Built in 1862 as a pen factory for Mr W E Wiley (link to buildings history page), the building is now owned by Midlands Industrial Association Ltd who took on the building in 1984 and developed it to provide managed workspace for a diverse number of businesses as part of their ongoing economic regeneration work. The building is also home to the Pen Museum which is dedicated to honouring and celebrating Birmingham’s 19th Century steel pen trade.
In 2020, a restoration scheme was undertaken, led by the owners and grant aided by the JQ Townscape Heritage programme, a National Lottery Heritage Fund scheme. Local firm Oliver Architecture and contractors Midland Conservation Ltd delivered a thorough renovation of this landmark building alongside other Midlands based conservation crafts people including Jewellery Quarter- based Nick Bayliss (Architectural Glass) Ltd who repaired the windows on the property.
Specialist conservation works included repairs of the stone and brick work. In addition to the restoration of the frontages on Frederick Street and Legge Lane, works were undertaken to ensure the building was made wind and watertight with comprehensive repairs carried out to the roof and extensive repointing.
This will help keep the building in a good condition for many more years. The most notable change is the reinstatement of two corner turrets, (link to blog post) based upon the original design for the building, with a new stainless-steel finial at the apex, based on an 1863 image of the building. The turrets will be lit at night which will further showcase the expert design and craftmanship that went into not only the original design and construction but also this recent restoration.
The architects and conservation builders will be discussing the restoration project during an upcoming talk ‘The Argent Centre Revealed’ on 17th February at 6pm. The event will be hosted online, and free tickets can be booked via the JQ Townscape Heritage website. (include link to event). The project has been captured throughout by Birmingham-based filmmakers Blue Monday who are producing a film, due to be released in the next few weeks. The film will include time-lapse footage which captures the construction of the corner turrets, and drone imagery taken at different stages of the project showing the building and surrounding area from a unique birds-eye view.
Midlands Industrial Association Ltd said “we’re committed to the conservation of our buildings and we believe this project to be a shining example of what can be achieved. MIA are delighted with this phase of our work to develop this iconic Jewellery Quarter building into a space that businesses can feel proud to operate from. This significant investment in the building will safeguard it for years to come.”
Luke Crane, Executive Director of the Jewellery Quarter Development Trust (JQDT) is excited to see the completion of the Jewellery Quarter Townscape Heritage’s first project. “The investment from the owners and the JQTH programme has had a significant impact on improving this key gateway building into the Jewellery Quarter’s Industrial Middle. The scheme not only benefits the businesses operating from the Argent Centre, but it also makes a significant improvement to the streetscape and preserves and enhances the quality of the Jewellery Quarter’s historic buildings, which are an intrinsic part of the area and help make it such an attractive place for businesses, residents, and visitors.
The JQ Townscape Heritage Project is a four-year programme funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The programme is supported by JQBID, with additional funding from Birmingham City Council, Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP and Historic England. It aims to regenerate an area within the Jewellery Quarter through the repair and restoration of the historic environment and to deliver a programme of engaging events and activities for all.
JQDT / JQBID visit W: www.ewelleryquarter.net
Pen Museum W: www.penmuseum.org.uk
Midlands Industrial Association Ltd W: www.mialtd.co.uk