If the historic hotchpotch of listed buildings, boutiques, bars, restaurants, galleries and museums that is the Jewellery Quarter was in most other cities, they’d never stop polishing one off about it. According to English Heritage, Europe’s largest cluster of jewellery businesses is a ‘national treasure’. But to Brummies – those shoulder-shrugging masters of the colossal understatement, bestowed with oodles of knockout Birmingham pubs and high-class restaurants – it’s just ‘alright’.
Locals take it in their stride that people have been making shiny things here for more than 500 years, or that it was once the centre of a global pen nib trade that brought literacy, academia and schoolkid subversion to the world.
It’s the home of ACME whistles, which you’ll know the sound of if you’ve ever been to a football match or been chased by a Victorian policeman. And according to legend, it was from the Jewellery Quarter that the Kray twins were given their marching orders out of Brum, although probably not before they’d been sold a sovereign ring or four.
Cut off from the city centre, Berlin-wall style, by the ring road, the JQ has an urban village atmosphere. From the serenity of St Paul’s Church, in the city’s last remaining Georgian square, to the bustle of Constitution Hill, it’s a place to work, play, linger and explore. In short, it’s pure gold.
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