Birmingham has long been known as ‘the city of 1,000 trades’.
The city grew to prominence as a centre of manufacturing and engineering in the 1700s and 1800s, leading the industrial revolution and was the home of many highly-skilled firms producing a huge range of products - with some firms from that time still in business today.
The Gun Quarter, for example, became the area of the city that was, for many years, a centre of the world’s gun-manufacturing industry. And many other manufacturers also based their operations in Birmingham with different companies and factories producing toys, watches, bicycles, guns, clothes, and later, motorcycles and cars.
Birmingham also became known for the Jewellery Quarter, which is home to more than 100 retailers, diamond dealers, and workshops. A huge 40% of the jewellery made in the UK is still produced by the 300 independent manufacturers of the city’s Jewellery Quarter, continuing a trade first recorded in Birmingham in 1308.
Numerous inventors also emerged during Birmingham’s past, and the city’s skilled workforce and infrastructure encouraged other inventors and businessmen from across the world to set up shop in the city.
So, we’ve taken a look at 13 Birmingham’s longest-running businesses - with the oldest dating back more than 350 years:
1. Firmin & Sons, Gun Quarter
Incredibly, Firm & Sons has been designing buttons and ceremonial accessories since 1655. It’s the oldest manufacturing company in the UK, and the company is even older than the Bank of England, and is still going strong in Birmingham today as a world leader in the design and manufacture of military uniform and headwear.
2. Westley Richards & Co, Gun Quarter
In business since 1812, Westley Richards are bespoke gun makers and leaders of a luxury safari and sporting lifestyle. In 2008, the company moved into a new purpose-built gun factory in its hometown of 200 years, Birmingham - its third factory in the city
3. Vaughtons, Jewellery Quarter
Vaughtons is the UK’s premier manufacturers of medals, civic regalia, and chains of office. The company was originally named ‘P. Vaughton’, working out of Little Hampton Street in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham. In 1897 the firm had been renamed to ‘Vaughton Brothers’ and had relocated to 135 Constitution Hill. Today, the company operates in Well Street
4. Acme whistles, Jewellery Quarter
Acme Whistles was established in 1870 in Brum by Joseph Hudson and his brother James Hudson. The company became a manufacturer of whistles and continues operating in the city today as Acme Whistles. Acme is the world’s largest and most famous producer of whistles.