Abandoned/Derelict Places

The Standard Works: Breathing new life into a forgotten building

There are many interesting buildings in the historical Jewellery Quarter and unfortunately many are in a bad state of disrepair…however for one building a new chapter is about to begin….

The Standard Works

Last weekend I went on a behind the scenes tour of the latest Birmingham Conservation Trust project; The Standard Works on Vittoria Street in the Jewellery Quarter. I have walked past this building and often wondered what lay behind the crumbling façade and on Saturday I got a chance to explore the building and learn all about the exciting new plans for the future.

The Standard Works is a large derelict Victorian factory which stands on the corner of Vittoria Street and Regent Place occupying no’s 41-49.  BCT will be working in collaboration with the Ruskin Mill Trust (Glasshouse College) to renovate the building into a specialist college building with community facilities and urban rooftop garden. Bryant Priest Newman Architects have been working on plans to transform this derelict factory and save it from further neglect and decay. The project promises to be an exciting new chapter for the building which was built in 1879 and has unfortunately been empty for almost 20 years!

Standard Works

It is an imposing building which stands out due to its crumbling white paintwork & bold purple window frames. It is grade II listed and was originally built to house 15 separate industrial units but over the years has been extensively modified and is now one large unit over 3 storeys. The building is constructed mainly of brick with wrought iron beams and posts to support the upper floors and basement.  This is an early example of the use of structural metalwork which grew in popularity as a construction method during the latter half of the industrial revolution which resulted in multi storey and open plan industrial buildings.

Standard Works Details

Over the years the building has been home to many different industries including jewellery makers, silversmiths, metalwork’s and for the manufacturer of car parts. A sign for ‘Joseph Smith & Sons (Birmingham) Limited’ who once occupied the building manufacturing jewellery remains on the frontage.

Many of the original internal features have been lost but the façade still looks distinctively Victorian featuring large sash windows, decorative stone dressings, and ornate pilasters, arched window heads and stepped profile cornices. There is also some nice rusticated stonework to the ground floor with a textured surface. A large arched doorway and rounded corner form a focal point on the intersection with Regent Place and mark the main entrance.

Standard Works Details

What struck me whilst walking around the Standard Works was just how big and spacious the internal spaces were with plenty of potential. BCT will be involved in the development stages of the project engaging with the local community to help shape the future plans and discuss the current proposals.


The new day college will provide learning facilities for young adults who have special educational needs and learning disabilities offering therapeutic education through a range of practical skill courses such as horticultural and jewellery making. There are plans for a continental bakery and public café which the students will help run and workshop space for art & crafts activities. One of the most exciting proposals is for a rooftop urban garden where the students can learn about horticultural and keep their own colony of bees to produce honey for sale in the café. The plans promise to transform this empty corner plot into a hive (excuse the pun) of activity bringing new business, life and activity to the area.

I’m really glad this building is going to be renovated and I look forward to seeing its transformation in the near future.

Standard Works Details


  • Location: No’s 41-49 Vittoria Street, Hockley
  • Year: Approx. 1879
  • Use: Industrial
  • Style: Victorian factory
  • Materials: Brick with stone detailing and structural wrought iron
  • Status: Grade II Listed

More details at:

Birmingham Conservation Trust Blog

Ruskin Mill Trust

British Listed Buildings

Full set of my photos of the tour showing the building in it’s current raw state available to view on Flickr.


5 replies »

  1. Nicely summarised, written and worded update on this perhaps forgotten building in our city, sounds an exciting project to keep an eye on its development and progress.
    Its good that there is a wide range of photos illustrating the space and potential this project has, particularly the future facilities which are planned, a very informative and interesting update.

    • Thanks for your comment. Yes the JQ has got lots of interesting buildings with plenty of character and history. I shall try chart the progress of this building as the renovation takes place & also share some research about it’s past use, so watch this space 🙂

  2. Hi, I know I’m late leaving a comment but I’ve only just seen your post. I worked in this building when it was Joseph Smith and Sons, in fact JS took over the building and spent many months working on it before they moved in (they were originally next door). The bosses paid their workers (me included) to do the work rather than be on ‘short time’ during a downturn. It was a fascinating few months. We found one office that hadn’t been opened since the war, and another that had been left untouched since the 50’s. To look in the drawers that were left since the day the last person left was awe inspiring. Sad to say, it all went in a skip !!! I remember on the desk in this office was a box or Ruskin pottery plaques, also skipped (I did pocket one though !). I believe the building was originally a hotel, and many of your photo’s bring back vivid memories, I sat behind one of those windows for ten years, and I painted many of those walls, and our Christmas parties were held in the long mustard coloured gallery !

    • Hello Shaun, thanks for your comment. Yes I believe the building has had many different uses over the years and it’s a shame to see that pretty much all of the original features inside are now lost. The outside needs some TLC but still retains plenty of it’s Victorian charm. Your story about the untouched offices frozen in time sounds fascinating- I bet it was great to have an explore!

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