23 May 2014

BMAG: Jewellery Quarter, Soho House & Aston Hall

It's no secret that Birmingham pushes its main shopping area and the Library of Birmingham for I mentioned in a previous Birmingham centred publication, I took matters into my own hands to seek three experiences that champion the historical wonders of Birmingham. The masters of business have left behind a legacy of arts, history and culture. Brum is much better!

Are diamonds forever? I went to the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter to be educated that Birmingham's glittering trade in precious metals has left a legacy. Brum shone bright like a diamond thanks to the hard work of the skilled craftsmen that created the fine jewels throughout Birmingham's day of industry. Smith and Pepper had their own factory on Vyse Street, where they crafted and traded for 82 years from 1899 to 1981. Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter wasn't a retail hub for jewellery shoppers back in the sparkling days of the 1800's for it was strictly business! Smith and Pepper adopted a no nonsense approach to making bracelets and other types of jewellery for each speck of gold dust was saved to make those pennies go further, so its true the pennies truly make the pounds! I've never been one for bling I gained an appreciation for the work that had been  at Smith and Pepper's former empire! Yes B!

Getting to grips with the conserved parts of the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter enabled myself and the rest of the tour group to see the condition of the remaining factory and offices. I previously mentioned that Smith and Pepper's Jewellery empire closed in 1981 it was clear to see the modernisation effort would have costed a considerable amount for it looked vintage to say the least. The conditions of the factory itself would have been acceptable for the day but I noticed that a lot of the machinery would not comply with health and safety, but in this crazy health and safety minded world what really does? Losing a finger or two or even the sight out of one eye could happen whilst operating one of the many pressing machines. Sisters did for it themselves as women were allowed to work in the factories eventually, their work was deemed unskilled and they got paid the least, losing a fingertip didn't phase the women! The JQ produces 40% worth of trade today! 

Turning back the hands of time to my visit to Soho House brings a sunny day that I would like to shout about! Located within the Handsworth area of Birmingham this 18th Century manor house holds many secrets and triumphs that would account for Birmingham's success as a successful industrial city. Soho House, now a working museum was the home to Matthew Boulton, a man who started Birmingham's development into a vibrant city of the time. No longer acting as a residence to the Boulton family for time ticks onwards but the regal Birmingham property remained a family abode till the 19th Century. Soho House has a range of private rooms that include a Powdery, Drawing Room and other sitting rooms. Matthew Boulton and his associates would meet in the Lunar Room, the moon would guide the great minds home for streets lights weren't around in the 1800's. Oh, a lot of history!

Who knew so much history existed in Brum?! Visiting these places of interest didn't cost me the earth either, lets just say seeing another side of Birmingham is well worth the admission fee! I don't use buses in Birmingham but Soho House can be reached by the Midland Metro from Birmingham's Snow Hill Station and the same for the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter so getting from the city centre to these historical gems isn't time consuming at all! Back to Soho House for the close proximity the area of Handsworth makes this BMAG property stand to be like a oasis! If I could live in a house like Matthew Boulton did I would have loved having a Powdery for it was just darling! Empire was strong during the days of Soho House for the many exhibits played reference to the many territories that Great Britain governed during the reign of Queen Victoria. I say don't be a fool by not visiting Soho House to appreciate the work that's gone into preserving the residence of Matthew Boulton. 

Aston isn't just well-known for football! Aston Hall stands looking over Aston Villa Football Stadium within the neighbourhood of Aston. Built for the stupidly rich Sir Thomas Holte, a man of nobility that had more money than sense and that was in the 1600's! Aston Hall dates back to the 16th Century but was dealt a bad card, remaining in the Holte Family till 1817 this Birmingham manor house was leased by James Watt Jr. the son of James Watt, the creator of the Steam Engine. Aston Hall has a story to tell for sure! Queen Victoria made her presence known by advising the City of Birmingham to take Aston Hall back, to open it as a museum orientated property. We could say that Queen Victoria saved the day for Aston Hall? Forgetting all that bureaucracy Aston Hall still looks amazing, with its original features that were decorated from both the Jacobean and Victorian eras. Aston Hall does turns silver into gold! 

I honestly think that Aston Hall is a diamond in the rough for it's such a grand and opulent property that's located in the centre of Aston, Birmingham. Our Great British weather has been so gracious recently, well for the best part there has been some glorious sun that makes sightseeing a pleasure but at Aston Hall the weather fared to be horrid. It goes without saying that a Hall with such grandeur and decadent decoration definitely took the dampness and depression of the weather away. How did I get to Aston Hall? I took a London Midland train from Birmingham New Street towards Four Oaks, its only two stops away to Aston from the big smoke of Birmingham! Looking at the three Birmingham properties that I've been to I can't say I had a favourite for each setting told a completely different story, both endearing and inspiring for Birmingham doesn't get near enough of the credit it deserves! Jewellery made in Birmingham sounds good, I want a Lunar Room like Soho House!

Take a Chance! Birmingham is Best!

Joseph Harrison

2 comments:

Leon Skerritt said...

Aston Hall is awesome the grounds are really pretty too.

Joseph Harrison said...

Great properties in Birmingham, I loved the tour at the Museum of The Jewellery Quarter! Thanks for reading and leaving a comment!

Joseph Harrison