When I was looking for something to do in Birmingham, the Coffin Works popped up in my search. I thought it looked interesting so we went to visit them as I find the whole setting quite fascinating. Death is not something we often talk about, let alone arranging your own funeral.
The Coffin Works is a well-preserved museum that displays Newman Brothers’ finest coffin furniture, who were famous for supplying fittings for the funerals of Joseph Chamberlain, Winston Churchill and the Queen Mother. Some people might mistake this museum as a place to see different types of coffins, but it is not. It is more like a 1960s time capsule where you’re able to appreciate the industrial sights and sounds of the day in a working factory.
The Coffin Works only opens from Friday to Sunday, between 11am to 4pm. So make sure you plan it well. We weren’t sure if we were going to make it on that day, hence we didn’t pre-book the tickets. But as it turned out, it wasn’t very busy at all when we went and we were able to purchase the tickets at the entrance. We drove there and parked on the street parking. Parking can be an issue if you are driving there and there were many construction and maintenance works around the area and a series of road diversions in place. Luckily we have a blue badge and was able to find a disabled parking space near the area.
The Coffin Works is inside a grade II* listed building, with an enclosed Courtyard and meeting room. There are a few areas that are rented out as offices, and I almost walked into someone’s office, instead of the museum.
The museum is quite small and it won’t take you too long to walk around (45 minutes for us). There is a ground-floor lift located next to the shop and reception areas that allow access to all levels and facilities in the building. There is an automatic door located outside the lift to allow access to the Courtyard. Some doorways are quite narrow and there are quite a few steep steps. My daughter did require assistance to walk up and down the steps.
There is a member of staff in each of the main rooms who provide some information. In the workshop, I love the stamping demonstration by the staff. It was very interesting to see how they work these ancient machines. Also, there are many well-preserved original tools and moulds. Most of the displays, like the shelves and workbenches, are all original stock and tools of the trade at Newman Brothers.
We all enjoyed learning about the furniture fittings (how it changed through time but was stuck in the 1960s) and how it was made. Also, it was interesting seeing the type of clothing used to dress the dead. It was great learning all these little details that we don’t know about coffin fittings. I would recommend a visit as this place is quite quirky!