A timepiece of Birmingham history


Time has been called on an historic building once famous for its role in Birmingham watch-making.

Timeworks, at 214-224 Barr Street, Hockley, goes under the hammer at Bigwood’s next auction, being held at Villa Park at 11am on Wednesday December 8.

Timeworks was once the home of one of the first and most influential, large scale manufacturers of machine-made gold and silver watches in England.

It was pioneered by William Ehrhardt and on his death in 1897 the factory had more than 400 employees, producing over 500 watches per week.

Ehrhardt was born and served his watch-making apprenticeship in Germany.

He came to England in 1851, wanting to start his own business but not in a traditional watch-making area and not with traditional watch-making workers. He wanted to use his own ideas without resistance from his employees or the local industry, and quickly realised that if the English watch trade was to compete with the cheaper Swiss and American mass-produced factory-made watches, it must become automated.

Hence, much of the output at the Timeworks was done using steam-powered machinery and an army of young women.

It worked for quite a while – it is thought the Ehrhardt firm survived until about 1924.

The three-storey Victorian building has a Grade A local listing and is described in the auction catalogue as being “of great character”.

Previously available at £550,000, the price has been slashed and the guide is now £250,000.

Bigwood director Ian Tudor said one option could be to turn it into smaller suites for light manufacture or the media/web design sector.

It is joined in the auction by another historic property.

Unit 2, Astle Park, West Bromwich, a 10,000sq ft Grade II listed building, dates back to 1883.

It was originally new printing and publishing offices for Kenrick and Jefferson Ltd.

The guide price is in excess of £500,000 but it needs major refurbishment.

Coming right up to date, a former shop and one-time motor sales centre, 721-725 Stratford Road, Sparkhill, has got the locals excited.

It has a substantial forecourt and latterly was charging people to park their cars.

“It has the potential to be a little gold mine,” said Mr Tudor.

And he added: “The phones have hardly stopped with expressions of interest.”

The site has a guide price of £700,000-plus.

Also on at £700,000 is a freehold redevelopment or investment opportunity in Kenilworth.

Common Lane Industrial Estate extends to nearly 40,000sq ft. A small part is let to the Curves gym.

And then the auction features the now regular array of former pubs – brought low in the sector’s struggles to survive.

The Freebodies Tavern, 69 St John Street, Dudley, has a guide price of £200,000 and planning permission for 10 two-bedroom homes; the Hill Tavern, 72 Watson Green Road, Dudley, has a guide price in excess of £225,000 and is said to be ideal for residential development; while the Davy Lamp, Wardles Lane, Walsall, guide price in excess of £175,000, has plans drawn up for eight houses.

37 Sandon Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, reflects another struggling sector – it is a former care home.

The 10-bedroom building has a guide price of £125,000 to £150,000.

For more information or to request a catalogue, contact Bigwood on 0121 456 2200 or go to



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