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Report - John Mitchell Pen Works, Birmingham

Discussion in 'Industrial Sites' started by dweeb, Aug 8, 2010.

  1. dweeb

    dweeb Super Moderator
    Staff Member Moderator

    Oct 20, 2005
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    I have now explored all of the remaining derelict pen factories in Bham.





    The great Barndauer


    And I thought I would add a report from the final one for completness. Turk (remember him?) and I did this after a year or so of trying back in 2006. I had no idea back then what it was, it just looked good... a proper 'derelict factory'. As it happens it was John Mitchell's pen works. John and William Mitchell were two of the fathers of the pen trade. At some stage the two brothers fell out. John built this handsome factory at the turn of the century.

    There is a cruel irony as to the fate of the company. It is said that Esterbrook pens, an American pen maker poached some of John's skilled men to teach them the skill of pen making. I have heard this was not a wise move for the men, as one wrote back to the Bham mail telling others not to follow, as they were treated badly, and sent to Coventry by the other yank staff.
    Esterbrook went on to take over John Mitchell, with the skills that had come from their own factory.

    His brothers firm merged with Hinks Wells to form British Pens. They swallowed up many of the small old names in pen making, one of which was Joseph Gillott. There is another connection between the Mitchells and Gillott, he married their sistser!

    While I'm on the subject of Mr Gillott, I have picked up some interesting facts about him that I found amusing. Whereas I have found ledgers in Brandauer from the 50's written in Biro, Gillott would not even have a typewrighter in his works, saying "we make steel pens, we use steel pens". He was a keen horticulturalist, and one day attended a sale at a large garden. "How much is that tree"? he asked, pointing to a beautiful and rare tree. "Not for sale, we had an offer of £50 for it and refused". "Well, I am prepaired to offer £100 for the tree. With my other purchases today that brings a total of £300, and if I cant have the tree I shall have nothing"!! He got his tree and it still grows in his former residence.

    Whereas many of the pen firms died out with the introduction of biros and fountain pens, Esterbrook went on to develop felt tips and good quality fountain pens. Eventually after a merger the factory was closed and production moved. It was in a terrible state, but was thankfully saved and is now a hall of residence.

    Sorry about the photos, circa 2006 canon ixus!!


















    And in the same folder I found this! nice flashback!
    #1 dweeb, Aug 8, 2010
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2010

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