Some history on Bartholomew Row in Birmingham in the County of Warwickshire
I took a photograph of this empty building in 2008. The premises, formerly occupied by Christopher Wray Lighting, had been empty for around five years. The building has since been labelled the "Christopher Wray Lighting Works," which seems a little odd as the firm had only occupied the premises since the early 1970s. The building, however, became the focus of a right legal hoo-ha between planners, conservationists, councillors and developers. In the end, the building was saved. The Birmingham Evening Mail ran a story on the place stating that "the complex of buildings which make up the site is surrounded on all sides by modern development but itself is an incredible snapshot of the city's history. A row of three townhouses front the street, frozen in time and left vacant since 2003. The site has been dogged with misfortune over recent years, with failed compulsory purchase orders, failed demolition applications and a subsequent statutory listing seeing its value plummet .... Two of the townhouses are original Georgian residences, which predate the earliest map of the city, indicating their age could date back as far as 1720. This makes them the oldest surviving dwellings in the city centre and a vitally important part of Birmingham's architectural history. They would have sat proudly as part of a grand square around the now demolished St. Bartholomew's Chapel. The site is bookended on Fox Street with a row of former back-to-back houses and the courtyard between the two rows of houses evolved over the centuries into a manufacturing hub. The complex is Grade II listed, not for its architectural merit, but as a fascinating and well-preserved example of light industry operating within a courtyard of houses. The townhouses, although heavily adapted, still have a domestic arrangement of rooms around timber staircases. The remains of patterned wallpaper are stained from water damage and net curtains sway with the wind rushing through the broken windows. The courtyard to the rear is accessed by a big cart entrance, which leads into an 18th century maltings. Around this top-lit central space are long, narrow workshop buildings with workbenches along one side and lots of cast iron windows, enabling workers to work flooded in natural light. Littered around the spaces are the remnants of the industrial past and it's easy to get a feel for the oppressive working conditions. In the windowless basement workshops old die stamps are arranged along a floor trench, with the remains of a menacing rusted steam hammer overhead. Parts of an old furnace sit against the wall and an array of tools and dies fill the space. These are the surviving relics of over 250 years of manufacturing on the site, probably beginning with jewellery manufacture and finally ending with lighting.
It is great that the building has been saved but also curious given that many other structures of greater importance have been swept away.
The buildings are numbered 9-12. Note that a maltings was mentioned in the article by the Birmingham Evening Mail. In 1845 No.10 was occupied by the maltster and hop merchant John Thompson Jnr. He was probably operating from the same premises as William Walsingham who was listed as a hop merchant in Swinney's Directory published in 1774.
In 1845 No.9 was occupied by the gunmaker J. Davis, a man also responsible for the collection of rents - hopefully not with one of his weapons! No.12 was the premises of Thomas Gorton, a bronzed fender manufacturer. He had moved here from premises in nearby Grosvenor Street. Later in the decade the adjacent premises at No.11 were being used by Joshua Yarnall, a Britannia metal worker.
By the early 1870s the buildings had completely different uses. No.9 was occupied by the embosser John H. Gathercole. Next door at No.10 was the medical botanist Edward Simco. The gas burner manufacturer Joseph Chatwin traded from No.11 and at No.12 was the file maker John Bayliss.
This Victorian map extract shows that Nos.10-11 had become a glass and gilding works. This business was run by Jenkinson & Co. Ltd., gilded glass tablet makers. The firm manufactured vitreous enamel advertising signs.
A rate book compiled in 1901 shows that Jenkinson & Co. Ltd. had moved into No.9 and that the premises of 10-11 was owned and occupied by Aquila Henry Austin. However, the mineral water manufacturer lived in Fox Street. It was in the bathroom of his Fox Street residence that he killed himself with a shotgun in May 1905. It was thought that he had suffered from neuralgia and, coupled with a depression in trade, had become extremely depressed.
It was in the 20th century that the front buildings were combined to form part of the manufactory for H. B. W. Landon & Bros., stampers and piercers.
"Charles Henry Parsons, who lives in a court off Buck Street, and John Wheeler, who lives in a lodging-house in
Masshouse Lane, were charged at the Victoria Courts this morning with violently assaulting George Thomas, labourer, living at 407 Garrison Lane. According
to the prosecutor, who appeared in the box with his face showing signs of severe ill-usage and his bead bound in bandages, he was in Bartholomew Row on
Saturday night on the way home, when the prisoners came up. One tapped his pocket, and then he received a blow. He turned to run after the man who struck him,
when he received a blow on the back of the head with something hard. While he was down he was kicked about the head and chest, and he lost consciousness. He had
to be taken to the General Hospital. Police-Constable Edwards said he was in company with Police-Constable Newton in Masshouse Lane when he heard the row.
They ran to the spot, and saw Wheeler run at the prosecutor and knock him down. Parsons kicked him about the head and chest as he lay on the ground. As Parsons
was taking another running kick witness caught hold of him. Newton secured Wheeler. Prosecutor's friend, a man named Tindall, was lying on the ground
unconscious, but it was not necessary to take him to the hospital. At Duke Street Police Station Parsons said that Thomas struck him first. He felled Thomas,
"and kicked him to keep him down." Wheeler said he did not see the prosecutor, and added, "I wish my other eye would drop out if I did."
Prisoners' story was that Parsons was set upon by prosecutor and other men, and Wheeler went to his assistance. Parsons offered to fight him in the
Lancashire style, and it was whilst the fight was in progress that the police came up. The prosecutor was struck in self-defence. Both prisoners have
bad record. Parsons was sent to prison for two months, and Wheeler for one month, with hard labour."
"Bartholomew Row Disturbance"
Birmingham Mail : August 20th 1906 Page 2