Coffin Works – Birmingham – Photos

 

Coffin Works Birmingham

Coffin Works Birmingham

I have been meaning to visit the Coffin Works in Birmingham for a long time and I finally made the trip recently.  It’s situated in the Jewellery Quarter and is a delightfully quirky place to visit.  They didn’t actually make coffins there – just the handles and plates and such like.

Coffin furniture

Coffin furniture

Coffin Works History

The factory is actually called Newman Brothers and was established in 1882.  At first they made cabinet furniture and then moved on to coffin furniture.  They finally had to call it a day in 1988, facing stiff competition from abroad.  The last owner, Joyce Green, sold the building at a reduced price on condition that it would not be used for houses – she wanted the site to become a museum celebrating the work that had taken place there for the last century.




Silverware for coffins

Silverware for coffins

What they made

As well as the larger items like breastplates shown in the photo above, Newman Brothers also produced any metalwork used on coffins.  The wonder of the museum is that all the original stock of crosses, handles and everything else is still on show in the museum – lying on work tables as if ready to be used any day.

The walls are covered with photos of famous people whose coffins were adorned with Newman Brothers furniture – among them Sir Winston Churchill.

Machinery in the workshop

Machinery in the workshop

How they made it

Much of the machinery in the workshops is still in good working order.  This was one of the smaller presses, but there were some other much larger ones.  Blank silver or brass plates were placed beneath the press and then the arm of the press would be released to stamp a design out.  It must have been an incredibly noisy work environment.

Modified sewing machine

Modified sewing machine

Sewing at the Coffin Works

Obviously I was thrilled to see all the sewing machines and very old fabric and trimmings on the shelves.  There were about a dozen sewing machines which were originally treadle but had been adapted to use electricity.

Newman Brothers would buy the coffins in and then do everything necessary to them – the fabric linings as well as the silverware.  They also made shrouds and there were lots of them there in their packaging as if ready to be sold.

The Coffin Works factory is run by the Birmingham Conservation Trust, largely with friendly and cheerful volunteer helpers.  It really is a step back in time and I found it absolutely fascinating.