Work starts on Evans & Sons in the Jewellery Quarter.
A £750,000 programme of restoration has started this week at the JW Evans factory at 54-57 Albion Street in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter.
This fabulous family silverware business was bought a year ago by English Heritage from a family whose workshops had been on the same site since 1881. The buildings have long been neglected with roof leaks and parts of the workshops on the point of collapse.
The restoration work will see the whole of the buildings exterior fully repaired and weather-tight. It includes the careful dismantling and rebuilding of sections of brickwork. All the windows need extensive repair and 10,000 new slates from the North Wales Penrhyn quarry are being prepared to go on the roof.
The inside of the factory is densely packed with machinery, some dating from the late 19th Century. Since acquiring the site, English Heritage have carried out an audit of contents. Approximately 55,000 pieces of machinery, dies and tools are contained in the factory and workshops.
Tim Johnston, English Heritage’s West Midlands Regional Director says “This will be a major challenge as all the contents will have to remain in place while all the building work is going on but we are confident this can be achieved.”
The houses on the site were built in 1836 and rear workshops were added in the 1870s. Jenkin Evans began his business as a die sinker and stamper in number 54 Albion Street in 1881 and in 1900 he was able to buy the whole premises 54-57. The site was bought by English Heritage from Jenkin’s grandson Anthony last year.
English Heritage is planning to run special tours during the work over the summer months and it is also currently planned that the site will be open to the public over the Heritage Open Day weekend in September. It is intended that the site will eventually open to the public as a working museum.
Victor Betts July 24, 2010
I visited my cousin Carol last month on a visit to UK and was deloghted to hear of the discovery, I will certainly follow this with interest and any information availale will be gratefully accepted, particularly as Wendy, Tracy and myself, plus others yet to add to our family are attempting to contruct a comrehensive family tree/history. I have images of my grandfather Christopher but I believe Carol and Wendy also have the same and are closer to you. Would love to visit when I can get back to’Brum’ and UK.
Beth Stanley July 21, 2010
Hi Tracy and Wendy,
Apologies for not replying earlier – we have been frantically trying to complete the first phase of works at Evans to make the building weather tight, whilst also commissioning the second phase to begin installation of services and some visitor facilities.
We are REALLY interested in any links regarding relatives who worked at Evans and are always keen to know more. I hope you don’t mind but I’ve replied to you both in this posting, as they follow on from each other.
With regard our records, we now have a basic list of our archives and within that there are employment records, account books etc which do have details of employees but we have only begun to scratch the surface of all the information they contain.
The earlier records are particularly exciting as they refer to individuals who were there before Tony Evans’ time (Tony is the grandson of the founder of the business who sold to us in 2008 but is still involved as an adviser to English Heritage). At present these records and the photographs we have are the best links we have to the earlier workforce.
Further research into these records needs more time but is likely to have really exciting results. Any information you have now would be gratefully received. Similarly as we investigate further I am sure we would be pleased to let you have any information we discover regarding your great grandfather and/or his father.
If you have any images of George or Christopher Betts we have several good images of workers at Evans from around 1908 and we might be able to identify them? Depending on the ages they started at Evans we do also have early H&S books which list all under 16’s working at Evans, along with their father’s name and address so there might be something to follow up there.
I do indeed remember speaking to your sister Carol and still have her phone number. We are currently commissioning some oral history recordings and are very much hoping we might be able to interview your mother to record her memories. If it was better for us to contact you rather than your sister, then do let me know.
From this posting I cannot pick up your email addresss as you requested. Therefore I will put the Evans office phone number on this listing so if either of you wanted to contact me for more information (or anyone else out there who has Evans connections) you would be very welcome. If I am on site, rather than in the office then please do leave a message and I will call you back – it is a direct line.
Evans Office 0121 233 0901.
Many thanks for your interest and apologies again for the delay in response.
Project Conservator JW Evans
Elizabeth Perkins July 9, 2010
Hi. I am really sorry we have not got back to you on this. The project is in the hands of English Heritage and I know they have been very busy actually working on the preservation of the fabric of the building. However I also know from my experience of working on the Back to Backs that it is the memories of people who knew the business that will bring it to life. I will chase my contacts again and hope to get back to you again next week.
Wendy Walker July 8, 2010
Have just been sent this link and must contact you to let you know that Christopher Betts mentioned by Tracy Bird, who is my cousin’s daughter, was my grandfather, my mother’s father, who is still alive aged 96, she is the only surving child of 14 of Christopher and can remember visiting Evans to collect and return outwork for her father who used to work at home as an outworker for the company. He was a very accomplished silversmith and used to do a great number of commissions for Mappin and Webb in London, which I think tells us how accomplished he was. I noticed that in July Nick I think was going to look through some records. Some time ago my sister contacted someone when the discovery was first made and they were keen to speak to my mother and she may well be the last living person who has any actual contact with the workshop as it was. I would be pleased if you could email me asap. Many thanks.
Nick Booth July 4, 2010
Evans has an amazing set of records – so I’m sure something can be found. You might like to know that heritage Open Days are in September 2010
It should be a good chance to visit. In the meantime if we can find someone to respond in more detail in our comments section here we will.
Tracy Bird July 4, 2010
I have just found out that mt great grandfather used to work for the above comapny I think, around the 1930’s he used to make Hip Flasks, I wondered if there was anywhere that I could find out any more information, his name was Christopher Betts, I have also been told that his father George Betts also worked there at some stage.
Nick Booth November 14, 2009
or if you e-mailed the pictures to email@example.com they would automatically create a new site for you with the pictures online. You can then share the link with us here
Andy Mabbett November 14, 2009
@Douglas – please can you post some picture of these items online (perhaps on Flickr)?
Douglas Roat November 11, 2009
Your comments regarding “& Sons in the second para corresponds exactly to the spoons which are engraved on the back, ( possibly for some personal reason having to do with the owner ) with the dates 1904 and 1905 respectively. I know that is a little outside the 10 year date, however, the engraving may not have occured immediately. Also, could the 10 years you mention be a little fluid ?
The quality or the workmanship is outstanding; the general sytle is Baroque with rocaille work that is so fine it gives me a thrill every time I look at it.Anyway, thanks for replying.
Bethan Stanley November 10, 2009
Your query has just been forwarded to me, as the Project Conservator for JW Evans, English Heritage.
To answer the second part of your query first; establishing JW Evans items with confidence is rather difficult due to the business functioning as a manufacturer rather than retailer for most of it’s history. As such the business only registered a maker’s mark in 1980.
Evans did make a large number of good quality ‘antique reproductions’ throughout much of their history but only under their own mark in the last 25 years. Earlier items (which may well have been made up ‘in the rough’ but not finished at the Evans buildings) will have the maker’s mark of the eventual retailer not JW Evans.
Also, the business is only ‘& sons’ (rather than son) for a short 10 year period upto 1918, after which it becomes a limited company. Do these dates seem to correspond?
With regard to future manufacturing, as you will see from the article above, we are currently involved in the first of several phases to ensure the buildings and collections from JW Evans are safely preserved.
As part of these later phases, we are investigating the possibility of running certain elements of machinery in the workshops. It might therefore be practical to undertake production of a limited range of items, if the necessary skills and parts could be sourced. As you can appreciated there are a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration, which we are still looking into.
I hope this is of help,
Douglas Roat November 2, 2009
I recently purchased two large spoons that are marked Evans&Sons, with the British sterling mark. It took me a while, but at last I think I have found, through your article and others, where it was made.
Are there any plans to produce any of the flatware patterns again. The one I purchased is simply, ( to use an overused phrase), exquisite. I would like to have more, or would like to know an antique shop that may have it.
Thanks in advance if you have information.