A “Virtual” Tour of The Back to Backs – part 18



A Virtual Tour of the Back to Backs – part 18

Clerkenwell, where the Levy family had moved from to come to Birmingham was at the time the centre of the capital’s clock making industry. Lawrence Levy had learnt how to make small metal items – this ideally suited him to Birmingham’s growing metalworking trades. His particular skill was making hands for clocks and as the general affluence of folk in the towns and cities in Victoria’s Britain grew so did the demand for clocks. These became more elaborate and Birmingham was well suited to meeting the burgeoning trade.

It was becoming typical of manufacturing industries for individuals to specialise in making particular components and this is still much the case today.

The land in Hockley, to the north of the town centre belonged, in the main, to the Colmore family and as with other nearby landowners they started to parcel up their land and lease it out to speculators. They attracted the attention of those making fine jewellery and other metalworks.

Mathew Boulton had in the 1780s built his “Manufactory” in nearby Soho, north of Hockley where he produced a vast range of small, intricate metal goods called “Toys” and the men who had learnt their metalworking skills there may well go on to work on their own account in what we now know as “The Jewellery Quarter”. Amongst them were clock makers.

So, by the 1840s Lawrence had a ready market for his elaborate hand-made clock hands.

The Levys were not in Court 15 for long. They were here for the 1851 census, they were then to be found in Coleshill Street to the east of the town. Finally, they set down their roots in Vyse Street in The Jewellery Quarter. Lawrence’s plan had worked. Joseph and Morris had, it seemed, become apprenticed to their father and followed him into the trade.

Before leaving their home, let’s find out a little about what we can find on Lawrence’s work bench.

Matthew Boulton’s Soho Manufactory c1800
Lawrence Levy’s jeweller’s work bench in front of the window to catch the best of the daylight
Clock hands on Lawrence Levy’s workbench
Clock Hands