At the top of Fleet Street, in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, is an old metal working factory built in 1894 called Newman Brothers.
After an award-winning ‘rescue’ mission by Birmingham Conservation Trust, this listed building re-opened for business as a ‘time-capsule’ museum.
A visit to Newman Brothers sees groups step back in time to experience a Birmingham factory in the 1960s, except there’s something rather quirky and unusual about it.
Newman Brothers was built and operated for over 100 years as a manufacturer of coffin furniture. Birmingham was the centre of Britain’s coffin fittings trade. By the end of the 19th-century, it had more coffin-furniture manufacturers than anywhere else in the country.
In 1999, Newman Brothers Ltd was the last in Birmingham and one of the last in the country. They had a reputation for quality and produced the coffin furniture for Joseph Chamberlain, Sir Winston Churchill and the Queen Mother.
When the business closed in 1999 almost everything was left behind – the machinery, the stock of handles, breast plates, ornaments, linings and shrouds, sales ledgers, tea bags and even a handbag belonging to one of the workers. This rare survival of a company archive now lives on as a visitor attraction.
Costumed guides lead visitors around the factory where they can experience the sights, sounds and smells of factory life and hear stories about workers, owners and trade.
There’s also a gallery with temporary exhibitions, a small 1960s tearoom and a varied events programme.
For more information visit www.coffinworks.org.