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.

Welcome to our 'Virtual Lounge' at The Hive where we bring to you alternative formats of the interpretation about our building's heritage.

Under each piece of written text or image you will find a film with the same words, this time with British Sign Language interpretation, captions and audio.

Made at New Standard Works

This sculpture reflects the amazing range of products made here since 1880.

The history of Standard Works reflects the wider story of change in the Jewellery Quarter. At first, Standard Works housed makers of wedding rings, brooch tongues, albert chains, scent bottles, cigarette cases and silverware. Every ‘toy and trinket’ you can imagine from the high end to highly affordable.

In the 1900’s, changing tastes in jewellery, and advancements in car manufacturing technology led to a switch of production in the building to car parts and pressing. The tradition of making continues in the building today, through the Argent College students based here.

Sculpture designed and made by Anwa Essien-Johnson.

History of the Standard Works


The Standard Works is a grade II listed building in the heart of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter. The changing structure of the building mirrors changes in trade, from its peak in jewellery manufacture at the end of the nineteenth and early twentieth century to later expansion into the production of car parts.

Built between 1878 and 1879 on the site of a former Georgian town house, the Standard Works and its adjoining property, No.9 Regent Place were originally part of the same block. Owned by George William Court, the building was a largely speculative venture, with only 50% occupancy at best, within the first two years.

The name ‘Standard Works’ was first used around 1884, and applied to just the southern half of the building. The northern half was named ‘Canada Works’ by the Levetus Brothers.

The last occupants Joseph Smith & Sons stopped trading in the early 1990’s. The building stood vacant until 2014 when it was bought by the Ruskin Mill Land Trust. Today the premises form the ‘New Standard Works’ from which Argent College, The Hive Café & Bakery and the Hive Heritage Hub now operate.

Migration and Creation

250 years ago, Birmingham was a small town. However, as trade guilds restricted newcomers from making a living in surrounding County towns, migrants flocked to the city where they were free to set up businesses.


The Jewellery Quarter became a melting pot of cultures and nationalities. Migration brought together the skills, spirit and international connections for businesses to flourish.


Silversmiths and jewellers from countries including Moldova, Germany and Poland set up businesses at Standard Works, often living as well as working close together in the Quarter.


Occupants at Standard Works often collaborated to draw on each other’s expertise and knowledge.  Silversmith Joel Blanckensee worked closely with the Levetus Brothers to use their ‘Canadian Gold’ electroplating techniques in order to produce both high end and cheaper jewellery.