The Pen Museum - A Birmingham Gem!

The Pen Museum is in the Argent Centre on Frederick Street in the Jewellery Quarter. The museum opened in 2001.


The Pen Museum is located in the former Albert Works, a pen factory built in 1863 that is now Grade II* listed. At one time, recycled steam from the engines that drove the factory machinery went to a Turkish baths in the northern end of the building.

It is the only museum in the UK devoted to the history of the pen making industry and documents Birmingham's role at the centre of the world's pen trade. At its height pen manufacturing in the city employed an estimated 8,000 workers, of which 70% were women. The mass production of affordable pens helped improve literacy worldwide and it has been estimated that the city produced three quarters of the world's pens in the mid to late 19th century. Joseph Gillott's Victoria Works on the opposite side of Frederick Street manufactured 90% of the pens used by American school children in the same period.

By the end of the 19th century the number of manufacturers had declined from 100 to just 12 as the development of the ballpoint pen created reduced demand for traditional pen nibs. The city is still home to a number of high quality pen manufacturers included Yard-O-Led and Jack Row.

You can visit the museum at 60 Frederick St, Birmingham, B1 3HS @thepenmuseum

 

 

 

 

 

The Pen Museum is located in what is now called the Argent Centre on Frederick Street in the Jewellery Quarter (Hockley), Birmingham.

The Pen Museum

The Pen Museum aka The Pen Room on Frederick Street, Jewellery Quarter (December 2012). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

At Unit 3, The Argent Centre, 60 Frederick Street, Birmingham, B1 3HS. They opened in 2001. Also called The Pen Room.

The Pen Museum

The Pen Museum during Birmingham Heritage Week (September 2016). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

History of the Pen Museum

It is all about the history of the 19th Century Pen Trade. From feather quills, reeds and steel nib pens. Located in a former pen factory built in 1863.

Pen Museum

Victoria Works exhibit at the Pen Museum (September 2016). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

The Argent Works

This building was built from 1862 to 1863 as a pen factory. The architect was J G Pollard. Was built as a pen manufactory for Q E Wiley. Now a Grade II* listed building.

The Argent Centre

The Argent Centre on Frederick Street, Jewellery Quarter (December 2012). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Restoration work to the building took place in 2020, and it should be completed during 2021, including two corner turrets.

Argent Works Frederick Street

Restoration of the Argent Centre on Frederick Street. Seen from Newhall Hill, Jewellery Quarter (October 2020). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Rip Van Winkle

The American essayist and novelist  Washington Irving wrote his book Rip Van Winkle, while staying in the Jewellery Quarter area in 1818, on the corner of Legge Lane and Frederick Street. This was the same site where the later Argent Works was built between 1862 and 1863. He lived at a house on Calthorpe Road in Edgbaston (near Five Ways) from 1818 to 1859. There is a Birmingham Civic Society blue plaque at the former HSBC building at 12 Calthorpe Road, built in 1961 to 1962, by John Madin.

Rip Van Winkle

Rip Van Winkle on the Charm Bracelet Trail, Frederick Street, Jewellery Quarter (December 2012). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

Displays at the Pen Museum

Presses that was used to make pen nibs.

Pen Museum

Presses at the Pen Museum (September 2016). Photography by Elliott Brown

 

George W. Hughes Steel Pens exhibit with pen nibs.

Pen Museum

George W Hughes exhibit at the Pen Museum (September 2016). Photography by Elliott Brown

Project dates

18 Feb 2021 - On-going

Passions

History & heritage, Art; Culture & creativity, Travel & tourism
People & community, Classic Architecture

Contact

(for further information)

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