Leaving Soho House's lovely autumnal garden and setting off down the Soho Road, it's easy to see why Legacy WM have decided to develop their existing Heritage Trail. The area has a wealth of fascinating architectural gems and stories just waiting to be told. Just a couple of minutes walk away from Soho House is the Supreme Works, which opened for business in 1922. This beautiful building was created by the architects Holland Hobbiss, and housed gold and silversmiths who worked on a range of jewellery making less than a mile away from the Jewellery Quarter, the main area for jewellery making in Birmingham.
At its height, at the beginning of the twentieth century, it was claimed that over 70,000 people were employed in the Jewellery Quarter in jewellery making or associated trades. As one of the new Legacy WM trails will focus on Matthew Boulton, Soho and the Lunar Society, it is worth mentioning the influence that Boulton had on the development of the Jewellery Quarter. After he successfully campaigned for a Birmingham Assay Office towards the end of the eighteenth century, it was natural that more and more of the metal-working skill set that existed within Birmingham should migrate closer to where the Assay Office was in order to easily get their pieces hallmarked. Boulton's push for Birmingham to have its own Assay Office had a massive influence on the expansion of the jewellery trade within this small area of Birmingham.
The Supreme Works building may now look slightly less grand than it did in its hey-day, but it is still a splendid building. Perhaps the most noteworthy feature are the bas relief sculptures which adorn the frontage, which are all by the sculptor William Bloye. This highly skilled and prolific artist worked on a wide range of Birmingham sculptures until his retirement in 1956, and the sculptures on the front of the Supreme Works are typical of many others he produced in the art deco style. Others include the running stag at the Perry Barr Stadium and the bear and staff on the frontage of the Bear Inn in Sparkhill.
As everything (for me) comes back to Boulton, I have to tell you that William Bloye's most famous sculpture is of Matthew Boulton, James Watt and William Murdoch. This iconic piece, known as The Golden Boys for obvious reasons, is currently in storage, as extension work on Birmingham's Metro continues. It is anticipated that the Golden Boys' will be back in place at the edge of Centenary Square some time in 2018, but in the mean time you can still marvel at Bloye's wonderful work by coming along to Soho Road and checking out the beautiful lions on the front of the Supreme Works!