2013 – present: At the Coffin Works

It took from July 2013 to September 2014 to transform the semi-derelict building into a visitor attraction and mixed use development.


Between July 2013 and September 2014, building contractors Fairhurst Ward Abbotts, along with architects Rodney Melville and Partners and the wider professional team contracted by Birmingham Conservation Trust, worked hard to transform Newman Brothers at the Coffin Works from a semi-derelict building into a visitor attraction and mixed-use development. This transformation has always kept the historical integrity of the building at the heart of the project, so that as many original features have been restored and retained as possible. There were some conservation challenges though.

The Conservation Story – Behind the Scenes

Over this period there was lots of activity going on behind the scenes; we were running tours, working in schools, putting together research groups, creating resources and interpretation, and preparing for opening!

During the last 15 months of the 15 year project the team had been working with some wonderful volunteers, freelancers, professionals and a great team of staff. This film, The Making of the Coffin Works, ties this all together. Paul Brook and Debbie Underhill followed us around during a 12 month period to capture our story and the huge team of people who have been involved. Enjoy!

Following the story

TNT News Team, Ladywood, have also followed our progress. Their enjoyable news reports take us from before building works began in 2013 right up to our launch day on 24 October 2014.

Here are the news reports in chronological order

A mixed use space

The three storeys of the front range of the building have been preserved, so that they retain its many original features, resembling the space it was prior to restoration. The remainder of the building has been converted into units and workspaces which were almost immediately fully let. 

Stepping back in time

Visitors explore this historic factory on our guided tours and self-guided entry, stepping back in time to experience how the company operated and what it looked like back in the 1960s.

This era was chosen as Newman Brothers never really updated their décor and furniture after this period, so that the building in 1998 outwardly resembled a company from the 1960s. We also know that this was the ‘heyday’ of the business, when it experienced a revival in both its product range and sales. The work of our research team has directly influenced the interpretation on site, specifically focussing on the 1960s’ archive, so that we have been able to create a visitor experience that will truly allow you to absorb the day-to-day atmosphere of the sights, sounds and smells of this historic company.

Conservation challenges

During the conservation works 2013-2014 we wanted to ensure that as much of the historic integrity of the building was retained as possible. This was easier to achieve in the ‘heritage areas’ which were to become the ‘time capsule’ museum. Less easy when you are bringing 119 year old industrial workshops up to modern office and safety standards.

Below some films from a hard hat tour of the Coffin Works during the conservation works. This was made by Paul Brook productions and Debbie from TipTop Photography who volunteered their time as professional film-makers and photographers to support our work.

Conservation challenge: Walls

Conservation challenge: Windows

Conservation challenge: Roof

Conservation challenge: Refurbishment