The Standard Works – 43-47 Vittoria Street and 9 Regent Place – History
by Marie/Mark Haddleton & Colin Giles
The Standard Works is situated on the corner of Vittoria Street and Regent Place, and was built in 1879-80 to the design of Thomas F. Williams, architect.
It is an important early example of a factory built for multiple occupancy and a precursor of flatted factory developments built after the second World War. It is said to have contained fifteen separate manufacturing units.
The Standard Works presents an imposing 3-storey curved frontage onto Vittoria Street, built principally of brick, the facade has a rusticated and vermiculated stone ground floor and stone dressings.
The main entrances are positioned at intervals along the facade. Originally the building had a series of three workshop ranges extending back at 90 degrees. These ranges were probably of three storeys and were separated by three open yards. These were reduced to a single storey in the mid-20th century and incoprorated into a large single-storey workshop.
The Standard Works is also significant in being one of the few buildings in the Jewellery Quarter to make use of fireproof construction, although its use is partial and concentrated to the works’ extensive basement. The selective use of this type of construction, primarily as a means of guarding against fire, but rather as a technique for achieving greater structural strength in specific areas of the building.
The fireproof construction is employed beneath the yards and main entrance and consists of rolled wrought-iron beams, cast-iron columns and inverted V-section cast-iron beams from which the brick jack-arches spring. The building was extended in 1886 by the construction of a four-storey addition to the west, fronting Regent Place.
This was designed by Harry Bloomer, architect, and was built using a style that provided a marked contrast to that of the original phase. Within a period of seven years of the original phase, the whole building, including the extension on Regent Place, was in use as seven separate manufactories, a situation that probably reflects the amalgamation of several of the original letting units.
Some of the Previous Occupants
Joseph Smith & Sons (Birmingham) Ltd. (Est. 1870).
This company moved into the Standard Works in 1950 and manufactured jewellery, not only for the home market but also the flourishing overseas markets, which included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South America and India.
The company was established by John, Thomas and Joseph Smith, trading as Smith Bros., then changed to Joseph Smith, Sons and Lilley. The Company was incorporated in 1905, with Mrs S J Smith, C P Smith and S P Smith as directors.
They were manufacturers of all descriptions of Jewellery, and foremost in style, originality of design and in quality. Their specialities consisted of 9c and 15c bracelets, brooches, pendants, links and studs, and beautiful onyx and amethyst jewellery.
They were the patentees of a double lock snap for bracelets which meant the safety chain was dispensed with because should the bracelet accidentally open it automatically caught on the second lock. (Patent 28621-12).
Boulton & Paul Ltd
Amongst the products of the world-famous company of Boulton & Paul who traded in Fire Buckets and sheds right up to Aircraft, they supplied 7,500 miles of wire netting to Australia which was used to control wild rabbits.
Although there appears to be no record of a problem with wild rabbits in the Jewellery Quarter, they were listed as supplying wire netting from the Standard Works in 1956.
This is probably why one section of the Standard Works was known as ‘Canada Works’.
- 1879 – Richard Eadie – Engine Turner & Engraver.
George Henry Norton – Jeweller.
- 1884 – Edward Thomas Smith & Co. Printers.
Henry & Wm. Haddleton – Jewellers.
Adie & Lovekin – Silversmiths.
- 1884 – (Canada Works) Levetus Brothers – Jewellers. ‘Milver’ & ‘Woitaz’.
- 1884/1932 – Lionel Spiers T/A D & L Spiers & Co. – Silversmith, Goldsmith & Jeweller. ‘Stanqual’.
- 1890 – Edward M Levetus – Electro-plate Manufacturer.
- 1909 – Swann & Adams – Brooch Tongues Manufacturers.
- 1941 – Hockley Auto Co. Ltd – Pressworkers.
- 1946 – W L Burton & Co.
- 1950 – H Myers & Sons – Printers.
Midland Masonic Depot.
Electric Furnace Co.Ltd – Furnace Manufacturers.
Electric Resistance Furnace Co.Ltd. – Furnace Manufacturers.
Electro – Chemical Eng. Co.Ltd – Plating Plant manufacturers.
Joseph Smith & Sons (Birmingham) Ltd. – Manufacturing Jewellers.
- 1956 – Boulton & Paul Ltd – Constructional Engrs/Wire Netting.
- 1963 – Practical Catering Systems Ltd. – Caterers.