The Hive JQ

The Hive is a community hub for Birmingham in an historic building, with an award-winning organic café and bakery, craft workshops, exhibitions and event spaces.

To start with some background; New Standard Works was built in 1880 speculatively as an early flatted factory for entrepreneurs and specialist jewellery-based trades. It is Grade II listed. Historic England have stated that the building is: “the largest and perhaps the most significant example of the purpose-built manufactories erected for multiple occupancy in the Jewellery Quarter during the 19th century”.

Ruskin Mill Land Trust has undertaken the refurbishment of New Standard Works, a four-storey Grade II listed former jewellery factory in Birmingham's Jewellery Quarter. When purchased in 2013, the building had been stripped bare, with only a few pieces of equipment surviving.

The re-purposed building now houses Argent College, a specialist education environment for young people aged 16-25 with learning and behavioural difficulties, and The Hive on the ground floor which comprises an organic café and bakery, a heritage lounge with exhibitions, a gallery and events space, a community craft studio and two makers units. The rooftop micro-farm provides an additional element and supplies produce to the café and college. All the above within a full and dramatic refurbishment of the street-facing elevations.

This video shows the transformation with pictures.



The building's conservation project has brought a range of community benefits to an industrial building for the first time in almost 3 decades. Alongside Argent College on the upper floors, The Hive offers an inclusive public skill-sharing and learning environment for a diverse range of people, employment and volunteering opportunities, social spaces which bring people together through culture, heritage, art and healthy food. Our beautifully conserved historic building is now helping to regenerate the wonderful legacy of British industry, craft and land skills and create a contemporary context within Birmingham’s historic Jewellery Quarter.

We have rescued a Grade II listed building and brought 2,000 sq.m. of historic floor space back into use, safeguarding the building’s heritage for the future.

The Conservation Project - the finer details

RMLT are inspired by the philosophies of John Ruskin, and the treatment of the building fabric is accordingly influenced by a simplicity of treatment: “The true colours of the architecture are the natural stone ones, and I would like to see them thrive as much as possible. This is the fair and true way to build”. (John Ruskin). At The Hive and in other parts of the building internal brickwork has been left on show, evidence of localised scars including historic fire damage has been revealed, and paint removed from external brickwork to reveal the ‘true colours’ and substance of the building.

The design process was very carefully considered to minimise alterations to the existing fabric, both for conservation benefits and to reduce environmental impact through unnecessary alterations. Extensive research was carried out on New Standard Works, including the production of an in-depth conservation statement, map progression, a comprehensive assessment of significance of all building fabric elements, a Level 2 photographic record of the building and a thorough examination of the social history relating to the development of the building. This was supported with a full condition survey of the internal spaces of the building and external walls and roofs.


The conservation and repair philosophy for the project emphasised the following key principles:


• reinforcing the continuity of the original purpose of the building: a diverse range of craft and making activities. E.g. former Jewellery making workshops with large windows are now student craft classrooms
• retention, and where possible, visible exposure of those parts of the historic fabric with the highest significance
• ensuring, wherever possible, that new interventions are reversible: for example, new stud partitions have been installed which are detailed to allow removal without damage to the building fabric of the original exterior masonry
• carrying out all re-pointing and stone repair with traditional NHL2 lime mortar
• allowing the diverse uses of the building during its history - with consequential alterations to the building - to be appropriately expressed, as opposed to aiming to return the building to a perfected original state. E.g. replacing Crittall windows which had been installed in the 1950s and were beyond repair on a like-for-like basis rather than attempt a return to a Victorian-style glazing arrangement.


The conservation of the building has encompassed a wide range of repairs including: brickwork and stonework cleaning and repair, masonry repointing, overhauling of all timber windows, including sash window repairs and replacement of failed Crittall windows at high level, removal of redundant modern partitions, renewal of all services installations, overhauling of cast-iron window sub-structural elements, structural pinning to address areas of building movement, roof and rainwater goods repairs, renewal of pavement patent glazing to basement spaces, opening up and repairs to historic internal masonry walls and steel structure, fire-protection works, renewal of floors, including refurbishment of existing previously concealed timber floors, and renewal of interior joinery.

The remodelling of the interior has prioritised inclusivity with all areas afforded step-free access, good wayfinding integrated, and simple circulation routes defined. No barriers to access to horizontal circulation exist at any floor level, with the level change between external pavement and café level addressed with a new platform lift. A well-designed passenger lift and a stairway provide vertical access between all floor levels.