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  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas

The Coffin Works

The Coffin Works were established in 1882 by Alfred Newman and his brother Edwin. Originally brass founders, they predominantly made cabinet furniture until 1894, when the company moved to the present site on Fleet Street and began to specialise in the production of coffin furniture. The Coffin Works continued to specialise in this area until, due to competition from abroad and failure to modernise, they were forced out of business and ceased trading in 1998. Coffin Works


This set of photos was taken on a tour in 2009 after the building had been cleared ready for restoration. All of its contents were put into storage.


It was Joyce Green, the last owner of Newman Brothers, whose wish it was for the company to become a museum. After five vacant years and tireless campaigning, she sold the business to Advantage West Midlands (AWM) in 2003, on the basis that the building would not be used for residential use for a period of five years, thereby giving the project enough time to raise funds to fulfill her dream. In the same year it was featured on the BBC television series, Restoration, which drummed up even more interest in the project.

Between July 2013 and September 2014, building contractors Fairhurst Ward Abbotts, along with architects Rodney Melville and Partners and the wider professional team contracted by Birmingham Conservation Trust, worked hard to transform Newman Brothers at the Coffin Works from a semi-derelict building into a visitor attraction and mixed-use development. This transformation has always kept the historical integrity of the building at the heart of the project, so that as many original features have been restored and retained as possible. There were some conservation challenges though.



























Today

The shelves and workbenches at Newman Brothers are full of original stock and tools of the trade. With the original machinery working again, you can truly experience how this old Jewellery Quarter firm once operated on a day-to-day basis, producing some of the world’s finest coffin furniture, including the fittings for the funerals of Joseph Chamberlain, Winston Churchill and the Queen Mother.

Photo courtesy of The Coffin Works

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4 Kommentare


Unknown member
23. Aug. 2022

#17 is what?

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Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
23. Aug. 2022
Antwort an

Would you believe satin clothes for the dead?

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John Durham
John Durham
22. Aug. 2022

Today it would be nothing for a hardware manufacturer to knock out elegant coffin handles and escutcheons, but I'm sure, back then, it was both a prized and lucrative craft. Fascinating.

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Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
23. Aug. 2022
Antwort an

This operation had a furnace and did their own metal pouring etc. Everything was very home made and from scratch back then I suppose. They called Birmingham the city of a thousand trades and they made just about everything.

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