Newman Brothers Coffin Works
Bringing life back to the coffin factory
A Victorian industry that dealt with the dead is getting a new lease of life as Newman Brothers Coffin Works gets transformed into a unique and unusual visitor centre.
Birmingham’s famous Newman Brothers’ coffin fitting works is another step closer to being transformed into a visitor attraction and creative workspaces after councillors gave the go ahead to development plans.
Newman Brothers Coffin Works
Members of Birmingham Conservation Trust are celebrating after the City Council’s planning committee passed an application for the three-storey Grade II* listed building in the Jewellery Quarter on Thursday 17th October.
Royalty and politicians
Newman Brothers was a family-run factory which made some of the world’s finest coffin furniture, including the fittings for the funerals of Churchill, Chamberlain and Princess Diana.
Inside the coffin factory
The very last sets of cast brass gothic handles from the factory, which closed in 1998, were used on the coffins of Cardinal Basil Hume and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.
The planning consent means work can start on cleaning up the site in Fleet Street, which dates from 1894, before builders move in to begin the conversion.
Regional development agency Advantage West Midlands is investing around £1.5 million towards the £3.9 million project to secure the future of Newman Brothers’ coffin fitting works.
Unique visitor attraction
Birmingham Conservation Trust director Elizabeth Perkins said: "Today is an exciting milestone for this project and we are now looking forward to getting on site and making a start on the redevelopment of this outstanding piece of history.
Workers at Newman Brothers Coffin Works
"The parts open to the public will form a unique visitor attraction and the workspaces we are creating will be an ideal environment for artists, photographers and other creative workers in the heart of our city.
"The buildings have excellent light, a fantastic atmosphere and a wonderful sense of history with a quirky twist."
Heather Broadbent, partnership manager for Advantage West Midlands, said the development of the site would create jobs and provide an exciting and unusual attraction for visitors.
"These workspaces will be very attractive and provide an ideal atmosphere in which creative businesses can thrive close to the city centre."
Advantage West Midlands has worked closely with Birmingham Conservation Trust to develop a scheme for the works and create a unique new visitor attraction to complement existing local attractions such as St Paul’s Church and the award-winning Museum of the Jewellery Quarter.
The museum will recreate the former workshops and showcase the items made at the site including brass handles, crosses and other ornamental coffin furniture.
Many of the unique artifacts that were left intact in the building when it closed in 1998 have since been removed and catalogued.
Advantage West Midlands awarded £200,000 to ensure the items could be preserved in storage until the opening of the museum.
The site, which featured on the BBC series Restoration in 2003, once employed 100 people making metal coffin fittings and shrouds – or 'furniture' for coffins.
last updated: 17/10/2008 at 12:07