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24 September 2014
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Restoration
August 2003
Coffin Factory to Rest in Peace?
Newman Bros Coffin Factory
Newman Brothers Coffin Factory - your vote could save it from dereliction
An industry that deals with the dead is being brought back to life in the heart of Birmingham city centre. Historians are creating a coffin making museum after discovering a perfectly preserved Victorian coffin factory.
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FACTS

The Coffin Works were constructed in 1892 to the design of Richard Harley for Newman Brothers who were brass founders and manufactured metal coffin fittings in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter in the C19.

The company was founded by Alfred Newman and his three sons: Horace, George and John.

Newman Bros. Made coffin furniture in solid brass, electro-brass, silver plate and nickel plate, and later from resins with oxy-silver, oxy-bronze and oxy-copper finishes. The company also made shrouds.

In the 1950s the company was exporting widely to such countries as West Africa, India, Ceylon, South Africa, West Indies, Canada and Malta.

The family firm, which had been operating for over 100 years, was forced out of business due to the mass production of cheap fittings made from resins and plastics. At the time of its closure (1999) Newman Bros was one of only three remaining coffin furniture manufactures in England.
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A campaign to save some of Britain's most historic buildings from collapse is being launched as part of a ten part series on BBC 2 in August.

The "Restoration" programme will feature thirty buildings at risk of decay and neglect, including Birmingham's Coffin Factory in the Jewellery Quarter. They'll all be competing to win the ultimate prize - rescue from ruin!

Workers at the Newman Bros Coffin Factory
Workers at the Newman Bros Coffin Factory

Newman Brothers Coffin Factory

A fascinating bit of history dating back to 1882 has been unearthed amidst the bustle of twenty first century Birmingham.

At Newman Brothers they once employed one hundred people making traditional features for coffins.

Rest in Peace?

The company was reknowned all over the world until it closed in 1999. At the time of its closure, it was one of only three remaining coffin furniture manufacturers in England. But despite that it's not yet 'Rest in Peace' for the factory, there are plans to turn it into a museum.

cross
Cross for coffin decoration

In the Press Shop many of the machines used to make brass plates remain untouched while upstairs many of the shrouds are still on display.

Grave secrets

But it's not just a case of preserving the past, part of the building is also planned to be converted into workshops for today's small businesses.

So it seems the Newman Brothers factory isn't quite ready to take its secrets to the grave......

Newman Bros Coffin Factory will be featured on BBC2 on August 26 at 9pm in a three-way Midlands battle with Cromford Mill in Derbyshire and Bethesda Chapel in Stoke-on-Trent.

Viewers can vote during transmission by calling: 0901 077 77 77

A minimum of 17.9p from every phone vote (calls charged at 30p) will go towards the Restoration Fund. Digital Satellite television viewers may vote by pressing their remote control's RED button during each programme, provided their set-top box is attached to a telephone line.

Calls are charged at 50p, 18p of which goes to the Restoration Fund.

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