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Report - John Mitchell Pen Works, Birmingham

dweeb

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
#1
I have now explored all of the remaining derelict pen factories in Bham.

Hughes

http://www.28dayslater.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=49606&highlight=pens

Heath

http://www.28dayslater.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=52724&highlight=pens

The great Barndauer

http://www.28dayslater.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=22941&highlight=brandauer


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!!


Penco60-11.jpg


Penco53-10.jpg


Penco51-9.jpg


Penco41-8.jpg


Penco39-7.jpg


Penco36-6.jpg


Penco30-5.jpg


Penco23-4.jpg


Penco20-3.jpg


Penco15-2.jpg


Penco13-16.jpg


Penco12-15.jpg


Penco10-14.jpg


Penco7-13.jpg


Penco5-12.jpg


Penco2-18.jpg


Penco-17.jpg


And in the same folder I found this! nice flashback!
Penco62-19.jpg
 
Last edited:

andreacampbell

28DL Member
28DL Member
#2
Hi, I was astounded to find these images. I recent took over managing this building and am stunned to find it was once in this condition. I would be really keen to get a copy of these photos if they are available as I am researching the history of the building. I would also love to know if there are any images taken from higher up Moland Street (closer to Aston Expressway) as I am also trying to find out what was on the land next to the Penworks. Particularly interesting to see the stairs as they are still the same! Andrea
 

dweeb

Super Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
#3
No I think that's all the images I have, it was the old days of tiny memory cards so one had to be prudent with the shots!

If you PM me your email I'll send you some higher res images.
 

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