I lust for places that have a real history to them, a palpable, tangible history. Musem of the Jewellery Quarter is of the free museums in Birmingham, and one of the only museums which is a true historic site, complete with decades-old dust. Items from the past send shivers down my spine; but a centuries-old jewellers does something entirely different.
Museum of the Jewellery Quarter
I get rather excited by the mere thought of a vintage set of pearls, or heavy necklace which sat upon the décolletage of a well-off woman. Whilst I fantasise about draping myself in jewellery from a previous age, the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter has set about making the Smith and Pepper jewellery firm a heritage site for visitors.
When the proprietors of the Smith & Pepper jewellery manufacturing firm decided to retire in 1981 they ceased trading and locked the door, unaware they would be leaving a time capsule for future generations. Tools were left strewn on benches; grubby overalls were hung on the coat hooks; and dirty teacups were abandoned alongside jars of Marmite and jam on the shelf.
Smith and Pepper designs
In the eighty years before its closure little changed with the working practices or equipment used within the family-owned business. Even the décor had more in common with early 20th century trends than a thriving business in the early 1980s. Today the factory is a remarkable museum, which tells the story of the Jewellery Quarter and Birmingham's renowned jewellery and metalworking heritage.
The thought of the owners Smith and Pepper working around the factory, carving out bespoke pieces for the people of Birmingham is something I can't shake. It both 'spooks' and excites me.
Gift shop souvenirs
If you love museums, or just want to explore the culture of the second city, give the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter a visit. It is surprisingly fun for little ones too. I took my six year old niece a few weeks ago, and she loved it - not least because of the cool gift shop filled with kitsch souvenirs.
The museum is free, and open all year round, but entrance to the Smith and Pepper factory is via a guided tour (£5.00 for adults, £4 concessions, free for children under 16). It's a small price to pay to see the way Birmingham-born jewellers worked. If you'd prefer to enjoy the freebies, pop in between the hours of 10.30am - 5.00pm Tuesday to Saturday.