The Jewellery Quarter as the centre of Britain’s coffin furniture trade
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 which had dominated Birmingham’s early industrial history gave way to the metalworking industry. The rapid growth of coal mining and iron manufacturing in South Staffordshire in the period meant that raw materials were readily available to enterprising craftsmen searching for new industries.
The low raw material transport costs, combined with the growing skill of local craftsmen, allowed for big profit margins and led to the rapid expansion of Birmingham’s metalworking trade in the late eighteenth century. A prosperous industrial environment emerged, in which skilled workers were able to leave their masters and set up their own businesses. The city emerged as a hub for skilled craftsmen and small, specialised factories.