Welcome to the Coffin Works’ Archive

The Coffin Works Archive brings together the diverse parts of the Newman Brothers’ Collection, which until now have remained unconnected. Although by no means comprehensive, this archive features a selection of the key objects in the collection and brings them together on one platform for the first time, to finally allow them to begin ‘communicating’ with each other. The archive is a work in progress and will continue to grow as more information is recorded and more objects are documented.

Welcome to the Coffin Works Archive

The Coffin Works Archive brings together the diverse parts of the Newman Brothers’ Collection, which until now have remained unconnected. Although by no means comprehensive, this archive features a selection of the key objects in the collection and brings them together on one platform for the first time, to finally allow them to begin ‘communicating’ with each other. The archive is a work in progress and will continue to grow as more information is recorded and more objects are documented.

Esmée Fairbairn

This project wouldn’t have been possible without the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund, run by the Museums Association. A grant of £56,700 was awarded in August 2015 and has allowed us to build this resource and ensure it continues to grow.

Museums Association

The Collections Fund, run by the Museums Association gives £1m per year to develop collections use and focuses on time-limited collections work outside the scope of an organisation’s core resources.

Birmingham Conservation Trust

BCT, which runs and owns The Coffin Works, is the city’s leading building preservation trust. The charity exists to preserve and enhance Birmingham’s architectural heritage and to promote an enjoyment and understanding of the city’s historic buildings.

Collection

Our current online collection is a great place to learn about Newman Brothers and the coffin furniture industry over the last 100 years.

Themes

Using our themes (links below) you can navigate your way through our collection with related objects and stories.

Learn more about our wonderful collection through our Themes…

Commerce

Discover who Newman Brothers sold to both nationally and internationally, along with the key historical figures associated with the company, and its top clients.

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Death

Learn how changing attitudes towards death and mourning had an impact on the coffin furniture fashions of the day.

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Industry & Manufacturing

Learn why Birmingham was at the heart of the coffin furniture trade, and how Newman Brothers embraced the highs and survived the lows of the industry.

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People

Learn about the roles at the factory and how the high Victorian child mortality rate played a key part in the social obsession with the funeral.

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The Victorians

Newman Brothers was a Victorian company with a reputation for quality, selling to the country’s most elite funeral furnishers, including the royal undertakers.

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Women

Find out about the key characters who made a difference, and discover how pay, pension rights, and tea breaks had an impact on the workforce.

Learn More

Gateway Objects | To get you started

Gateway Object Newman Brothers’ Ledger

Gateway Object Newman Brothers’ Ledger

Gateway Object – Product Boxes

Gateway Object – Product Boxes

Gateway Object – Die

Gateway Object – Die

Gateway Object – Victorian Breastplate

Gateway Object – Victorian Breastplate

Gateway Object – Teapot and Cups on Tray

Gateway Object – Teapot and Cups on Tray

Gateway Object – Travelling Salesman’s Bag

Gateway Object – Travelling Salesman’s Bag

Gateway Object – Embalming Fluid Bottle

Gateway Object – the ‘Royal Handle’

Gateway Object – the ‘Royal Handle’

By far the most comprehensive archive of objects and stories related to death and the funeral industry on the web!

Sarah Hayes, Collections Manager

It was really fun getting to know the team during the project. They were all helpful in answering my questions and made me feel completely at ease. The design ended up being twice as good as I could have ever envisioned! Don't wait any longer to call up the team, you're only hurting yourself by postponing!

Paul Tranter, Graphic Designer

It's been amazing to watch this archive grow, and we couldn't have done it without the hard work of Sarah Hayes, and the funding from Esmee Fairbarn

Simon Beatux, Birmingham Conservation Trust

Origins of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter

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The stage was set for the arrival of the coffin furniture trade in Birmingham as early as the first quarter of the eighteenth century, when the leather and textile trades...

Letters, Lies and Crossing the Picket Line

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1894 was a good time to enter the coffin-furniture trade, but what you won’t often hear is that it was a dangerous time. And not because of industrial accidents or...

From Coffins to Caskets: An American History

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What’s the difference between a coffin and a casket? It’s a question I’d never entertained before working at Newman Brothers Coffin Works, but that’s the question we pose to all our...