12 June 2020

Timber Framed Buildings: The Old Lamb House

Photograph of the Old Bull House shortly before demolition. WK-B11-1261.


The Old Lamb House was a timber-framed building which survived the red-brick redevelopments of the eighteenth century and most of the nineteenth century, but was demolished probably in the early 1880s. Despite its name suggesting that it had possibly been a public house there is no evidence that it was ever used as such. It was situated on Bull Street, one of Birmingham's oldest streets, and had probably been the home and retail premises of a wealthy merchant.

The eighteenth-century history of the Lamb House is little known, but in the early 1810s it was taken over by William Suffield, a printer from Coventry, as a bookshop, stationers and printing establishment. William initially set up in partnership with Charles Grafton, an already established Birmingham printer, as 'Printers, Publishers and Printing-Ink-Makers' but the partnership was dissolved in July 1813.* William continued in business alone, and after retiring from the trade became the librarian of the New Library on Temple Row West.*

In about 1829 William's son John took over the premises as a tailors' and drapers' shop which he ran very successfully and the site became somewhat of a local landmark, influenced greatly by it being a rare survivor. John ran certain aspects of the business and his wife, Jane, focused in millinery.

Advert for Mrs. Suffield's Millinery Show Rooms at 107 and 108 Bull Street,
Aris's Birmingham Gazette, 3 May 1845.

Today, Birmingham only has one of its timber-framed building still standing on its original site, which is the Old Crown in Digbeth. Even in the early nineteenth-century these were rare survivors.

Suffield's on Bull Street, 1865.

John Suffield was the great-grandfather of J. R. R. Tolkein who wrote The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and brother to Samuel Wilson Suffield who ran a druggist's shop in Birmingham.

Drawing of Suffield's Old Lamb House probably
after demolition.

References
Partnership between 'William Suffield and Charles Grafton, of Birmingham in the County of Warwick, Printers, Publishers and Printing-Ink-Makers, was dissolved by mutual consent on the 1st day of July last.----Dated 8th day of September 1814', The London Gazette (1814), II, p. 1838; Advertising the Annual General Meeting of subscribers for the New Library, Aris's Birmingham Gazette, 11 January 1836, p. 3; The Dart and Midland Figaro (1887), p. 11.

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