Getting to know you

I have recently been in touch with the Studley Local History Group who publish a magazine The Studley Historian. They have very generously been forwarding on information about The Royal Victoria Works, now known as the Artists Workhouse.

This beautiful building of ours just becomes more and more interesting as we come to realise what an important part it has played in Studley’s history, the last remnant of the once mighty Needle Industries.


Henry Wilkes & Co billhead reproduced by courtesy of Phillip Coventry

At the start of the last century Royal Victoria Works belonged to the needle manufacturers Henry Wilkes & Co. Established in 1815, the firm had become one of the major needlemakers in the district, partly through the absorption of other local firms. On a Wilkes billhead dated 1901 they state that they are the ‘successors to’ J Davis & Co, John Hill, John Shrimpton & Sons, James Cottrill & Son (all of Studley), WM James & Co and Jesse Boulton & Sons (both of Redditch).

In accordance with the spirit of the time – when factories were something to show off – the billhead is embellished with an engraved illustration of Royal Victoria Works. Viewed as if from above, the factory had a classical symmetry about its layout, with offices and workshops arranged either side of a gated entrance and courtyard. It looks extremely grand. However, compared with what still exists on the site, the depiction would appear to be somewhat exaggerated in terms of size – but this was the convention of the time, done no doubt to impress Mr Wilkes’ customers. Our building is what remains of the building on the left of the billhead, the ‘L’ shape that is formed at the rear of the estate. Many thanks to Graham Downie, and Studley Local History Group for supplying this information.

This building is coming to life again and still offering up gifts of needles from between the floor boards.

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