter Urban Village: An Architectural Survey of the Manufacturies 1760-1999. In the report they concluded that the Jewellery Quarter is indeed a historic and industrial area with immense international significance.
Consequently, in September 2000 a new Jewellery Quarter Conservation Area was formed by merging of the other three conservation areas. Also as a direct resultant, the Heritage Minister Andrew McIntosh in 2004 approved the recommendation for the statutory listing of 106 of the Jewellery Quarter buildings, where 104 of the buildings received Grade II listed status and two received Grade II* listed status.
A bid for the Jewellery Quarter to receive acclamation as a World Heritage Site has been submitted, and is awaiting recommendation by the Government.
The resurgent Jewellery Quarter is today designated a rich and dynamic conservation area of international importance, containing more than 200 listed buildings.
Contrary to it’s name, the Jewellery Quarter wasn’t just about jewellery. The Jewellery Quarter is renowned for being home to 1000 trades (for example the infamous pen trade) and hence, a place of endless opportunity.
Many other notable items were, and are still being, manufactured in the Jewellery Quarter. Some of the most momentous items are:
The resurgent and florid Jewellery Quarter is the perfect location for anyone wishing to experience firsthand Birmingham’s urban revival.
The designated conservation area is now being actively reinvented as a historic urban industrial village and hub for both local and international investment and creative enterprise. This makes Birmingham a truly cosmopolitan city.
It’s a fusion of local and international diversity. Whether old and new, whether it’s north or south, east or west... the Jewellery Quarter has got all sides covered as a melting pot of rich delicate history commixing with a relaxed, connected lifestyle.
Today’s Jewellery Quarter is as vibrant as it is appealing, combining chic residential accommodation with burgeoning commerce, and a prolific culture with evergreen style.
There’s lots to see in the Jewellery Quarter. Here you find cutting-edge architecture sitting alongside Victorian and Georgian splendour, and sophisticated motorways side by side with a majestic 19th century canal network.
Places of interest include:
There’s a store for everything useful. You will find over a thousand shops in the central area including small specialist boutiques as well as larger ones selling flagship brands such as Selfridges and Harvey Nichols.
Food? The Jewellery Quarter has that covered too. Whatever your taste, cuisine is well represented here by everything from local to international flavours, from Balti to independent eateries, from specialist bars to Michelin-starred restaurants.
Love the outdoor feel? There’s also an abundance of relaxing green spaces around the area. There’s no want for pleasurable activities to participate in, as there are a wide range of cultural and entertainment venues holding activities such as professional sport, art exhibitions in internationally acclaimed museums, and even drama, music and dance.
Both manufacturing and service industries are represented at the Jewellery Quarter. It is remarkable that many of the UK’s leading brands and businesses have their base in Birmingham.
The Quarter’s central location remains an asset in attracting foreign industry and investors. And together with its skilled workforce and emerging status as an urban industrial icon of international significance on the European stage, it is little wonder that well over 300 companies have chosen to establish their national or global headquarters in the Jewellery Quarter.
The commercial highways that attracted industry in the 17th century through to the 18th century are being renovated to include modern forms of transportation. The Mailbox is one of such key projects. Others include the Grand Central (which was opened recently), The Bullring, and the New Street Station (which is the city’s foremost transport hub).
The drive behind the city’s refurbished transport system is an ambitious vision to make both Birmingham and the Jewellery Quarter accessible by rail, air and road to nearby cities, neighbouring countries and international investors.
Birmingham no doubt ranks undisputed as the UK’s chief city for yielding high returns on real estate investment. It is ideal as a place to live and to invest.
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