Since 1786, every piece of jewellery or silverware that has been manufactured in the Deakin & Francis workshops has been stamped with the mark of the Birmingham Assay office. A legal requirement, assaying is one of the earliest forms of consumer protection and was created by Edward I to protect the public from dishonest traders.
Many people wonder why Birmingham was given the mark of the anchor, as it is not a costal region, nor does it have any obvious links with sailing. The answer to this lies in the story of Matthew Boutlon’s battle to establish a new assay office for the traders of Birmingham.
Boulton quickly realised that without its own assay office, the silversmith trade of Birmingham would diminish, unable to compete with the silversmiths and goldsmiths of London. With the aid of traders, locals and influential MP’s, Boulton set to work lobbying Parliament to build an assaying office in Birmingham.
Boulton faced severe opposition from The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths who objected to a new assay office in Birmingham just as they were campaigning against a new office in Sheffield.
In 1773, the Worshipful Company of Cutlers of Hallamshire, the applicants for the assay office in Sheffield, approached Matthew Boulton convincing him that by working together they could defeat their opponents, the Goldsmiths’ Company.
It is believed that during his many visits to London whilst lobbying Parliament, Boulton stayed in a pub not far from Goldsmiths Hall. Here he met with members of the Cutlers of Hallamshire where, close to their opponents, they would plan their campaigns.
Eventually both the Cutlers of Hallamshire and Boulton won their campaigns to establish assaying offices in their respective locations. Sheffield was given the mark of the Crown and Birmingham the mark of the Anchor. The pub used for the meetings of both parties was called the Crown and Anchor.