John Burn Limited Est. 1904 – Looking back to where it all began


John Burn Limited – Where it all began

The John Burn Brassfoundry business was situated on Henshaw Road in Small Heath in Birmingham and was purchased by the Jennens family in 1904 for £250.00, which would now be closer to £27,500 and by today’s standards seems like very good business. This is where the story begins, as we have no information about when the original John Burn started the company.

The original purchase letter, dated 12th November 1904, which is pictured here reads:

“J Burns’ Brassfoundry business situated in Henshaw Road, Small Heath.
Received of Mr T & Mr E E Jennens the sum of £250 in settlement
of purchase of above business
including goodwill plant &
trade effects (stock & items belonging
to landlord excepted) as per
agreement made between the
Vendor & Purchasers, dated
Oct 25th 1904″

The founder as we knew him was Mr Walter Jennens, who became Managing Director from 1904 to 1954. And so the story began with John Burn selling products such as iron dowels, iron rapping plates, white metal letters, leather fillet, stamped brass letters and brass plug and socket dowels. Some of the original price cards are featured here. We particularly like the description of leather fillet:

LEATHER FILLET is, without question, the Greatest Time-Saver in the Pattern-Shop, but there is tremendous difference in the time saved by a Fillet that is PERFECTLY REGULAR, in CORRECT Section, with Superfine Edges, and one that is irregular, with thick edges.

Instead of saving a few coppers on the price of a bundle of Fillet, you can lose shillings in Pattern Maker’s time, if he has to rub down thick edges and bad joints caused by variations in section.


This was certainly true in the early 1900’s, and is still true. Why waste money on poor quality materials. Poor choice of good quality materials will ultimately costs more money down the line. Time spent rectifying poor results becuase of poor quality materials can cost thousands of pounds. John Burn is still very proud to be able to supply the highest quality materials on the market, coupled with the very best techincal know how.

We will feature more about the history of the company in the coming months. We hope you enjoy reading about where it all began.