Wandering around the Jewellery Quarter yesterday though, I remembered how beautiful some of the architecture that can be found in Britain's industrial cities is. I've always had a particular soft spot for Victorian Gothic: it's spires and turrets, carvings and decorative ceramics. They give little touches of beauty and extravagance in some of Britain's most run-down urban areas.
In it's heyday, Birmingham had 'quarters', areas where particular trades would congregate and customers would travel to them knowing that a good choice was available in a small area. Some other examples were the saddlery quarter and the gun makers quarter. Only one of these old quarters is left now: the jewellery quarter.
It has been a centre for jewellery making for over 250 years. The Birmingham Assay Office opened there in 1773, one of four in Britain (the others being London, Edinburgh and Sheffield). An assay office is where precious metals are tested for purity and then hallmarked to show their legitimacy - Birmingham's hallmark stamp is an anchor:
In 1890, the school of jewellery making opened in the quarter. It is still there and still a centre of training in the craft: