Some history on Great Hampton Street at Hockley in Birmingham in the County of Warwickshire
Great Hampton Street has lost some of its old magic but there remains a decent stock of old buildings with which to mentally reconstruct the thoroughfare's development over the years. Indeed, the variety of buildings from different periods help to elucidate Birmingham's industrial and commercial timeline.
In the 16th century the thoroughfare was known as Sandy Lane and formed a main route to Wolverhampton. There was little development by the time of Samuel Bradford's plan of 1750 though streets had been formerly laid out when Hanson's plan of the area was published in 1778. John Kempson's plan of 1808 shows that the earliest development was on the north-eastern side of the road between Great Hampton Row and Well Street. On the opposite side of the road, there was development from Livery Street to a point just beyond Hall Street across the street from the Church Inn. By this time Great Hampton Street formed part of the famous London to Holyhead Mail Road. A toll gate was located between Hockley Street and Well Street. Even by the time a Pigott Smith map appeared in 1828, the south-western side of Great Hampton Street from Hockley Street to Key Hill was land largely devoted to gardens, some of which were cultivated for produce to be sold in the markets area around St Martin's. Most of this land was owned by Colonel Howard Vyse of Ladywood House, a man commemorated with Vyse Street which forms the crossroads with Well Street.
For centuries Great Hampton Street acted as an important arterial route in and out of Birmingham, not that the pubs of Great Hampton Street benefited in terms of coaching traffic as they were too close to the changeovers that took place in the town centre. The original Duke of York on Hockley Hill acted as a gateway into Birmingham but the taverns along Great Hampton Street served the burgeoning population engaged in the precious metal trades. Additional business was rustled up by offering accommodation to commercial travellers frequenting what would become known as the Jewellery Quarter.
Early development along Great Hampton Street took place in the 18th century. The old sandy road became a turnpike in 1727 and subsequent improvements led to ribbon development along its route. Large tracts of land were released by the family-owned estates to ease the overcrowding within Birmingham. Not that the landed gentry worried too much about such conditions - they were interested in the fact that more money could be gained from commercial exploitation of their inherited terra firma.
The early development along Great Hampton Street included large houses where some of the wealthier industrialists elected to reside. Their houses stood back from the road and featured gardens to the front. These properties would later become mixed residential and commercial developments with business owners living in the house whilst operating a modest manufactory to the rear in outbuildings and small workshops. There are a few surviving properties from this period and, in other sections of the street, one can visibly see where the building line was extended up to the pavement. Although operating in domestic properties, many businesses continued to produce goods in the back yards and courts often using the ground floor accommodation as a shop or showroom to display their wares.
The purpose-built manufactories along Great Hampton Street did not appear until the mid-late 19th century and large development continued up until the inter-war years. The result is a legacy of some wonderful late Victorian and Edwardian buildings. This trend continued through the reign of King George V and Great Hampton Street's factories have some delightful elements of art nouveau with arts and crafts mixed with the street's gothic and baroque. Larger factories such as the Lucas Works were erected during the inter-war years when large plots of the old housing and shops disappeared.
This page loosely follows a path along the north-eastern side of Great Hampton Street from the junction of Great Hampton Row to Well Street, then across the road to Vyse Street and back along the south-western side to just beyond Hall Street. Historically, the main road beyond Well Street was part of Hockley Hill and NOT Great Hampton Street.
From the former Gothic public-house there is a block dating from the mid-19th century before the former Sylvia Works. Erected in 1912 and described as 'free baroque' by Andy Foster, the electro-plating factory was the work of George Edward Pepper, the man responsible for a number of buildings in Great Hampton Street and around Birmingham. A key reason for his involvement in this street was that his father was the manufacturing jeweller Josiah Pepper, a successful businessman with premises in Hockley. The family lived in leafy Hamstead Road in Handsworth. The silversmith Harry Moreton occupied the Sylvia Works when completed. The industrialist lived at Oscott House on Heathfield Road at Handsworth. Since this photograph of the former Sylvia Works was taken, the upper floors have been refurbished and converted into apartments. In addition, the building to the left has been demolished.
The next building along the north-eastern side of Great Hampton Street is a real beauty. Designed by Arthur McKewan in 1911, the building went up during the following year for John Ashford and Son Ltd., a jewellery manufacturing firm established around 1842 in Lionel Street. However, it was the rags-to-riches Joseph Aitken that acquired the business and relocated to this address. These offices fronted a large factory that extended way back on the plot. The factory produced men's jewellery and specialised in enamelling work. The company also manufactured rolled gold, hall-marked silver, gilt and sterling silver products.
I suppose we will never know what instructions Joseph Aitken gave to the architect but what he got was a delightful example of the Birmingham Arts and Crafts blended with Edwardian Baroque. The three-storey building of red brick and Portland stone features a large recess enclosing two central bays. The windows are of stone mullion-transom design and the ground floor stone has deep set horizontal grooving. One door is more ornate than the other - the reason being one was for goods in-out and the other, featuring Tuscan columns, for office personnel.
This building remains a fine legacy of Arthur McKewan's work. Another resident of Handsworth, he operated from offices in Newhall Street before moving to Colmore Row. He was educated at Richmond House School in Handsworth and later studied at Birmingham School of Art and Birmingham Architectural Classes. He was an assistant to Edward Pincher at West Bromwich for some years. He started his own practice in 1898 and was in partnership with James Alfred Swan. He was President of the Birmingham Architectural Association between 1924-6.
The factory built for John Ashford and Son Ltd. was erected on plots formerly occupied by the Leopard Inn public-house, along with these properties. The Leopard Inn can be seen to the right of the photograph. At the turn of the 20th century the property next door was divided between the Warstone Monumental Works and the practice of the surgeon and dentist James Clémençon Whateley. One etched-glass window pane advertised that 'painless dentistry' was offered here! The dentist was born in Birmingham but his wife Hermine was from Germany. The couple had occupied the premises for almost twenty years prior to this photograph being taken. They later lived in Solihull. A Unionist like his father, he stood as an Independent in the council elections for St. George's Ward in 1893.
The manager of the Warstone Monumental Works Company at Great Hampston Street was Horace Lindley. The firm also had premises at Tenby Street. In fact, Horace Lindley had previously worked at the other premises. Born in the Lincolnshire town of Stamford, he was originally a wood carver. He and his wife Catherine moved into a house in George Street. He died in 1903 and this business was absorbed by the Birmingham Church of England Cemetery Company. In this photograph there are a good number of monumental headstones on display for passers-by to ponder over for an impending death in the family. The sculptor Peter Hollins had earlier traded from these premises and employed four people in the business. This was at a time when Edward Snape operated as chemist and druggist in what would later become the dental surgery. Peter Hollins had took over the family business from his father William, also recorded as a sculptor and statuary.
The dental surgery can be seen to the right in this photograph which affords a view of the businesses between the Warstone Monumental Works Company and the Church Inn on the corner of Harford Street. There were four businesses operating out of this relatively small plot. Occupying Nos.19-20 was the Silver Pencil Case Manufacturer Francis Webb. However, by the time this photograph was taken he had passed on. The signboard on the front of the property advertised that the firm were manufacturers of Silver Pencil Cases, Tooth Picks, Thimbles, Pen Holders, Albert Bars and Watch Keys. The board also states that the business was established in 1864. In the early 1860s Henry Cowley traded from these premises. The brassfounder employed eight men within his business.
The shop at the front of Webb's pencil case works was a different kettle of fish altogether. This was the retail outlet for the Great Hampton Street Dairy run by Mrs. Jane Adcock. The Nottinghamshire-born widow was helped by her daughters. The entry next to the shop led to the back yard where Arthur Ernest Cramp was engaged as a stamper and piercer. A sign above the entry shows that he was also a die sinker and press tool maker - a busy man! He had previously traded in nearby Barr Street where he lived with his wife Rebecca. The couple would later move to Soho Hill.
To the left of the entry is the shop of Charles Watts and Son, saddlers and harness makers. A number of harnesses are on display in front of the shop. This was another case of a tradesman living on the premises with his family whilst working from behind the property in outbuildings. The Kenilworth-born harness-maker employed three men in the business. He lived on the premises with his Lincolnshire-born wife Sarah. The couple had been here from around 1850, taking over the business of Richard Harper.
This brings us to the Church Inn on the corner of Harford Street. On the opposite corner stands the imposing bank premises designed by the esteemed architect Julius Alfred Chatwin, the man responsible for many of Birmingham's churches in the late 19th century, either by new construction or through restoration and renovation. He was born in Birmingham and educated at King Edward's Grammar School which was then situated in New Street. He learned his craft working with Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin, notably on the Victoria Tower of the Houses of Parliament. He started his own practice at Bennett's Hill around 1855 and nine years later he started working on buildings for Lloyd's Bank, a bread-and-butter contract he would retain for some thirty years. It was in this role that he created this bank on the corner of Great Hampton Street and Harford Street.
Built in 1899, the bank almost has the appearance of a Birmingham Victorian pub, the buff terracotta perhaps being a key difference. However, the lion at the bottom of the corbel supporting the octagonal cupola and turret could bamboozle those thinking this is a former Golden Lion! Combined with Dutch gables and ogee-capped finials, the cupola makes for a building of eclectic styles. There is another lion roaring at the top of the gable fronting Great Hampton Street. The first manager of the new bank was the same person in charge of its predecessor. John W. Caddick had worked for the Birmingham Joint Stock Bank and was the first manager of their branch bank along the road on the corner of Hall Street when it opened in January 1874. This company was taken over by Lloyd's, Barnett's & Bosanquet's Bank Ltd. in 1889, the year in which they became known as Lloyd's Bank Limited. Note : this building has since been converted to other uses.
Further along Great Hampton Street you will pass the Lord Clifden. If you do not call in for a drink at least stop to look at the superb leaded stained-glass window. Continue along to the next corner where Hockley Street meets Great Hampton Street. The first corner was once the site of the Globe Tavern. The old boozer went when the current building was erected around 1870. A good number of buildings of this period displayed Italianate styling and this bears some hallmarks, particularly with the rich cornice. The ground floor was possibly altered at the turn of the 20th century. This features stone with horizontal grooving and a dentilled arch above the corner entrance. Although it has the appearance of a bank, in the early 20th century this was the premises of Hulley's Motor Garage.
Across to the other side and you encounter a bolder Italianate edifice. Built with red brick and stucco dressings, the former Pelican Works is a fine Palazzo creation bearing the trademark symmetry of this architectural style that popped up around Birmingham in the late 19th century. The factory was erected during the late 1860s for Thomas Wilkinson and Sons, an electro-plating manufacturing business founded in Sheffield in 1832, a chief rival to Birmingham in the cutlery and silverware trade. The Pelican was the hallmark of the company and a large example of the Pelecanidae family with outspread wings was mounted on the factory's parapet. The Pelican Works was run by William Henry Wilkinson, son of the company's founder. He was born in Birmingham in 1839, suggesting that the business was making a planned move southwards. The Sheffield arm of the business was eventually taken over by William Whiteley and Sons Limited. William Wilkinson married Rebecca Jenks at Wolverhampton in 1867. She was the daughter of Isaac Jenks who served as the Mayor of Wolverhampton for several years. The couple initially lived in Handsworth but later moved the family home to Sutton Coldfield. By the time that William and Rebecca Wilkinson were celebrating their golden wedding anniversary in 1917, they were residing at a house called Dumcrieff at Tudor Hill in Sutton Coldfield. The couple's sons William and Francis would later run the business, eventually selling to A. L. Davenport Ltd. in 1932. William Wilkinson was a naturalist of considerable reputation and a member of the Birmingham Natural History Society.
Further along Great Hampton Street there remains a short row of older surviving properties set back from the road - and here they are at the turn of the 20th century. Around 2010 these properties, a little tattier than a century earlier, housed a number of different commercial activities, one of which was a recording studio. In 2021 the buildings had been tidied up and some cladding had been deployed on the front of No.55. At the end of the Victorian period the businesses were more traditional. To the right of the photograph is the shop of Samuel Thomas Johnson, a Coventry-born glass merchant dealing in lamp shades, lanterns, propagating glasses and a range of other domestic glassware. He and his wife Hannah had previously traded at nearby Hockley Hill.
The main focus of the photograph is the business of Samuel Timings and Co. Based at No.55 Great Hampton Street, the firm were brass and iron founders, stampers and piercers. One of the company's specialist items was castors for furniture. Other goods carried the trade mark of a shield round with the 'ST' monogram. The firm had previously traded at No.23 Great Hampton Street but moved to these premises in the 1890s. The factory had previously been occupied by the manufacturing silversmiths Henry Jones and Co. This firm leased the house, warehouse, manufactory, stable and premises from Isaac Adderley. The left-hand entrance was for the offices whilst the other door was for goods and employees.
In this photograph the photographer has moved slightly to the left to capture two businesses at Nos. 56 and 56a Great Hampton Street. On the right at No.56 was L. J. Meakin and Co., die sinkers, stampers, piercers and tool makers. The firm were manufacturers of specialities in small goods. Next door was Samuel Frederick Evans and Co., electro-plate manufacturers. In the early 1880s Samuel Evans lived on the premises with his wife Alice. He employed 6 men, 2 women and 2 boys in the manufactory. He had learned his trade working in his father's business at Vyse Street.
The lettering in the ground floor window at No.56a advertises the brass-founding firm of W. & E. Clews. This was typical for the period in which many small firms plied their trade in overcramped back yards. For example at No.58a behind the jeweller's shop to the left there were 14 separate businesses going at it hammer and tongue, including the Joseph Harrison [plater], John Hamnett [stamper], Henry Cherry [die-sinker], Charles Revell [ring-maker], Alfred Manison [goldsmith], Thomas Ellis [chain maker] and Samuel Westwood [clock dial engraver].
On the north-east corner of Great Hampton Street and Well Street stands the gargantuan Crowngate House created by J. G. Dunn for Dallas & Lloyd. The architect had not long designed another Birmingham Arts and Crafts factory at Regent Place. Completed around 1913, this red-brick building with buff terracotta and yellow-and-white tile dressings, has enormous arcading to both elevations. The building was extended by the same firm between 1919-22.
A mixed development, early occupiers were varied in trade and included James Brothers [boot makers and dealers], William Lockett [jeweller], George Wilden [press tool maker], Joseph Caddick [electro-plate manufacturer] with the corner being used by the wholesale stationers John Warrillow Limited. The previous buildings on the corner plot were used in a similar fashion with a great variety of trades being carried out. At the end of the 19th century the corner was home to the furniture showrooms of Mrs. Mary Complin. The Leicester-born entrepreneur had continued the business established by her husband William who hailed from Norfolk.
This view of Great Hampton Street looks back on the path you may have followed if you have used the notes above. The photographer is stood near the corner of Hockley Hill and Well Street. Note the police box outside the post office, an almost forgotten element of street furniture these days. Note here that the corner of Crowngate House was used as a branch of the Midland Bank. In 1940 the branch manager was B. L. Cooksey. The Midland Bank's stationery department was housed in another part of Crowngate House. This was at a time when a good chunk of the building was being utilised by Swallow Raincoats Ltd., a firm churning out raincoats for the black-and-white weather they had in those days! Other firms in the building during 1940 were Goodlass, Wall & Co. [paint manufacturers], and Bradley & Turton Ltd. [Hydraulic Press Manufacturers].
Looking along Great Hampton Street one can see the large corner building of Joseph Lucas which will be discussed below, as will the other large building on the right, the Great Hampton Works. For now however I will consider the opposite corner which is just out of sight. Below is a photograph of how the corner of Great Hampton Street and Vyse Street looked in the late 19th century.
This photograph provides an excellent glimpse of how the finer old properties of Great Hampton Street looked. In other examples of housing on the thoroughfare that we have looked at the properties had been converted into the offices of manufactories or become showrooms to the public. Here however the property has retained much of its grandeur and probably remained the family home of the factory manager. Note that the chimney stacks may be being repaired as there is some scaffolding erected. Although it would appear to front Great Hampton Street, this building was part of the Vyse Street premises of the silversmith Samuel Levi Ltd. The proprietor had moved out to leafier Edgbaston. His father Jacob, who also succeeded in Hockley, originated from Devon though Samuel was born in Sydney, Australia. The company manufactured a range of silver and electro-plated brushware, vases, candlesticks, cigarette cases, photo frames and a whole lot more.
The house was formerly the home of the German-born jeweller Israel Cohen and his wife Rachel. In the mid-19th century the house was occupied by Joseph Collins, a silver pen and pencil case manufacturer. Fast forward to the inter-war years and the corner plot had been redeveloped and was used as a branch of the Westminster Bank Limited. In this photograph the wall to the left bears a painted advertisement for John Glew and Co. Limited, a firm involved with the moving and storage of furniture. The business was started by former coal dealer John Glew and was continued by his son, named John Thomas. Following his marriage to Tamer Carroll in 1882, John Thomas Glew moved out to Union Lane in Solihull. The business was later taken over Thomas Grove but, following a financial scandal and collapse, was later operated by Newbury's Limited.
The fact that this row of town houses have survived is quite remarkable, especially given that most of the surrounding properties have been redeveloped at some point. We are now on the southern side of Great Hampton Street heading back towards the city centre. Although the row contains Nos.69-74 Great Hampton Street, it is 69 and 70 that are singled out by being Grade II-listed, possibly as a result of the pair being restored in 1995-6 for the Birmingham Conservation Trust by Frank Brophy Associates.
Nos.69 and 70 were amalgamated in the Victorian era - as can be seen here by the signboard on the frontage which shows the two properties were occupied by the wholesale jeweller William Edwin Proctor. No.72 was occupied by Gilbert & Co. manufacturing jewellers. The silversmith Harry Hayes traded from No.73, a property also used by the British Hardware Company. At the end of the row at No.74 there was the jeweller and silversmith James Fenton. It is this last property that has been altered the most and now features a castellated parapet. This row of properties is thought to date from around 1830.
Immediately following on Great Hampton Street is the former Great Hampton Works, a three-storey purpose-built Italian Gothic factory erected in 1882 to the designs of Yeoville Thomason, one of the most important of Birmingham architects. He was responsible for many of Birmingham's public buildings, including the Council House. At the time of this design, he was heavily involved with the Art Gallery and Gas Department extension to the Council House. It was perhaps his connection to the jewellery trade that influenced his decision to undertake this building - his grandfather Sir Edward Thomason having been a renowned silversmith manufacturer.
The building was commissioned by Green, Cadbury and Richards, a firm producing pearl, linen and ivory buttons in high volume. The company must have been delighted with their new premises for this is a lovely building, the aesthetic enhanced by the continuous arcading featuring ornate brick voussoirs and topped by a deep-bracketed cornice and parapet. Yeoville Thomason's work is not without criticism, particularly in the lack of originality. However, his commitment to Italianate design was such that Birmingham boasts a fine legacy of buildings reflecting the buoyancy of its late Victorian commercial growth.
Green, Cadbury and Richards was originally established by Edwin Green around 1858. Within three years he had entered into a partnership with Joel Cadbury, cousin of the famous chocolate maker. The company thrived and by the end of the 1860s was employing 500 people. Joel Cadbury had a number of business interests and was involved with many institutions in the Midlands. He was the chairman of the Birmingham Dairy Company, and foremost in the promotion of the Birmingham Coffee House Company. Serving on the Birmingham Board of Guardians, he became known for his philanthropic work and took an active part in the religious life of Birmingham. During the Edwardian period the linen button segment of the business was amalgamated with Buttons Ltd. Edward H. Green was chairman during the First World War when the company enjoyed record production levels through government contracts.
Next door to the Great Hampton Works is another Italian gothic three-storey building, though thought to date from a decade earlier. Featuring narrow iron-framed windows, the frontage is rather squeezed together, accentuated by the narrowness of the six bays. The two outer bays project slightly and are topped with diminutive gables. The ground floor has been spoiled by the insertion of a modern shop front. Either side are the original narrow entrances. This was the factory of John Stokes and Son, jewellers and silversmiths. John Stokes had earlier traded in Caroline Street where he employed 18 people in his workshops. The premises were later divided between two family businesses before being solely the manufactory of Stoke and Ireland. Theodore Schwarck was the managing director during the First World War when the whole family changed their name to Stokes.
The next corner is the junction with Hockley Street which most Brummies remember for the giant-sized Lucas Works. However, the corner site - as seen on this Victorian trade card - was once the site of the Crystal Lamp Works of James Hinks & Sons Ltd. This company has a fascinating history for it is another case of an entrepreneur who came to Birmingham to make his fortune. Born in Atherstone in 1816, James Hinks left home at the age of sixteen to make his way in the burgeoning industrial centre of Birmingham. It would be a few years before he devoted his life to the invention and perfection of table-lamps. After serving an apprenticeship as a wood-turner, he established a similar business with his brother before diversifying into japanning.
Hinks dissolved his partnership with his brother and acquired the old-established business of the late Thomas Halliday and forged a new career in die-sinking, stamping, piercing and also in the manufacture of cotton reels. As the pennies rolled in from his business he spent more and more time focusing on the subject that had grabbed his attention, a field of study that would become an obsession. Convinced by scientific forecasts that this was a key source of lighting for the future, he first looked into the principles of illumination and developing a knowledge of the chemical constituents of petroleum - a relatively new discovery. In his search for a commercial domestic application, he gained industrial intelligence by travelling to France, Switzerland and Italy. The results of his research were rewarded with the invention and introduction of the Patent Duplex Lamp in 1865. This proved to be an immediate success and his factory became one of the largest of its kind.
Having mastered the chemical blueprint, Hinks turned his attention to producing table-lamps of beauty, thus creating a market for luxury goods rather than simply the need for basic light. Taking inspiration from porcelain and china from Prussia, France, Saxony, and Bohemia, he conceived the idea that these manufactures might with great advantage be combined with lamp making. His Patent Duplex Lamps would subsequently become objects of beauty and a must-have for any table in the country. The Crystal Lamp Works would become known as the Duplex Lamp Works. A London warehouse and show rooms formed a palatial building on the Holborn Viaduct. This boosted the large export trade that the company enjoyed. Hinks even travelled to India for the sole purpose of learning its requirements. The company subsequently produced a Patent Punkah Lamp which was sold in vast quantities.
James Hinks was keenly involved with local sporting organisations, particularly in cricket, athletics and football. For many years he was the president of Aston Villa. In later years he established a kennel of greyhounds with great success. James Hinks lived to a ripe old age, dying in his 90th year at The Cedars, the family home at Calthorpe Road in Edgbaston. His son Joseph followed his father into the business. He served as Lord Mayor of Leamington in 1890-1 and 1892-3. The company was taken over by Falk, Stadelmann and Co. after the First World War.
The Duplex Lamp Works was demolished in the 1920s during the expansion of the Lucas operations in Birmingham. The company are perhaps more famous for their works in Great King Street but this factory was also a colossal operation with hundreds of employees. By all accounts, those who worked here enjoyed the camaraderie and social events that formed part of the annual calendar.
From humble origins, Joseph Lucas built one of the great empires of industry. It was his son's "King of the Road" cycle lamp that brought the fledgling company great success. Harry Lucas's lamp was first used on penny farthing bicycles in 1878. The "King of the Road" lamp was granted a patent shortly afterwards and, following the formation of Joseph Lucas and Son, the "King of the Road" Lion became the company's trademark in 1884. Enjoying considerable success in the early bicycle boom years, Joseph Lucas Ltd. capitalised on the birth and growth of the automotive industry.
Beer, or the lack of it, did for Joseph Lucas in the end. He was a devout teetotaller and contracted typhoid after drinking contaminated water in Naples whilst on a European holiday with his wife. He was succeeded by his son as Chairman and Managing Director. He administered the company's steady and continuous growth up to the outbreak of the First World War. He remained keenly interested in the manufacturing side of the business, and was in the habit of trying out for himself any new production, and he had to be personally satisfied regarding its suitability, not to mention its reliability, before he allowed it to be placed on the market. He died shortly before the outbreak of World War Two by which time he had steered the company into the production of a wide range of products, either through innovation or by buying out competitors such as Rotax [Motor Accessories Ltd.] and C. A. Vandervell & Co. Ltd.
In more recent times the former Lucas Works was converted into apartments, a boost in trade perhaps for the surviving pubs of Great Hampton Street. Further along the road is a collection of three old jewellery factories. If any of these former works stood in isolation the building would find favour with aesthetes. Collectively, they are a real visual treat and two of them afford a fine illustration of Arts and Crafts detailing deployed on factory elevations. All three of the former jewellery factories are of two storeys and basement and each have six bays. All three were designed by the aforementioned George Edward Pepper and date from the end of World War One.
The first factory, somewhat Baroque in style, and certainly more classical than the other two works, has sandstone dressings. Projecting end bays is a collective feature but in this building they, along with the entire frontage, are topped with a cornice and parapet containing swag-framed roundels. The impression however is rather diminished by the modern work behind.
This factory was designed for Adie Brothers Limited, an old-established firm that moved into these premises after completion. The son of the button maker William Adie, James Adie grew up on Islington Row. The family had moved to Bath Row by the early 1860s from where James Adie was working as a silversmith. By the end of the decade he was employing 10 men, 6 girls and 8 boys. The firm's growth can be measured by the fact he was employing 230 people in 1880. On his retirement, James Adie was succeeded by his sons Percy and Hubert.
Percy Adie and his wife Marion were aboard the RMS Empress of Ireland, the ocean liner that sank in the Saint Lawrence River on May 29th 1914. 1,012 people died following a collision with a Norwegian cargo ship. The couple, who were recorded as residents of The Homestead in Woodbourne Road, Edgbaston, were among the 465 survivors of the disaster.
In February 1939 when the company exhibited in the Jewellers' Hall at the British Industries Fair staged at Olympia, Queen Mary purchased a number of items from the firm's display stand. Hairbrushes and toilet sets in petit point, with mountings of antique designs in filigree metalwork, were being shown at the stand and Queen Mary was most interested to hear how they were made by Viennese craftsmen in Birmingham.
In 1950 the company produced what was claimed to be the 'world's most expensive tea and coffee service.' An armed guard had to be posted when it went on display in Birmingham. The service was fashioned in 18-carat gold and weighed 420 ounces. The cost to the purchaser was estimated to be at least 50,000 dollars. The service was intended for an exhibition tour of Canada and the United States to stimulate interest in Britain's finest plate. It was first exhibited, again under armed guard, at the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver. It was reported that everyone at Adie Brothers co-operated in turning out the service in 12 weeks, with many craftsmen volunteering to work extra hours.
Of the three factories, most people seem to favour the centre building which is faced in cream terracotta on a green plinth. It certainly is an agreeable example of Birmingham Arts and Crafts. It features vertical framed windows that have retained much of the original leaded detail. The building also boasts two canted oriel windows within the projecting bays above the entrances.
This would become the works of Arthur J. Pepper and Co., a firm that had earlier traded from No.54 Frederick Street. Born in Birmingham in 1865, Arthur Pepper joined his father's business from school. Josiah Pepper was managing director of Messrs. Pepper, Payton and Sons Ltd. Not all of Josiah's sons followed his path. For example, Frederick Pepper forged a successful career as an auctioneer and estate agent. When the West End Cinema was built on the site of Curzon Hall, Frederick Pepper was chairman of the directors. He was also concerned with the development of the Piccadilly Arcade in New Street. Arthur Pepper probably succeeded his father when he died in October 1907. A resident of Shirle Hill in Handsworth, Josiah Pepper was reported to be one of the best-known Freemasons in the Midlands.
Arthur J. Pepper's son, Second Lieutenant Chaytor Pepper, had quite an eventful time during the First World War. Born in Solihull, he was educated at the Bromsgrove School where he joined the Officer Training Corps. He continued in the Birmingham University Officer Training Corps at the beginning of the war and was subsequently gazetted to tie Worcestershire Regiment in January 1915. He served in Egypt, and was attached to the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and later to the Camel Corps. He subsequently transferred to the Royal Flying Corps, took his wings in December 1916, and went to the western front.
During a photographic reconnaissance mission over the Hindenburg Line, he was shot down on April 6th 1917. He was flying one of five aeroplanes shot down by German counterparts in an aerial exchange. Lieutenant Day, his observer, was shot almost immediately and Chaytor Pepper himself was wounded in his right arm. The controls of his aeroplane jammed and the engine was damaged by machine-gun fire. The plane went down behind enemy lines but Chaytor Pepper survived the crash. He was later interred at the infamous Holzminder Camp near Hanover where he was part of a mass tunnel escape in which 29 officers broke free, ten of whom made it back to England. Excavation of the tunnel took around eight months and the soil disposed of via ingenious methods now familiar through films of Second World War POW escapes. It was hoped that over up to 200 men would escape but one man got stuck and the rest had to shuffle out backwards. The camp commandant, Captain Niemeyer, subsequently meted out extremely harsh punishment, including imprisonment in underground darkened rooms.
Following the war, Chaytor Pepper joined the family business. He lived at Lichfield but was always closely associated with the Bromsgrove School, sponsoring academic prizes. He was a long-standing member of the Old Bromsgrovian Lodge and, as Chairman of the Society of the Friends of Bromsgrove School, he was instrumental in the renovation of the Old Chapel with plans for its conversion into a Sixth Form Library.
Formerly occupied by Hathaway and Muddiman Limited and Clayton-Wright and Company, the third building in this marvellous trio of industrial buildings shares some of the characteristics of its next door neighbour, though less fussy and possibly the better for it - function and beauty combined with red brick and stone dressings. The different sizes of segmental arches in the two main windows is a excellent feature.
Manufacturers of hand-made fine gem set jewellery, brooches, clips, bracelets and noted for their rings, the business was founded in 1924 by Henry Reuben Hathaway who formed a partnership with Edwin William Muddiman. Henry Hathaway came from a family of jewellers but his partner's route into business was a little more diverse. By all accounts they were fair to their employees and treated them to an annual dinner at The Woodman. Both men died in the 1970s but the business name continues and in the 21st century is based in Frederick Street.
So, after discussing the buildings erected after the First World War between Hockley Street and Hall Street, let's wind the clock back to this section of Great Hampton Street towards the end of the Victorian era. The first shop of the right is No.103 which, at the time, was run by the clothes dealer Miss Agnes Coyne. She later kept a boarding house in Mott Street. When this photograph was taken she had reoccupied the premises after it had been used for a short period as a greengrocer's outlet. That was run by Edwin Surtees Lugg, who had previously worked as a greengrocer's assistant to Sophia Goodger, proprietor of a similar business in Burton-on-Trent.
The business next door at No.104 had, according to the painted slogan, been established over a quarter-of-a-century. It was the shop of furniture broker Joseph Deakin who, although he may have been in this line of business for 25 years, had moved to these premises after occupying a property in Ladywood. At No.105 next door was the dining rooms of Mrs. Minnie Hilton. She was helped in this business by her parents Mary and Job, the latter did a little brewing at the rear of the premises.
The shop adjacent to the dining rooms was part of the printing business of Reuben Roe and Henry W. Jones who traded next to the long-established pianoforte dealership of Samuel Mole.
In this image, the photographer has moved slightly towards the town centre and captured more shops between Hockley Street and Hall Street. The original building line of the properties can be seen behind the shop fronts, many of which are simply timber extensions - some little more than a shed. On the right-hand side the retail shop features the slogan "have your boots properly repaired at March's." William Warden March was also a boot maker as well as repairer.
Next door at Nos.108-9 is the premises of the builder, carpenter and shopfitter Septimus Cherry who clearly instructed his signwriter to advertise that his business was established in 1860 and that he offered "alterations and repairs of every description." Born in the Northamptonshire village of Braunston in 1831, he had moved to Birmingham with his parents and was originally a gun maker when he lived in the family home on Heneage Street. He and his wife Ellen established themselves in Great Hampton Street during the 1870s.
The next properties along Great Hampton Street appear to be boarded-up, and for some period judging by the billboard advertisements plastered everywhere. Mitchell's and Butler's have an advertisement for their nourishing stouts. Other adverts are for the Manhattan Typewriter, Golden Butterfly Cigarettes, Windsor Relish, and trips to Blackpool.
And finally on this brief tour, a photograph showing the corner of Great Hampton Street and Hall Street. On the corner itself is the grocer's shop run by John William Matthews who, as can be seen by the signboards, was an agent for W. & A. Gilbey, the wine and spirits merchants. The grocer also has neat stacks of tins on display in the windows along with notices of special offers. The shopkeeper had been trading here for a good number of years. Next door was the receiving office for the London and North-Western Railway Company with a bureau for the Royal Liver Friendly Society.
The next shop was the retail outlet of Charles Henry Howlett, an artist who made a living as a picture dealer and frame maker. He shared the premises with Unique Photo Company. This photographic enterprise was owned by Louis Merci. The building with the glass conservatory formed part of the Beehive Stores run by Harriet Lawrence.
The corner of Great Hampton Street and Hall Street was redeveloped in the 20th century with a large office block for W. Canning & Co. Ltd., one of the oldest of the companies to trade on the thoroughfare. In the 21st century this building was home to the University of Law. The site had been used for the College of Law for some years before substantial modernisation of the building.
W. Canning & Co. Ltd. manufactured equipment for electroplating and polishing. Under the stewardship of Sir Ernest Canning the company developed considerable international repute. The business was originally based at No.1 Kenion Street and in the early 19th century was run by Edmund Gunn, a druggist, grocer and tea dealer. By 1833 he had opened a second shop at 65 Constitution Hill. In November 1837 William Canning, son of the farmer Samuel Canning, who I believe was an apprentice to the Gunn business, married Eliza Gunn. In a trade directory published two years later the concern is listed as Gunn and Canning. Lapworth-born William Canning seems to have taken over the business by 1841 and is listed as a chemist and druggist at No.1 Kenion Street. Only in later years did the spelling change to Kenyon Street.
This is how the corner site of Kenion Street and Great Hampton Street developed in the 19th century. In the following century the company would occupy the whole of the land between Hall Street and Kenion Street up to the railway lines. However, in the Victorian years the business grew at a steady and moderate rate. By the early 1860s William Canning had started working with oils. In May 1862 he went into partnership with John Francis Keates, a dispensing chemist from Uttoxeter. However, in 1869 this partnership was dissolved. Although accumulating some wealth, William and his wife Eliza did not move far from the business and took up residence at Rose Hill.
William and Eliza did not have children so by the time of his death in July 1896, the business had passed to a great nephew Thomas Canning. He would become the sole proprietor but in 1902 he went into partnership with his brother Ernest. In 1920 the business became a limited company with Ernest Canning as the chairman and managing director. The youngest of 10 children, he was born in the Warwickshire village of Binton in 1876 but moved to Birmingham at an early age. During his involvement with the firm, he guided it from a concern with 19 employees to a world-famous company employing more than 2,000 people. The company opened depots in Glasgow, Watford and Sheffield, and associated companies in New Zealand, South Africa and India.
Ernest Canning entered the world of politics at a relatively early age. He was for two decades on Birmingham City Council, and was Lord Mayor in 1937-8. He was appointed High Sheriff of Warwickshire in 1947-8 and was also a Deputy Lieutenant of the County. He was knighted in January 1939, in recognition of his political and public services. Sir Ernest Canning died on Christmas Day in 1966. The company he had built up throughout his lifetime was taken over by MacDermid Incorporated in 1998.
""A fire of rather serious nature broke out on Saturday morning, on the premises of Messrs. J. and S. Fawdry, corn dealers, Great Hampton
Street. The premises consist of a front retail shop and dwelling house. At the rear of these are two ranges of warehousing. The right-hand range is three stories
high. The ground floor is occupied with a bakehouse, stable, and piggeries, the two upper floors being stored with meal and corn. The left-hand range is two
stories high, the bottom being stocked with sacks of flour and corn and the upper story being divided into two compartments, of which one contained seeds, and the
other hay and corn. This range joined the dwelling house. Indeed a part of the bottom storey, under the seed warehouse, served a cooking kitchen. The premises at the
time contained a very heavy stock, being literally crammed. During the last week no less than five wagon loads of stock had been delivered and stored away. About a
quarter to four on the morning named, the policeman who was on duty on his beat perceived smoke issuing from the back of the premises. He gave alarm, and in
half-an-hour the various fire engines and brigades were on the spot. The fire had then gained considerable headway, the floor separating the second from the
upper story of the right-hand range of warehousing being in a blaze. The flames burst out of the windows, and were visible for a great distance. There was a
plentiful supply of water, and the firemen set to work in right good earnest. They several times almost extinguished the flames, when some super incumbent mass,
weighing several tons, would fall upon the fire from the upper story, and it being impossible then to get at it without removing the mass, it smouldered away. The
whole of the three stories in the right-hand range were gutted, and their contents destroyed. The fire caught the roof of the other range, and the flames scorched
a quantity of the hay in the upper storey, and destroyed some of the flour in the lower. More damage was done to the latter, however, by the water, which reduced the
flour to a paste. The seed warehouse, which perhaps was the most valuable and which contained an immense stock, was fortunately uninjured. There was a pony in the
stable, and it was with great difficulty that it was got out, the pigsties having to be broken down, and the animal's legs tied together, and in this manner to be
forcibly carried out. About eight o'clock the fire was so much reduced as to warrant the engines in leaving. Mr. Knight, of the Birmingham Office, in which the
premises and stock are insured, remaining with a hand pump. A body of men, belonging to the same office, were engaged the whole of Saturday and yesterday in removing
the stock to a malt house which Mr. Mousley of Great Hampton Street, very kindly placed at their disposal for the purpose. The fire continued smouldering and the pumps
had continually to be used until nearly eight o'clock last evening, when it was completely subdued and the men were able to leave. Fears were entertained by the
various superintendents at one time that the adjoining premises occupied by Messrs. Canning and Keates, manufacturing chemists, and which contained large and valuable
stock of drysalteries, oils, etc., would become ignited. Great attention was paid to them, however, and by the perseverance of the brigade the premises were saved.
Had the flames spread to them the consequences would have been alarming. The fire is thought to have originated from a casting furnace next door, belonging to a Mr.
Hildick. Over this furnace a joist of the floor of the Messrs. Fawdry's warehouse projected. The damage cannot at present be estimated. It is, however, very
considerable, and Messrs. Fawdry, as we have stated, are insured in the Birmingham Fire Office. The end of the warehouse abutted on the line of the Great Western
Railway, and at one time the wall fell, completely blocking up the metals. This was not observed at the time by the firemen. Fortunately no train passed, and some
officials of the railway perceiving it, the rubbish was removed. A chimney also fell, causing considerable damage."
"Fire in Great Hampton Street"
Birmingham Daily Post : October 30th 1865 Page 8
"A tottering old woman, dressed in workhouse clothing, was charged with being drunk and incapable in Great Hampton Street. In answer
to the Bench she said she and another old woman had a pint of beer. It was given to her. Inspector Hall: Yes, sir, she had a day's holiday, and some one
treated her. People often give this kind of people drink. She was discharged with a caution."
Birmingham Mail : November 19th 1884 Page 3