‘Nos 13-15 Fleet Street were designed in 1892 and the buildings were occupied by Newman Brothers in 1894. Newman Brothers made coffin furniture in solid brass, electro-brass, silver plate and nickel plate, and later from resins with oxy-silver, oxy-bronze and oxy-copper finishes.
The company also made shrouds. The works which was designed by a Birmingham architect, Roger Harley, originally comprised a three-storey front range, with three-storey workshop range attached right angles to the rear along the no: eastern side of the plot.
The workshop faced on to a sub-rectangular courtyard which was enclosed on its south-west side by a single-storey range containing casting shops, a blacking shop and In the centre of the courtyard lay a partly open-roofed structure, which contained a coke store, a dirt hole, a ‘dippy shed’, and a horse-manure hole. Only the front range and the three-storey workshop range to the rear survive.
The front range comprised warehousing, workshops, and offices. There is also a goods hoist, which may be a primary feature. The three-storey rear range retains a stamp shop containing its original fixtures and fittings, including a battery of four drop stamps and a single large drop stamp, together with the relative shafting. Evidence for line shafting that ran below the workbenches survives in first-floor workshops of the same range.
A mid-20th-century electroplating shop, which retains much of its original equipment, survives intact on the ground floor of this range, whilst a late19th century barrelling room in which items were polished, survives beneath a mid-to late 20th century range. The latter replaced the former casting shop. The barrelling shop retains several tumbling barrels and evidence of the line shafting that powered the barrels.
Although two of the original buildings have been demolished, and the existing building altered, Newman Brothers remains a very good example of a late 19th century purpose-built metal-working manufactory that was operated by a family firm for more than 100 years and produced highly specialised products.
In the 1950’s the company was exporting widely to such countries as West Africa. India, Ceylon, South Africa, West Indies, Canada, and Malta.
At the time of closure in 1999, Newman Brothers was one of only three remaining coffin furniture manufacturers in England’.
Source: Special Permission English Heritage – Birmingham City Archives