The award-winning Coffin Works Museum opened in 2014 and preserves the historic fabric of the Newman Brothers’ coffin fittings manufactory. The Victorian manufactory supplied the royal undertakers for most of the 20th century, with Newman Brothers’ fittings adorning the coffins of kings, queens and prime ministers alike. But by 1998, this once thriving business closed its doors and finally ceased trading, leaving absolutely everything behind, even a pot of tea on the stove. The building and contents now form the basis of the time-capsule Coffin Works Museum.
As soon as the museum opened, visitors repeatedly requested a guidebook, but it’s taken just over four years of research, delving through the museum archives to produce a book worthy of telling the history of this historic company. But now the wait is over!
Over the last two years we have received many generous donations towards the design and production of the ‘History of Newman Brothers’ book, and that work could not have been achieved without the many contributions from staff, volunteers and friends. But the printing of the guidebook would not have been a reality this year without the very generous donation from No 5 Chambers, our principal sponsors. It is without a doubt thanks to them that we are in a position to start selling our guidebook from 3rd May this year, and we will mark the occasion with a launch on the 2nd May for those people who have supported our journey over the last 4 years.
Sarah Hayes, Coffin Works’ Museum Manager and joint author of the book said:
“This book brings together untold stories and primary research to fill a gap in the social history of the coffin furniture and undertaking trade,s as well as telling Newman Brothers’ very own story. I’m pleased that we took our time writing it because we’ve discovered so much since we opened in 2014 that wouldn’t have featured in the book! It truly is a milestone in the museum’s journey and we know it has been eagerly awaited by visitors and volunteers.
It is also a beautiful publication and we cannot wait to share it!
A huge thanks must go to all the people who contributed to its production, including our principal sponsors, No 5 Chambers and Owen Edmunds. A special thanks also to the JQBid and PMP Consultants, who have generously contributed to sponsor our catering on the launch night. This means we can keep people well fed and watered, an essential for any celebration”.
Tony McDaid, Chief Executive and Director of Clerking for NO.5 said:
“We are delighted to be associated with the launch of the book and the museum generally which I must confess I was until recently unaware of. It is our intention to promote and support the museum in any way we can going forward as its place in history both locally and nationally is undeniable and fascinating. For those of us who work and live in the City it is something we should all be very proud of”.
Funerary historian and expert, Dr Julian Litten has contributed significantly to research into the book said”
“Thanks to the vision of the company’s last owner, the decision was taken to preserve Newman Brothers premises exactly as it was on the day of its closure, thus enabling the public to see at first-hand the factory from which came the fixtures and fittings used on the coffins of England’s Kings, Queens, nobility and gentry throughout the twentieth century. ‘The History of Newman Brothers’ is an important publication for visitors and academics alike, and is vital contribution to the historic record”
The book was written by Simon Buteux, former director of Birmingham Conservation Trust, and Sarah Hayes, Museum Manager at the Coffin Works.
The Coffin Works is run and owned by Birmingham Conservation Trust.
Links to videos produced by the Coffin Works are provided below: