My name is Surura and I am a volunteer at the Hive. As a volunteer I will be immersing myself in the fantastic project that is New Standard Works, through supporting craft workshops, hosting and inspiring visitors at the Hive, assisting with exhibitions and completing research, among other things. It is all very exciting!

As a History graduate and keen researcher, I have a personal affinity with heritage and a love for learning about and deciphering the history of buildings. Perhaps this is because, as physical places, buildings tend to bring history to life; history is no longer a distant idea but something that can be touched and experienced.

The New Standard Works Building (formerly known as The Standard Works), situated in Birmingham’s famous Jewellery Quarter where the Hive is based, has a long and diverse history, something which we at The Hive want to discover and share! This is where I come in.  In the interest of helping to bring history to life and making it accessible, researching the History of the New Standard Works building and businesses based in the Jewellery Quarter is exactly what I have been doing over the past few months.

During its time in trade between 1879 and the mid 1980’s The Standard Works building played host to many different companies. It was originally built as 15 separate industrial units and is considered to be one of the best examples of a 19th Century factory building within the area. It is now a Grade II listed building. 

I started off my research journey in the 20th century, focusing on ‘Hockley Auto Co’ (1940-1970’s), And went on to research ‘Thomas Fattorini Ltd’ (1827-Present). My research on Hockley Auto Co began in the archives of Birmingham Central Library, but was very short lived, as it was almost impossible to pinpoint and explore. Aside from the time span the company had at the Standard Works building, I could not find any solid information on the company at all. The only way of knowing that it even existed is its clear presence in several old trade directories that are housed in the archives. It has been extremely frustrating as, the less I find, the more I want to know! So, I apprehensively put that piece to the side whilst I focused on Fattorini.

As an old family business established in 1827 which has grown and become extremely successful (even counting British royalty amongst its clientele) across the UK and still trading today, Fattorini has proved to be much easier to explore than Hockley Auto Co. The company was originally housed in the Jewellery Quarter from 1927 and remains there to the present day. It was the brainchild of Italian speaking immigrant Antoni Fattorini, who opened a merchandising business, specialising in jewellery, watches and fancy goods such as barometers. Having gone from strength to strength, Her Majesty the Queen awarded the company a Royal Warrant as a manufacturer of insignia, Honours and Awards, on 1st January 2008. This was followed by a personal visit by the Prince of Wales in 2014.

Needless to say, the company is an astounding example of Birmingham’s industrial history and continuing success, with many businesses still flourishing in the area. This is something I hope to continue exploring and discovering!