A local treasure: Birmingham School of Jewellery

This year marks the 125th anniversary of Birmingham’s world renowned School of Jewellery. Originally opened as a branch of the Municipal School of Art, the SoJ still stands in pride of place on Vittoria Street in the Jewellery Quarter and is now part of Birmingham City University. You can find information on the plans to celebrate the anniversary here:


And more information on its history at the university site here:


I thought it would be fitting to post a newspaper report on the SoJ, and found this account of the building just prior to its opening in 1890. The report is taken from Birmingham Daily Post, September 5th, 1890.  The architects mentioned, Messrs. Martin & Chamberlain were responsible for many of Birmingham’s finest Victorian architecture, perhaps their finest being the School of Art on Margaret Street, but they also designed all of the city’s board schools (the redbrick variety, such as that on Dudley Road).



The Vittoria Street Branch School of Art

The work of preparing for its special purposes the building in Vittoria Street which, under the sanction of the Council, the School of Art Committee has leased as the future home of a branch School of Art in the jewellery quarter, is almost completed,  and the premises will be clear of workmen and ready in all respects for immediate occupation when they are formally open on the 18th inst. They will constitute a very admirable suite of class-rooms. Few structural changes have been made, and the work has consisted chiefly in cleaning and fitting the interior. One of the entrances has been built up, with a view to the better supervision of the students. The porch gives access to a lobby, which leads past a smaller number of smaller rooms in the front of the block, down a small staircase to a large and excellent classroom. This, the principle apartment, is 65ft by 43ft in floor measurement and is roofed in three longitudinal bays, which light it from the north down its entire length. One of the long walls has been fitted with a continuous blackboard, and the room is liberally supplied with picture and curtain rods, so that spaces may be cut off for model drawing, and the fall of the light regulated. The artificial lights are Mr. Sidney Barratt’s circular burners, of the type which give so clear a light in the Art Gallery; and they are provided with adjustable hoods, by means of which their strength can be focussed upon the models.  The rooms on each side of the lobby referred to include, on the left, two class-rooms, and on the right the headmaster’s room,  a room for the use of assistant masters a curator’s office and a strong room. The two class-rooms measure 25ft by 13ft and 28ft by 16ft. One of them contains accommodation for a small library. The large apartment is flanked on the south side by a long and narrow gallery, which has lent itself very well  to the purposes of a modelling room for working in clay. There is also on this floor, in connection with each class-room, provision for the storage of drawing-boards &c. in numbered recesses.  From the principal apartment a staircase gives access to the first floor, which extends over the front block only. The chief room on this floor has been let to the Jewellers’ and Silversmiths’ Association for the purposes of technical instruction in these trades, and of this instruction the association will have sole charge and responsibility, it being however provided that only students in the School of Art shall be admitted for technical teaching in the association room. The new floors throughout the building are of concrete, laid with wood blocks, herring-bone fashion; and together with the staircases, are as nearly noiseless as may be. The building is warmed by Messrs. Hadens’ hot water system in low pressure pipes, heated in the basement, where also there is a cloak-room and lavatory accommodation. The alterations have been carried out by  Messrs. Sapcote and Son, from the plans of Messrs. Martin and Chamberlain

I sourced this article via the British Newspaper Archive, which is available by subscription only. Birmingham’s newspapers are also available to view free of charge in the Local Studies Centre, Library of Birmingham.  Birmingham libraries and archive are currently under threat as a result of government and local authority cut backs. Please support our libraries and archives! When they’re gone, they’re gone forever.


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