Report - - George W Hughes Pen-makers, Birmingham - February 2011 | Industrial Sites | 28DaysLater.co.uk

Report - George W Hughes Pen-makers, Birmingham - February 2011


living in a cold world
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Visited with Sammydoublewhammy.

In the 19th century, the expertise of local industrial workers made Birmingham one of the major pen-making centres in the world. George W Hughes founded his pen-making works in 1860 in St Paul's Square, moving to larger premises in Legge Lane in 1893. A highly skilled technician and businessman, he understood metallurgy and the complex process of heating metals, and thus produced very high quality nibs. Hughes opened offices in London in 1888. Although the firm eventually ceased production in 1960, the factory in Birmingham stands today.
It's only recently I've started to properly look into the Pen-making industry of Birmingham. Unsurprisingly other than a small museum the city has almost forgotten about the numerous companies that traded out of Birmingham over the last 150 or so years. And the few companies which are still trading stopped manufacturing nibs a long time ago.

The only pen works to come to my attention until recently had been Charles Brandauer, John Heath and John Mitchell's, but looking into it deeper it turns out I'd already been to an old pen-makers without realising. :banghead

Both Geo W. Hughes penmakers and Clark & Sewell silversmiths appear to have resided in this building over the years, with the original terracota frronted offices finding it's way into the possesion of Ashton & Moore metal finishers not long after Hughes stopped trading in the 1960's. It's not un-plausible for both Hughes pen-makers and C&S silversmiths to share the factory taking the Victorian "W" shape into consideration. However distinguishing between where each company was these days is near impossible.

The building is very much falling down on itself, although someone has been in there clearing as the first time I was in there (around 2 years ago) the ground floor workshops were full of needles and all sorts, but now empty.

Gone now unfortunately, but Virusman found these on one of his visits in 2008. Dweeb managed to find some back last year but I couldn't for the life of me, although there were a few rooms I didn't chance across the rotten floorboards for.

And 1880 advert for the St. Paul's works.


Hughes's knowledge of metallurgy enabled the company to produce pens of very high quality. The business, which was never incorporated, made all the pens marketed by Rudhall & Co of Jamaica Row. As well as making fountain pens they also appear to have made buttons at one time.


To see photos from inside the converted Ashton & Moore side of the factory, click here.


These photos are from inside the more dilapidated looking side of the factory.


Since the company disbanded the building has been split up into units, housing the illustrous Progressive Engineering that this building also gets named under, as well as small jewellery firms.











Please don't take the above history as gospel, it's information I found on several different websites and slotted it together where I could. If anyone reading this has more accurate history, or anything to add then please do so.​


Carl H

28DL Member
28DL Member
hi, I found your thread via google as I have been trying to look up anything on 20 Legge Lane. My story is that as work experience at college in 1987 I had to survey the works on the corner of Camden St/Legge Lane. I believe it is the old St Pauls Pen works which closed down in the early 60s. Opposite side of Legge Lane is the also empty works called something like Ashton Moores, a powdercoat finishing company.

Anyway, looking at these pics, they seem very familiar and look like the building I drew up, although the poster seems to indicate this is in fact the opposite buildings. I've looked on google maps but the plot has been mostly demolished now, leaving only a small area of frontage, I presume as part of a preservation order to retain at least something. I think the college of food where to develop it, but pulled out. Shame as the place had great character, I remember the typical victorian workshops extending backwards and courtyards to the rear. the whole place was a patchwork of dysfunctional charming buildings. It still had a roof in the late 80s.

If anyone can let me know more I'd like to either confirm this is the same building, or the one across the road. Cant find anything else on the net.


28DL Full Member
28DL Full Member
Hey there. Gone, but not forgotten I see lol!! I'm trying to get back into my old ways of urbex once again and started hitting up my old haunts. Good to see this place from inside again to be honest, I had something of a love affair with this place. Nice shots, I'll try and get some time to post some more of my own.......I'm finding myself drawn back to a lot of these old places again recently