Saturday, 14 December 2013

Newman Brothers Furniture Fittings Factory Works - Jewellery Quarter

Cyanotype photographs home printed from previous colour images.  

The images below are photographs I captured during the Birmingham Conservation Trust (BCT) site visit open to members of the general public.  

The process: Colour photographs I captured were converted to black and white, manipulating lighting levels and followed by inverting to a negative image.  Printing each negative shot onto a A4 acetate sheet, applying the appropriate mixed chemicals with a sponge pad (to produce cyanotype - blue print) to watercolour A4 paper. Placing a negative image on top, clamping watercolour paper with the applied chemicals and the negative image within a glass frame and exposing under a UV lighting appliance. Guesstimating exposer followed by rinsing off chemicals under cold running water until the image is developed.

To uploaded and share the home developed cyanotypes : Using a compact digital camera and no appliance of photoshop software. I took snapshots of the home printed photographs produced on watercolour paper, aiming to provide a historical feel.  

With thanks to BCT


Saturday, 5 October 2013

Newman Brothers Furniture Fittings Factory Works - Jewellery Quarter Bimingham

Black and white Spirits
From 1894 until 1999 Newman Brothers produced high quality coffin fittings in solid brass, stamped electro-brass, silver and nickel plate, and latterly in moulded resin.  Additionally the company sold shrouds and coffin linings, which they manufactured at the factory from the mid C20. When Newman Brothers started Birmingham was at the centre of the trade, but by the time they ceased trading the company was one of only three such manufacturers in Britain, the trade having been hit by competition from the Far East and changing patterns of burials.  In their heyday Newman Brothers employed a workforce of over 100 people.  They produced goods that were sent out across the world and adorned the coffins of the great and good, such as Joseph Chamberlain, Winston Churchill, the Queen Mother and Princess Diana.


Located on the city centre edge of the historic Jewellery Quarter and built in 1894, the factory is a typical example of a late C19 purpose built Jewellery Quarter manufactory.  It has a characteristic rectangular courtyard plan form and is of modest scale having been built on the site of former domestic housing. It is three storeys high, built of red brick with slate roof and has high quality brick and stone dressings with lots of small paned cast irons windows to flood the buildings with light.  It has two entrances separating the clean areas of work from the dirty industrial processes. Customers and office staff would enter via the panelled double doors, whilst workers would go in through the big cart entrance.

Footsteps, fingerprints and tarnished

The buildings were carefully planned to facilitate the industrial processes they were to be used for – the courtyard being the area where the raw materials came in, where all the toxic, smelly and noisy activities (plating, casting, japanning, polishing and stamping) took place and where all the waste was gathered before removal. The courtyard was also the area by which the goods left the factory and the two rooms either side of the cart entrance have raised floors to better accommodate loading and unloading. The upper floors of the back ranges housed the slightly less dirty finishing processes, such as piercing, grinding and bending and the assembly processes, such as putting together the handle sets, whilst the front range was for clean work only.  On the ground floor finished items were wrapped and stored, on the first floor the orders were gathered together and office work undertaken and on the top floor all the shrouds and coffin linings were made and finished. The full height hoist in the front range meant goods could easily be transported between the floors.

Washed out, reflecting absence
When the factory was sold in 2003 all the contents were left in situ.  This included large quantities of stock – handles, back plates, pins, screws, breast plates, crucifixes, shrouds and coffin linings of different designs and dates.  Much of the paper documentation was also left – sales ledgers, staff clock cards, photographs and catalogues. In addition a range of domestic and personal items remained – handbags, tea towels and tea making equipment, tins of soup and evidence of strong drinks in the director’s office! These items together with all the fittings – window benches with zinc covered tops, wooden shelves, office desks complete with drawers full of carbon paper and work benches with vices and flypresses – give an extraordinarily vivid sense of how the factory was when it was still working.

The Coffin Works project focuses a historic coffin fittings factory with its “time-capsule” contents, and on the human stories behind the 100 years of operation, highlighting the industrial processes and the lives of the workers and owners.

Photographs and titles by Lisa Zdravkovic
Written contents copied from the Birmingham Conservation Trust project websiteFor further detailed information and progress news please visit the link below.

You touched my life.......

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Newman Brothers - Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham- Coffin Furniture Factory