The Original Birmingham Assay Office - A Birmingham Gem!

The original Birmingham Assay Office is on Newhall Street, on the corner with Charlotte Street in the Jewellery Quarter. It was built in 1878, and designed by Andrew Phipson. Moved out 2015.


The original Birmingham Assay Office was built at the corner of Newhall Street and Charlotte Street in the Jewellery Quarter. The building was designed by Andrew Phipson and first opened in 1878. They remained there until 2015, when they moved to new premises on Icknield Street. Assay Studios now occupies the building.

The original Birmingham Assay Office on Newhall Street (October 2014). Photography by Daniel Sturley

 

History of the Birmingham Assay Office

The Birmingham Assay Office was established in 1773, following the promotion of a Parliamentary Bill by Matthew Boulton, supported by Lord Dartmouth, and others of the local nobility and gentry, as well as fellow industrialists in Sheffield engaged in the manufacture of silver and plated wares. The first Assay Office was established in rented premises at the Kings Head, New Street, before the purchase of offices in Little Cannon Street, where the Assay Office remained until the opening of the Newhall Street site in 1878. These premises contained meeting and waiting rooms, offices, workshops and a refinery, and was later extended to provide an enlarged weighing room and additional facilities for scraping and marking. It was the most heavily-used assay office in Britain, handling over 12 million items of gold and silver annually.

The Assay OfficeBirmingham Assay Office (November 2009). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

The Birmingham Assay Office, developed on this site from 1878 and designed by Andrew Phipson, is an example of a specialist historic building type, found in very few locations within England, which continued to fulfil its original function (until they moved in 2015 to larger premises), that of validating and certifying the quality of jewellery and precious metal products made in Birmingham's specialist manufacturing district, The Jewellery Quarter, now recognised as being of international significance.

Birmingham Assay OfficeBirmingham Assay Office (November 2009). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Alterations to the building took place in 1885, 1890, 1899, 1907, 1914, the mid 20th century and 1974. Built of red brick, with ashlar gritstone and polished granite dressings and detailing. Restrained Italianate style. It has polished granite Corinthian columns, and it has Royal Coat of arms on the top of the building.

Birmingham Assay OfficeRoyal Coat of Arms at the Birmingham Assay Office (November 2009). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Assay Studios

The Assay Office remained here until they moved out to new premises on Icknield Street in 2015. This site is now occupied by Assay Studios, since November 2016. Now a Grade II listed building.

Assay StudiosAssay Studios (January 2018). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Assay hallmarks

All metals that pass through the Assay Offices of the UK get stamped. If they are stamped in London, they get the lion. In Birmingham, it's the anchor. Sheffield has the Tudor Rose, and Edinburgh has the castle.

More information here: Anatomy of a Hallmark.

Assay hallmarksAssay hallmarks in Winchester (June 2013). Photography by Elliott Brown

Project dates

02 Mar 2021 - On-going

Passions

History & heritage, Art; Culture & creativity, Classic Architecture

Contact

(for further information)

Jonathan Bostock

0121 410 5520
jonathan.bostock@ freetimepays.com