Explore the Smith & Pepper factory and the offices using the 360 ° interactive photos.
The Smith & Pepper Factory
The Museum of the Jewellery Quarter is built around the perfectly preserved Smith & Pepper jewellery factory. When the proprietors retired in 1981 they simply ceased trading and locked the door, unaware they would be leaving a time capsule for future generations.
The main '12 seater' jewellers' bench at Smith & Pepper where some of the firm's skilled workforce, Joseph Gee, John Web and Brian Ravenhill - to name but a few - worked. A seven year apprenticeship to learn 'the art and mystery of the jeweller' used to be the norm for this class of worker. Collectively called Mounters', they built up the body or mount of the jewellery, largely employing ages-old tools and hand-crafting techniques which would be instantly familiar to the jewellers' of Ancient Egypt, Rome or Medieval Europe.
For more than 80 years, Smith & Pepper produced jewellery from this workshop. Here you will find things left as they were on Smith & Pepper's last working day.
Making jewellery and other small decorative metalwares calls for a combination of many hand and machine skills, and the workshop here was laid out with set locations for different processes.
A noisy place when operational, down in his pit at the end Arthur Brewer used heavy-weighted machines called drop stamps to stamp out the larger components, Big Eide, Little Eide and Anna Foster worked deftly on the ever rattling and rumbling belt-driven polishing lathes and Valery and Marjorie, in rapid-fire, stamped out the smaller components on the hand presses.
Tools and Stamps
There is a vast array of original tools, stamps and machinery to be seen inside the factory.
After 80 plus years of production, everything this medium to large scale jewellery firm could need to successfully prosecute its business had been bought and in was in daily use. Virtually every aspect of manufacture - the forming of components, assembly and applying various finishes was undertaken in-house using this equipment, and one of the bosses Mr Tom's reasons for wanting the place preserved was that 'we have some lovely tools out there'.
Here's where Barry Lyndon and the Wilkins brothers, Frank and Jessie-with utmost precision and delicacy-applied the fluid and swirling fine lines of engraving to Smith & Pepper's gold and silver bangles, lockets, crosses and brooches. They were also surrounded by engraving machines which would apply the type of repeat geometrical designs called guilloche to the company's cufflinks and the likes.
Mr Tom's Office
From here Mr Tom orchestrated the different types of work undertaken by his workforce. At the start of the day he weighed the precious metal into each worker's work box , 'weighing out the job' and weighed it back in again at the end of the day or at the end of that particular process weighing it out to the next worker down the line of production. A skilled engraver himself, and versed in every process on the shop floor, he was seen as 'the technical man' who would be approached for advice.
Miss Olive's Office
Upstairs you will find Miss Olive's office.
Miss Olive, Glenda Richards, Josie Goldby and so forth worked here on the clerical and dispatch side of the operation. Esteemed as 'like working for the most kindly Grandmother', Miss Olive and indeed Mr Tom and Mr Eric were well regarded by the workforce of Smith & Pepper. Finished jewellery would come up from the factory below to be weighed, ticketed, invoiced and dispatched. In the olden- more innocent- days of the Birmingham jewellery trade, this would involve Glenda merrily swinging see-through bags filled with jewellery parcels down the road to the post office- on her own!