Our Mary Street project is coming along nicely so we thought we’d share an update and some photos of the scheme. On a very rainy Friday in April (suppose that’s why they call it April showers), we popped down to snap the progress so far.

The original historical details in this property are wonderful and showcase the colourful history of the building. Indeed, a core aspect of this project has been to retain the building’s historical character, while bringing it up to modern-day standards. From original windows and timber beams, to smaller intricate details such as hooks, this property is brimming with history, and at the heart of the project has been preserving those details.

Heritage projects do come with their own unique set of challenges, and one of the key challenges has been preserving as many of the original windows on the front elevation as viably possible. Preserving historic windows is important, not only because of the building’s listed status, but because they illustrate the craftsmanship and the architectural taste of the period from which they date, and are an integral feature of the design of older buildings. The windows form a key feature of this project, being the eyes of the building, both literally and figuratively.


Preserving the windows in this building is ever more important because of this building’s importance locally. Built c.1823, this is one of the few purpose-built houses with accompanying workshops left in the Jewellery Quarter. Surviving buildings of this type are now incredibly rare; practically they allowed small business owners or “the master and his family to occupy the house at the front of the site, removing the need to live a distance from work”. At this point in the Jewellery Quarter’s development, most people lived within walking distance of their place of work, and if you were a business owner, it was “easier to supervise the activities conducted there”.  27-32 Mary Street is the oldest-surviving purpose-built house and workshop that you’ll find in the Jewellery Quarter. There are some later examples dating from the 1820s and 1830s, with workshops built at the rear of properties, in Caroline Street, Kenyon Street, and Regent Place, but not at the side of properties, as Mary Street illustrates.

The map below dates from 1888 and clearly shows the workshops with the adjacent house, which would have been standing for around 70 years by this point. As the map illustrates, the Jewellery Quarter is considerably built up by 1888, and was experiencing massive industrial growth. Many of the other buildings on the map have long disappeared, but 27-32 Mary Street has survived, and we’re very glad about that. Mary Street has such a rich history – if only walls could talk!

© University of Birmingham

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Written by Anne-Marie Hayes