The Pen Museum - A Birmingham Gem!

The Pen Museum is the only museum in the UK devoted to the history of pen making and documents Birmingham's role at the centre of the world's pen making trade.

Where is the Pen Museum?

The Pen Museum is in the Argent Centre on Frederick Street in the Jewellery Quarter.

The Pen Museum

The Pen Museum aka The Pen Room on Frederick Street, Jewellery Quarter (December 2012). Photography by Elliott Brown


In brief

The Pen Museum opened in 2001.

It is located in the former Albert Works, a former pen making factory that was built in 1863. The building is now Grade II* listed.

The Pen Museum is all about the history of the 19th Century Pen Trade including feather quills, reeds and steel nib pens.

The Pen Museum

Pen Museum

Photography by Elliott Brown


History of pen making in Birmingham

At its height pen manufacturing in the city employed an estimated 8,000 workers, of which 70% were women. 

The mass production of affordable pens helped improve literacy worldwide.

It has been estimated that the city produced three quarters of the world's pens in the mid to late 19th century. Joseph Gillott's Victoria Works on the opposite side of Frederick Street manufactured 90% of the pens used by American school children in the same period.

By the end of the 19th century, the number of pen manufacturers had declined from 100 to just 12 as the development of the ballpoint pen reduced demand for traditional pen nibs. 

The city is still home to a number of high quality pen manufacturers included Yard-O-Led and Jack Row.


The Argent Works

This building was built from 1862 to 1863 as a pen factory for Q.E. Wiley. The architect was J G Pollard. It is now a Grade II listed building.

The Argent Centre

The Argent Centre on Frederick Street, Jewellery Quarter. Photography by Elliott Brown

Restoration work to the building commenced in 2020 and should be completed during 2021.

Argent Works Frederick Street

Restoration of the Argent Centre on Frederick Street. Seen from Newhall Hill, Jewellery Quarter (October 2020). Photography by Elliott Brown


As of 2022, the museum is open Tuesday to Saturday, 11am to 4pm and Sunday, 1pm to 4pm.

The Pen MuseumThe Pen Museum on Frederick Street (September 2022). Photography by Elliott Brown


Rip Van Winkle

The American essayist and novelist  Washington Irving wrote his book Rip Van Winkle, while staying in the Jewellery Quarter area in 1818, on the corner of Legge Lane and Frederick Street. This was the same site where the later Argent Works was built between 1862 and 1863. He lived at a house on Calthorpe Road in Edgbaston (near Five Ways) from 1818 to 1859. There is a Birmingham Civic Society blue plaque at the former HSBC building at 12 Calthorpe Road, built in 1961 to 1962, by John Madin.

Rip Van Winkle

Rip Van Winkle on the Charm Bracelet Trail, Frederick Street, Jewellery Quarter (December 2012). Photography by Elliott Brown


Displays at the Pen Museum

Presses that was used to make pen nibs.

Pen Museum

Presses at the Pen Museum (September 2016). Photography by Elliott Brown


George W. Hughes Steel Pens exhibit with pen nibs.

Pen Museum

George W Hughes exhibit at the Pen Museum (September 2016). Photography by Elliott Brown


Contact and further details:

0121 236 9834

Project dates

18 Feb 2021 - On-going


History & heritage, Art; Culture & creativity, Travel & tourism
People & community, Classic Architecture


Your Place Your Space

Jonathan Bostock

0121 410 5520