New Futures for Birmingham`s Historic Buildings

All in a Day’s Work: Confessions of a BCT Development Officer Part V

Posted April 23rd, 2013 by Suzanne Carter with No Comments

pen museum typewriterIt has been a while since I wrote my last confessions piece. I tend to write these when I’ve either been camping out at The Coffin Works for a few days in succession or haven’t been near a desk in a while! This time is no exception!

So, in true confessions style here is how I spent last Thursday (Part V) and Friday (Part VI).

Thursday 18 April

10:00am: Our second ever school visit at The Coffin Works. Year 6 pupils from Tindal Ark Academy in Balsall Heath came for a ‘mystery tour’. They knew they were having a special trip to an old factory in the Jewellery Quarter, but they weren’t told what it made; this is something they had to find out by asking questions to our wonderful Education Volunteer Rachel.  They were fascinated by holes in the building, residue on the polishing shop floor and suggested they would drink the Cavity Fluid from the empty bottle they found when they were hungry – well, it would fill a cavity!  While a few of the children guessed what Newman Brothers made, they enjoyed the ‘Big Reveal’ as much as we did! It’s fascinating listening to children and their lines of enquiry. The crucifixes inspired one young man to ask “why is there so much Jesus stuff around?”.


We realised how important it is to set the context that Newman Brothers supplied products for the Christian funerary trade and think about the differences in burial customs for other faith groups, for whom coffins and coffin fittings are not part of the tradition.  A fabulous group of children and thank you to their teacher Natalie for supporting the development of our education work and we look forward to welcoming the other half of the class after SATS!

12pm: Arrival of a class of year four students from Welford Primary in Handsworth for their ‘mystery tour’. This time they came prepared – not with knowledge about where they were going, but with iPads!




We had shown their teacher Pelago around The Coffin Works and J W Evans a couple of months ago as part of the focus group work that we are doing with English Heritage to develop joint educational offers. We worked up the idea of the ‘mystery visit’ with him and today we were fortunate to test it with two groups of children. It works really well – and certainly, as year 8 from Holyhead School in Handsworth will testify, unknowingly unwrapping a parcel of coffin fittings is an intriguing experience!

Welford Primary had been to J W Evans on a mystery tour in the morning and came to us after lunch, buzzing from the fact they had been to a Silversmiths. It’s great finding ways to work with our partners in the Jewellery Quarter and testing different approaches with school groups – there is certainly more to come! Massive thank you to Rachel for leading both groups so expertly on their magical mystery tours. Welford Primary have invited us and Sheree from English Heritage to an assembly in May to see what further research the children have done and watch the films they will have made.

1:30pm: Text message from Director Simon Buteux from the Institute  for Archaeologists conference at Aston University saying we have 30 delegates signed up for a tour of the Coffin Works and walking tour of the Jewellery Quarter (instead of the 10 we expected) could we cope? Not sure we could, but I knew a man who could! Thank you Michael Reddy, who we are very lucky to have volunteering for us, who put his foot on the pedal to reach us before the delegates did and lead a second tour around the factory.

I think that is enough excitement for one day!

Part VI coming soon which includes giving out House Prefect badges, learning why The Canals & River Trust keep plastic dog pool in their ‘feely bag’… and why our BCT Education Volunteers also need to  know!

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