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.