Working from home, which some of this blog is still about, can mean flexibility, and that flexibility can mean taking random best-friend-days off work – hooray! Last Monday, Emma, who I’ve known for over half my life, came up from London for the day. She’s been part of the Project 365 photography group I’m in this year, and has been busily photographing the Spitalfields Roundels for that, so suggested we had a go at the Jewellery Quarter Pavement Trails on our day together. I’d seen a few of these in the pavement and I’m always up for a slightly geeky challenge, so off we went.
In true British Days Out fashion, we did this in a light drizzle, clutching a damp leaflet! Hooray! Emma Volante took all the photos and agreed to me sharing them in this post. I was in charge of damp leaflet holding and peering at blurring print.
Having posted all the photos of the Findings Trail, I’m going to split this into two posts. Read about the Charm Bracelet Trail here.
What are the Jewellery Quarter Pavement Trails?
The Pavement Trails are two sets of artwork, set into the city streets; the Charm Bracelet ones are brick shaped (see above photo) and the Findings ones are metal in stone set in a square. They were commissioned by the City Council and various funds and organisations and give an insight into the history of the Jewellery Quarter, which is all about pen nibs and other steel stuff as well as jewellery, and has had some very interesting inhabitants. You can find more information and a link to the PDF listing them all here.
Note: we did the trails in a funny order: we started off doing half of the Findings Trail on Newhall Street and Graham Street, then went down and back up Newhall Hill and up Frederick Street (to do the Charm Bracelet Trail), then back down to Graham Street and down the other side of Graham Street and Newhall Street to finish the Findings Trail.
The Findings Trail – Newhall Street and Graham Street
The Findings Trail runs up Newhall Street (from further up than you think – you need to get across Great Charles Street Queensway before you start finding them. The first Heart and then A are on the right-hand side of the road as you walk towards the Jewellery Quarter and the trail runs up Newhall Street and along Graham Street, turns at the junction with Frederick Street/Newhall Hill and runs back down the other side of the road.
The plates are all designed by Laura Potter, a graduate of the School of Jewellery.
It all starts with a heart – you’ll see this one a few times …
A – the tunnel, refers to the network of tunnels to support the telecommunications network
Note that these are handily labelled with their letter, which is very helpful. B shows hallmarks for precious metal symbols:
We liked the beer bottle tops for C – this is to commemorate a pub where, apparently, Birmingham and Sheffield chose their respective hallmark signs:
D is the symbol for a church, and we dutifully popped down a side road and walked around St Paul’s Square.
We were a little confused by the slippery road sign on E which commemorates a roller coaster which used to be on the site (??)
Moving on, these empty paint tubes at F caused us a little consternation when we saw them from the side and below, but they were, in fact, empty paint tubes.
And then G got all odd, too, with some rubber teats to commemorate the fact that nannies walked their charges down Brook St to St Paul’s Square … (this one was squashed into a corner so a bit hard to see)
H is back to normality with an inkwell celebrating the steel pen nib making of the area:
And we learned about borax at I (it’s used as a base for soldering). Sorry about the cigarette butts in that pic, it was again in a corner and we weren’t going to go grubbing around cleaning it out!
J is a casting tree, which was used by jewellers when they were working on multiple objects at the same time. I think this might be the one we had to ask someone to move away from as they were (innocently) standing on it (at a bus stop). What we do for art / photography / weird projects, eh!
We liked the bricks on K, on the corner of Vittoria Street, where the School of Jewellery can be found, and took a photo of our feet for little reason (we both tend to stand pigeon-toed in photographs and we were conscious of getting our photo-of-the-day while doing this).
L commemorates Flag House, another pen nib factory:
M was a good one – the signature of Joseph Gillot, who owned the Victoria Works, one of the major steel pen nib factories.
This is the last one on the right-hand side of the road. We then encountered an X to mark the place where the two trails meet …
… and then crossed the road over to the left-hand pavement, turned round, and started off again with … another heart:
So, off we go again with … where were we? Ah yes, N – the running man, representing the errand boys who took things around the Quarter:
I loved the notes about O, as I hadn’t realised any of this. We knew there was a Sikh Gurdwara on Graham Street as it’s quite a noticeable landmark with its orange flags and square, blue building. I had wondered if it had had a previous use, and yes, apparently the building has previously been used by the Congregationalists, the Methodists and the Elim Tabernacle. Not quite as varied as the place on Brick Lane that has been a Chapel, Synagogue and Mosque, but reminiscent of it. The O design is the steel bangle sacred to the Sikh religion:
On down the road to P and we find farthings to commemorate the mint (there are also Farthing House and Sovereign House blocks of flats nearby!).
I like buses, so I liked Q, celebrating the fact that the West Midland Transport head office was once here:
R is a curb chain, commemorating the chain-making done in the area. We’re working our way down the hill of Newhall Street again now.
T is … yes. T. There is no S. THERE IS NO S. S is supposed to be a bar of Cadbury’s chocolate. The street was long and empty of too much street furniture. We looked under cars and behind bicycles. We avoided a somewhat inebriated gentleman SEVERAL TIMES as we marched up and down getting cross. There is no S. I even asked a Birmingham Guide and he thought it should be there … but it is not. Anyone with any info on this, please let me know. This upset us.
T, we found rather sadly, is some taps to mark it being near Severn Trent’s offices. Actually the taps were quite sweet and restored us a little.
U, and we’re getting close to a cuppa and a sit-down now (we did this section last) is a bench peg used by jewellers.
Electroplating was invented around here, and so V celebrates this with a plated sample which looks a bit like the new library building.
Celluloid was also invented in Birmingham (who knew?) and so here’s a film projector to celebrate that at W.
This is a great trail and very varied but I think the artist might have been casting around for inspiration here, because here’s the heart again, this time representing the network of canals, the heart of the city, I suppose, and used for transportation in and out of the area, at X:
Y is a stamped letter, because we’re on Newhall Street, the hub of telecommunications (the PO Tower has been decommissioned but I think the Peregrine Falcons still nest there).
and to carry on the theme, Z is an Actual Telephone!
Ah – we’re done, we sighed. Em put her camera away and I stowed the damp paper … but no, there’s one more, just past the telephone hub box.
This one thanks all the funders – a nice touch. So that’s the Findings Trail done … the Charm Bracelet one is shorter, but perhaps best left for another post.
Oh, we did get a cuppa and a sit down back at Grand Central …