The Argent Centre
(1863-present)

place and office

Aged 155

The Argent Centre is a Grade II* listed building on the corner of Frederick Street and Legge Road in the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham, England. Designed by J. G. Bland for W. E. Wiley, a manufacturer of gold pens; it was built in 1863, and acquired the name Albert Works, possibly because it was opposite the Victoria Works of Joseph Gillott. Despite the appearance of being a huge, solid building, it consists of long, narrow, multi-storey workshops only 16 feet (5 m) wide, surrounding an open courtyard. This was a common arrangement at the time allowing natural light to reach workbenches from two sides. With floors constructed of hollow bricks tied with wrought iron, it was fireproof, removing the need for insurance. The multicoloured brickwork decorates a design reminiscent of renaissance Florence. Recycled steam from the works engines went to a Turkish bath in the northern end of the building; visitors to the Turkish Baths, also indulged in other leisure activities there, such as chess, fencing and billiards. Now flat-roofed, it originally had pyramids on each corner tower. A bomb dropped into the courtyard at some time during the Birmingham Blitz of World War II, and the bent window frames were visible at least till the mid-1980s. It was home to Griffin & George, scientific equipment supplier to schools and universities, as well as Gallenkamp, laboratory equipment suppliers, part of the Fisons Scientific Equipment Division until their move to London in 1983/4. The technical staff, sales and marketing personnel, draughtsmen and prototype engineers were housed there. It was converted to offices in 1993. The Argent Centre formerly Albert Works is owned by Midlands Industrial Association Ltd a registered friendly society whose aims and objectives are to encourage employment through the growth of the small firms sector by redeveloping redundant buildings in inner city brownfield sites. Midlands Industrial Associations Ltd is managed and run by Prince, Warnes Ltd. a specialist managed workspace consultancy. The Argent Centre provides workspace on a risk free monthly licence to give people the chance to develop their businesses without the risks normally associated with renting commercial property. Among many other businesses, The Argent Centre is now home to the independent museum, The Pen MuseumThe only museum in the United Kingdom devoted to the history of the pen making industry - find out why Birmingham became the centre of the world pen trade.

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Commemorated on 1 plaque

Photo of The Argent Centre  and Washington Irving bronze plaque
Elliott Brown on Flickr

The Argent Centre The Argent Centre is built on the site where Washington Irving conceived the Rip Van Winkle story. Designed by J.G. Bland for a gold pen manufacturer in 1863 employing 250 people. Florentine window tracing and multi coloured brick fascias make this Grade II listed building and excellent example of Italianate and polychromatic architecture popular in the 19th century. Directors had steam removed from the boilers for a Turkish bath and could also fence, play billiards, chess or recline on luxurious couches which lined their rooms. The premises were converted into small business units by Midland Industrial Assocation in 1988.

The Argent Centre, Legge Lane, Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham, United Kingdom where it sited