Get behind the scenes of the coffin industry at this museum that’s dedicated to the making of funeral furniture
Death comes to us all, but to some it comes more stylishly than others – as you’ll learn if you visit the former Newman Brothers Coffin Works in the Jewellery Quarter. Opened in Fleet Street in 1894, the Newman Brothers site operated for more than 100 years, producing coffin furniture for the funerals of Queen Victoria and Winston Churchill, as well as esteemed figures from the community. It closed in the late 1990s, and the Birmingham Conservation Trust spent 15 years working trying to reopen the site as a museum – now visitors can have a guided tour of the venue to experience one of the more unique parts of Birmingham’s industrial past.
From intricately designed crucifixes to frilly robes on display in the shroud room, the focus here isn’t on the macabre but rather the nuts and bolts of a thriving business, as visitors are shown the machinery and tools used to make top-of-the-range coffins. In keeping with the atmosphere, a traditional café is replaced by a tea lady, who brings her trolley around for any visitors thirsting for a brew. The Coffin Works also has an exhibition space and occasionally hosts ‘Death Cafés’, where people can gather to talk about death over cake, while the gift shop displays some appropriately shaped coffin handle confectionary.
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