Ivanhoe Ashby de la Zouch U3A U3A Group Logo

The Industrial Heritage Group

Leader:  Mike Stow - indhist@ashbyu3a.co.uk - phone 01530 469152

The Industrial Heritage Group is for members who have an interest in our industrial heritage of trains, cars, planes, bikes, early manufacturing etc. to visit museums, railways, factories and other places related to our industrial past. We occasionally take a quite broad view of what constitutes "Industrial Heritage" if it is of interest to us!

Travel arrangements vary depending on how far we have to travel, but generally we meet in Ashby to car-share.

Our trips are normally on Wednesdays unless otherwise stated

Future programme

Wed 11th Dec11amMeet at The Bluebell Inn, Smisby Rd for our annual planning meeting to decide the programme for next year. All are welcome. Any ideas as to where we might go will be very welcome. Lunch will be available afterwards,

Wednesday 27th November. Coffin Works & Pen Museum, Birmingham

20 members ventured into Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter by car, train, tram and finally by Shanks's pony on a cold damp day to arrive eventually at the Coffin Works museum.

Built in 1894 by the brass-founders Alfred and Edwin Newman as a factory to make coffin furniture ie the handles and other fittings on coffins which were stamped from brass and later aluminium. They soon realized that the way to make money was to cater to the rich who tended to leave their coffins on display in a mausoleum and therefore spent a lot more on bling than when the coffins were buried. This proved to be a successful move and the business flourished, eventually expanding to be a one-stop shop for undertakers as Newman Brothers now made shrouds and coffins and sold embalming fluid and all the other paraphernalia required. Our two guides showed us around the various parts of the works and told us the stories not just of the factory but also of the many individuals who worked there, often having careers of many decades. The business eventually came into the hands of a very shrewd woman, Joyce Green, who started as office secretary and at some point acquired shares in the company. When the last of the family died she became sole owner for the last ten years. When the business closed in 1998 she saved the building and all its contents to open it as a museum and after many financial troubles it opened to visitors in 2014.

After lunch at the nearby historic Shakespeare Inn we walked up the road to the Pen Museum where again we were split into groups to be shown around the various sections of the ex-pen factory. We soon discovered that a pen is/was what we would call the pen nib i.e. the steel tip. Birmingham was the centre of the pen trade and at one time 75% of all the world's pens were made in Birmingham. It was said that one person (usually women) could produce 18,000 pens a day, hand-stamping each one from a steel blank. 700 people worked in one factory of the many in the area. The manufacturing processes and the conditions that people worked in made for a fascinating story. Also interesting was how mass-production brought the price of a pen down such that a gross could be brought for the price of 1 hand-made pen so that schools could afford to teach pupils to write, vastly expanding literacy and hence further education to the masses.

Two very different factories but both from the late 1800's give a great insight into that era.

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