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The Engine Room

GNA's historic grade 2 listed home

The Engine Room, 2 Newhall Square, was built in 1838 and was the premises of George Elkington and Sir Josiah Mason, who developed the first effective electroplating process.

Elkington initiated the manufacture of everyday affordable ‘silverware’. Elkington works remained on site until the 1960s, after which it was converted into the Museum of Science and Industry by Birmingham City Council. As part of the development, historic buildings were retained, restored, and salvaged, materials re-used within the restoration process as permanent records of Newhall Square’s unique heritage.

Glancy Nicholls Architects’ studio “The Engine Room” has a rich history, having played a significant role in Birmingham’s industrial past. Originally known as the Elkington Works, the grade II listed building was completed in 1838 to house George Elkingtons silver electroplating factory.

The building has been the home of a number of significant and revolutionary inventions, contributing to Birmingham’s reputation as the ‘City of a Thousand Trades.’

George Elkington patented the first commercial silver electroplating process, and with Josiah Mason (a pen manufacturer), created a world renowned electroplating business, which by 1880, employed over 1000 people. In addition to this, Alexander Parkes, a metallurgist and inventor, was an employee at the Elkington works and is widely credited with discovering plastics. In 1856 Alexander Parkes patented Parkesine, the worlds first thermoplastic.

Sir Josiah Mason parted ways with George Elkington in 1861, and in 1880 Sir Josiah Mason founded Mason Science College in Birmingham’s Chamberlain Square, which later became The University of Birmingham (one of GNA’s longest standing clients).

By 1950, the majority of the Elkington Works had been demolished. From 1951, the remaining spaces housed Birmingham’s Science Museum which included exhibits such as The Spirit of Birmingham steam engine, a number of large industrial steam engines, early motor vehicles, a second world war hurricane and the iconic spitfire. In 1999 the science museum moved to Millennium Point, a project our own Pat Nicholls worked on as executive architect.

The Engine Room is the only remnant of the existing original factory and stayed empty until Glancy Nicholls Architects bought in 2013, The Engine Room (Grade II listed building) received planning and listed building consent for its full refurbishment, becoming the new home of Glancy Nicholls Architects on the 1st of November 2013. We have restored and designed the building to create 6,000 sq. ft of contemporary office accommodation, whilst retaining its original features.

visual of two architects in the building collaborating
The Engine Room