November 13, 2005
After a pleasant lunch, we picked our way round more of the Jewellery Quarter. This historic centre is a mix of stylish Victorian and Edwardian properties, with modern shop fronts that unfortunately detract from the grandeur of the original buildings. It's evident that over the last few years major efforts have been made to "smarten up the area," but parts are still rundown and uninspiring. Perhaps the most significant building is the Chamberlain Clock, built in 1903 in honour of Joseph Chamberlain, a much-respected local member of Parliament. It’s an impressive piece of architecture that survived two world wars, but just before it was due to be restored to its former glory was hit by a speeding juggernaut! Now it stands in pride of place, fully operational, on a small traffic island on the junctions of Vyse Street, Warstone Lane, and Frederick Street. It heralds the start of the prestigious Jewellery Quarter, and its four clock faces are directed to the main point of the compass. Just opposite the clock is Warstone Cemetery Lodge, built in 1848. It's a listed building which competently compliments the clock and offers a protective front piece for the cemetery itself.
We saw the Birmingham mint, established in the late 1700s to provide copper coinage and the Birmingham Assay Company (responsible for hallmarking silver and gold over many generations). We noticed as we sauntered through the streets that at infrequent distances there were pavement plaques – they seemed somewhat cryptic in their messages, but we presumed that the local heritage centre would have some explanation of their purpose. We didn’t find a tourist centre to confirm that theory! Sad to say, many of the wall plaques (erected by the Jewellery Quarter as guides for tourists) no longer had the messages intact, mindless vandalism we suspected.
The streets were remarkably quiet considering this was a Monday in Birmingham, but I guess the jewellery quarter comes alive at the weekend when shoppers will be out in force seeking that elusive bargain. From our cursory glance I’m not sure that you’ll find bargains here, but if you want a nice bit of exclusive jewellery, I’m sure you’ll find a piece here.
From journal Planning for Kerela