There are newspaper cuttings hanging on the wall of the ribbon making room in Toye, Kenning & Spencer‘s metal manufacturing factory in the Jewellery Quarter. They are of Gary Barlow, Kate Winslett and other famous people holding up their OBE and CBE awards with pride.  I wonder who will get the one I saw being made when I went for a ‘behind the scenes’ tour on Wednesday?

'laying in' enamel of CBE

Established in 1685 the Toyé family business  has been going for more than three centuries, through fifteen reigns and holds a Royal Warrant where they are suppliers of Gold and Silver laces, Insignia and Embroidery to Her Majesty The Queen.  They are also suppliers to the English FA for medals and trophies.  Find out more about the  history of this family business, which is one of the oldest family businesses in the world! From time to time you can arrange a group guided tour by appointment and leave a donation to their chosen charity. Highly recommended!

Mick Stamping

I admit I didn’t really know about Toye, Kenning & Spencer in the Jewellery Quarter until a couple of months ago; when John, one of their tool makers, came on a candle-lit tour of The Coffin Works. He introduced us to the lovely Christine who invited BCT’s Director Simon Buteux, myself and Paul from Birmingham Civic Society to have a tour of the factory. What an amazing morning we had meeting the craftsmen, seeing some of the same original machinery we have at The Coffin Works actually being used in modern production still today.

I think I finally understand the metal manufacturing processes that would have been used at Newman Brothers and the level of skill required to operate that machinery. Amongst other things I’ve learnt that you ’sink the dies’. ‘lay in’ enamel and that a Die Sinker’s friend is a wire brush!

Khush, an apprentice pressing IMG_2053 IMG_2069 IMG_2105

Christine has kindly agreed that we can do some filming there this year for our own interpretation of The Coffin Works. There is no doubt that understanding how things are made is easier when you can actually see them being made!

Their collection of dies is huge – over 250,000! There are  shelves and shelves and then another room of shelves and shelves of  dies for all different badges, medals, buttons, trophies.

They maintain the same cataloging system of record cards today that they always have. Here are a few pins that caught my eye…

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A huge thank you to Christine Cushing, Mick Puusta, Khush Sidhu and Jim Baker and the rest of the friendly, welcoming workforce for giving me another reason to say –I have a great job!

Written by Suzanne Carter and taken from The Birmingham Conservation.