Just east of Icknield Street and west of Great Hampton Street/Constitution Hill in Hockley is the Jewellery Quarter.
Well known for housing the greatest concentration of wholesale and retail jewellery manufacturers in all of Europe.
It is fact that over a third of all of British Jewellery is manufactured within one mile of Birmingham’s City Centre.
An early reference to jewellery manufacture was mentioned in a survey of Birmingham, conducted in 1553, when a goldsmith named Roger Pemberton was living in the town.
Already in the sixteenth century, Birmingham’s metalworks industry had been successfully developed and were manufacturing cutlery, nails, swords and horse transport related products.
There was a trend of heavier metal-bashing work, which was concentrated on in the Black Country, while smaller metal materials that required more skill and precision were made in Birmingham.
Badges, buckles and buttons, candle-sticks and candle snuffers, corkscrews, cruets, ink-stands, mirrors, seals, snuff boxes, sugar tongs, toothpick cases, watch chains, swords and gun were many of the quality range of goods that were made, known back then as ‘toys’.
Also, in addition to working with steel, brass and copper, two other materials that were becoming increasingly used were silver and gold.
The progression towards small but quality items was driven by the promise of higher profits.
By 1780, a local directory in the Quarter has listed over twenty jewellers, even though there were definitely more. By this time, the industry had spread across the town, covering the area now know as the City Centre.
When the Jewellery Quarter emerged, it was due to the indirect result of the sale and following development in the mid-eighteenth century of the Colmore estate, on the north-western edge of the town.
The Colmore family lived in New Hall, a vast Jacobean house, set in acres of land on what is now the north-western corner of the junction of Great Charles Street, Queensway and Newhall Street.
In 1746 the Colmores had the restrictions lifted, by a private Act of Parliament, which prevented the sale of the estate, and the current grid-like pattern of the streets between Colmore Row and St Paul’s Square were in place by the end of the century. The development of the surrounding properties was fairly irregular, despite the regularity of the street plan.
There was a mixture of large and small buildings, houses for the wealthy and houses lived in, by self-employed toy makers, who increasingly used the garrets or outbuildings as their own workshops.
In 1777 the area nearest to the town was moving down market, and Charles Colmore set about creating a higher class suburb, lower on down the hill by donating to the land and £1000 to build St Paul’s Church in the middle of a stylish square.
The idea was the cash in on the demand for houses by expanding the prosperous middle class outside the industrial town, and he succeeded in doing so.
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