By Christelle Pene, research volunteer

Late 1881 The Variety Works was a house and shopping development built for Arthur Johnson Smith, jeweller, by the architect Ewen Harper. The ground floor is known to have comprised a living room with a pantry and a scullery but the whole of the first floor was a warehouse, separating the domestic rooms on the ground floor from the two bedrooms and a box room on the second floor. There was a small stamp shop on the ground floor of a long two storey workshop range. The workshop provision is what one might expect of a medium sized factory in contrast to the much smaller house and shopping developments on Branston Street and Key Hill Drive.

46 Frederick St. served three specific purposes: 1) Workshop, 2) Shopping, 3) Offices or Showrooms, even though it had an urban look. However, the residence was habited by multiple occupants throughout the years. One of its occupants was the Davis family.

Mr Davisʼs life shown import-export with countries such as South Africa dealings done by his elder son Herbert Davis whose occupation was Jeweller traveller. Mr Edward Davis lived at 46 Frederick Street for approximatively ten years with his wife and their three children: Alice S. Davis, Blanche R. Davis, and Herbert J. Davis. The household had three servants Martha Jones aged 25 a cook, Eliza Smith 19 the housemaid, Jane Robinson 23 the nurse.  the census of 1891 revealed that they had moved to 46 Beauford Street in Edgbaston. By then, their son Herbert had become a jeweller traveller however still unmarried even the daughters which suggest that the family fortune shed them from working or getting married. Also, Mr Edward had already retired at the age of 54 as a wholesale jeweller and at the time only two servants worked for the family Jane Mapp aged 26 and Sarah Edith aged 27 both domestic servants. But in 1901, Mr Davis was registered as a manufacturing jeweller, still at the same address which showed some stability but not with the house help because the new servants were Mary Revitt 21 & Liliah Tidesley 23. In 1911, the household had four servants: Emily Cottinghant 27 cook Domestic, Lucy Hodgkiss the housemaid, Mary Carter 27 a sick nurse, Elizabeth Gibson 28 sick nurse. The need of two nurses suggest that Mr Davisʼs health was degrading rapidly by then Mrs Davis had passed away.

Building timeline

Late 1881

The Variety Works was built as a house and shopping development for Arthur Johnson Smith, jeweller, by the architect Ewen Harper

1884 - 1894

Arthur Johnson Smith, jeweller is listed as occupying the premises in Kelly’s Directory and Hulley’s directory

1895 - 1896

Archibald Johnson Smith, jeweller, and John Henry Smith, brush maker, listed in Kelly’s Directory

46 Frederick St. photographed for Alison Gledhill, Birmingham Jewellery Quarter, 1988