Deakin & Francis - 15-17 Regent Place, Jewellery Quarter

By Freya Samuel

Images courtesy of: Deakin & Francis Ltd, The Library of Birmingham, Thinktank Birmingham and Pr. Carl Chinn.

For our new exhibition now on display at The Hive, i've been delving into our local history, and discovering the story of 15-17 Regent Place, just up the road from New Standard Works. From a famous resident, to housing the oldest family-run jewellers in the UK; read on to find out all about the history of one of the JQ’s most important buildings.

The earliest record of 15-17 Regent Place is from 1772, when it was known as Harper’s Hill House. We know that James Watt, best known for his influential inventions during the Industrial Revolution, moved in in 1777. In 1786 Deakin & Francis jewellers used a converted part of the building as their factory and offices. After a major renovation in 1905, the building remains much the same today.

                

The building reflects the Arts and Crafts movement in Birmingham. This can be seen in features such as the green arched windows on the first floor, and the modern focus on open-plan spaces and plenty of natural light. The building’s important history was recognised in 2004, and it was granted Grade II Listed status. The reconstruction and development of 15-17 Regent Place documents not only the building itself, but the industrial history of the Jewellery Quarter.

                

James Watt is one of the building’s most notable residents. He lived in Harper’s Hill House from 1777 – 1790.  only part of an original outbuilding remains inside the factory today. When it was built, the house was not completely surrounded by buzzing industrial life or buildings, like it is today. It stood on its own plot, with its entrance gate on James Street, and a sweeping drive up to the house. It was here, right in the heart of the Jewellery Quarter, that Watt designed many of his most significant inventions. 

      

Deakin & Francis Ltd is the oldest family-run jewellers in the UK, at 15-17 Regent Place. They specialise in crafting sterling silver, with products ranging from cufflinks and tie-pins, to signet rings, bangles, leather goods, and even decanters. Today the company is run by brothers Henry and James Deakin, the seventh generation of master jewellers. The factory is still a hive of industry with master craftspeople using traditional methods to create the jewellery completely by hand. Deakin & Francis Ltd also produce jewellery on behalf of well-known brands, such as Tiffany & Co. and Asprey. 

   

The company was founded over 233 years ago by Benjamin Woolfield in 1786. Throughout history, the company’s name changed as its owners changed. But the name wasn’t the only thing that changed at Deakin & Francis… come along to the exhibition at The Hive, New Standard Works, in the Jewellery Quarter to find out about the company’s complex history! 

    

       

Can’t wait to find out more? Come along to a free talk, ‘A History of Harper’s Hill: James Watt’s First Family Home in Birmingham’, at 1000 Trades in the Jewellery Quarter, 17th September 2019. Register for your free ticket here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/a-history-of-harpers-hill-james-watts-first-family-home-in-birmingham-tickets-65796048753