Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A tale of two cities

We spent our Bank Holiday Monday visiting the museums of Birmingham.

First we visited the main Birmingham museum. This is particularly known for the large collection of Renaissance and Pre-Raphaelite paintings. The museum represents the wealth of the city, collected by the good and the great.

We have been before, and sometimes the temporary exhibitions are excellent. Yesterday, however, we were uninspired and did not stay too long.

Instead, we went to the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter, which is an area of jewellery factories and shops unrivalled in the UK, though strangely silent on a bank holiday.

This was part of our (largely accidental) historical education of our family of the British industrial heritage which has so far included cotton mill, mine, farm and scottish bothy. We went to visit the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter.

The story is basically that a company was setup in 1899 manufacturing gold bracelets. In 1981 it closed one Friday afternoon and nobody went back. Six years later the city bought the factory as a relic of the jewellery industry.

Smith and Pepper had remained largely unchanged for nearly 100 years, much of the original equipment was still being used, many of the workers worked in hard manual labour all of their working lives in the factory. It is truely a fantastic place to visit and a credit to the city.

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