The Birmingham Pen Trade Heritage Association

                 Brian Jones: The tribute to the Pen Museum’s Founder and the launch of his book

The Pen Museum of Birmingham has been paid tributes to the founder Brian Jones after his sudden death. On Friday, 31 of January, Mr. Jones had been interviewed for TV show ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ about his book called ‘People, Pens & Production’ shortly before he collapsed.

During the filming he hadn’t shown any sign of illness but on his way home the Birmingham’s founder collapsed in the street. Mr. Jones had a history of heart problems and underwent bypass operation years ago but the cause of his death is not yet known.

His fellow founders and colleagues are still in shock; Larry Hanks, the chairman said “We were really close and I cannot believe that he was gone. I will always remember him.” He also said “Brian was so happy that he had finished his book and couldn’t wait for its release.”

Linda Winnett of Birmingham Calligraphy Society at the Pen Room Museum said characteristically ‘People, Pens & Production book was Brian’s baby.” She also added “Brian had a tremendous appetite of life. He was full of energy and a lovely man.’

Brian Jones had contributed effectively in the pen museum; he gave talks to groups, taught calligraphy and chatting to public. Although, the Pen museum had organized a book launch event as a tribute for Brian’s latest book ‘People, Pens & Production.’

Brian Jones 2


The idea of Pen Museum, the set up  and the realization of it 

 In 1996, Brian Jones was interviewed on BBC Radio WM’s The Carl Chinn Show but he had no idea as to what this ‘meeting’ would eventually lead; Brian was promoting a book about Josiah Mason, the great Birmingham philanthropist and industrialist.

  As it happened, Mason made his millions from the manufacture of steel pens; and the mention of this fact, above all else, was the spark which ignited the interest of a certain listener.  

However, Colin Giles was taking note of all these and soon he contacted Brian as did Larry Hanks and Ray Handley. They soon began to meet regularly at Brian’s house, and before long, had accumulated a sizable collection of pens and writing equipment, of which some had been obtained from Philip Poole of London, whose collection Brian had earlier catalogued. 

 Nevertheless, in 1997, they registered as a charity, choosing for ourselves the title of The Birmingham Pen Trade Heritage Association. They took it upon themselves to educate and inform the public of Birmingham’s glorious history as the epicenter of the world pen trade but this fact about the pen trade was not known to the public. Therefore, Jones, Giles, Hanks and Handley made sure to aware the public by doing several things such as exhibitions, displays, talks, and something of a struggle to persuade the City Council to provide affordable museum space for them. This effort proved fruitless. However, following a chance meeting with David Prince, their fortunes began to change. David was and still is, landlord of the Jewellery Quarter’s ‘Argent Centre’, a splendid building which indeed was once the 19th Century Pen Manufactory of W.E.Wiley. 

They were first offered display space in the building’s foyer, and when a room on the ground floor became free, it seemed to be something of a sign; they decided to take it on, with the hope that they could successfully raise the required rent. 

 The job required hard physical work; lifting, demolishing, clearing away, and acid burns, became the norm. After hard work and labour, they had a clean, empty room and many offers of furniture and items for display began to arrive; the central library offered unique Victorian showcases, tables, and chairs and wall-mounted cabinets from a violin maker as well. 

 Moreover, the free run of Brandauer’s former pen factory on New John Street West, where they were allowed to remove the workbenches while on the other hand with the demise of the Science Museum on Newhall Street, they were offered more display cases, and the possibility of another unit and then followed a Heritage Lottery Fund grant for a new floor, security screens, toilet, and kitchen. 

 Nowadays, the museum has volunteers who form the pen’s museum Executive Committee; people who manage the finances and fund-raising, as well as others who assist in many and varied ways, each one bringing their several skills to the museum. 

 The founders of the museum have become more ambitious in their projected aims by giving the opportunity to the visitors to take part in calligraphy and braille lessons, tuition in creative writing, research facilities and a study area, writing competitions, school packages, work experience placements, and a guide tour around the museum.



The four founding members of Pen Museum: Brian Jones, Larry Hanks, Colin Giles & Ray Handley 


                             The History of Pen Museum in Birmingham

In the early 19th century the nibs of steel pen were still made by hand and so were more expensive than the traditional ones. Nevertheless, Birmingham began to become a center for industry, manufacturing and especially metalworking while the use of modern hand-stamping techniques brought the cost of steel pen nibs down.

The majority of pen nibs made in the world were manufactured in Birmingham and various that were not made there, were produced in factories in other countries owned by Birmingham manufacturers.

However, the arrival of the ballpoint pen which in the 1950’s and 1960’s caused the dramatically fall of the fountain pens production around the world and the Birmingham pen trade dominated by the Mitchell brothers, Josiah Mason and Joseph Gillott. Nowadays, there are only two small Birmingham firms for the revived of the fountain pens. One of the factories which did survive, was the Albert Works, established in 1863, and today is known as the Birmingham Pen Museum.



albert works


 The Pen Museum of Birmingham

The Pen Museum is an organization in which volunteers helped the founders to reserve the history of the steel pen trade in Birmingham. The donations and sales run the museum and the admission is free.

The museum opened in 2001 and contains rare collection of steel pen trades including items of factory machinery. Visitors of the Museum have the opportunity to take part in activities including Victorian school room, interactive machines and special museum trails. As part of the touring, volunteers describe to the visitors the history of steel pen and demonstrate pen making, writing equipment and calligraphy classes.

The following video is an illustration of the aforementioned in details and contains information for the Pen Museum and interviews of Peter Rice who is the secretary of Birmingham Pen Trade Heritage Association, Colin Giles, the senior volunteer founder member and Tony Floyd, volunteer of Pen Museum.

Activities for visitors in the three different types of rooms at the Pen Museum

 The pen museum offers a range of activities to its visitors. There are three different rooms in which people can take part in calligraphy and braille workshops. The calligraphy classes take places every Saturday from 9:45-11:15 am and from 11:30 – 1:00 pm and each session costs £3.

Calligraphy courses are for everybody; people who have an interest for calligraphy and whose job involves lettering, i.e. engravers, artists, printers and typographers. Also, for those who are interested in a career in advertising, design or graphic art and for people who may need to produce events posters and have an interest in history. There are activities for children and families.

The pen room museum also offers talks on various subjects and more specifically the Birmingham steel pen trade. Anyone who is interested can hire a room or arrange a presentation by contacting the administrators of the museum.

Each room in the museum has its own use; there is a room called ‘The Brian Jones room’ in the memory of Brian Jones-founder of pen museum. Basically, the Jones room is a ‘pen room’ area where visitors can make their own nib. There is a collection of pen nib and volunteers who run the museum tell the story of the steel pen trade and help the visitors to use the machines for crating the nibs.

The second room is the ‘Philip Poole room.’ This room displays related to manufacturers involved in the Birmingham pen making industries. The Poole’s room features the gift shop where people who visit the museum can take souvenirs, pen nibs or buy the Brian Jones book ‘People, Pens & Production’ and other relevant books.

The third one is the ‘Carl Chinn room.’ It is the room which is available for people to hire it, for the purpose of meetings, presentations or talks. Finally, the area is themed around the story of writing.


Gold Nibs

A collection of pen nibs in the Brian Jones room


Brian Jones Room

Brian Jones Room


Philip Poole Room Pic

Philip Poole Room 






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