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Our history

Sir Josiah Mason Trust was found in 1868 by Josiah Mason, a Victorian industrialist and philanthropist.
Sir Josiah was born in 1795 in Kidderminster, a 'self-made man with no advantages of birth, or connections, or education, or means'.  Born 17 years before Charles Dickens began to write about the poverty of the Victorian era, Josiah taught himself to write and joined a unitarian Sunday School as they could provide him with a basic education. He went on to build a vast fortune from self taught engineering skills and astute business knowledge. 

From an early age, Josiah showed an entrepreneurial flare and tried his hand at many inventions, trades and business ventures before moving to Birmingham in 1816.  By 1824, he invested the savings he had earned into a business which manufactured split rings. It was here that he improved the machinery that made the rings so that it was bevelled, hence the modern day key ring. He later went on to become the largest manufacturer of steel pens and pen nibs in the World and contributed heavily to the Birmingham pen trade. He also improved the machinery to make the split pen nib.


Josiah, most likely influenced by his childhood experiences was an extremely caring and generous man who went on to do many charitable works, including the founding of schools, a dispensary and Mason Science College, the forerunner of the University of Birmingham. He was knighted for his good works in November 1872.


The Trust

In 1858, Josiah built the first Almshouses in Station Road, Erdington for 30 'spinsters and widows' over 50 years old and rooms for 20 orphan girls. These Almshouses were demolished in 1974.


It was 10 years later that the Trust was officially founded on the 29th July 1868, in readiness for the opening of a second, larger orphanage in Bell Lane (now Orphanage Road), Erdington, with rooms for 26 women and dormitories for 300 children. It cost £60,000 to build and was endowed to the sum of £200,000. All of this was financed by Sir Josiah and it amounted to a huge fortune at this time. Later a new wing was added to enable a total of 500 children to be accommodated. The orphanage was eventually re-designated as a school, but by the 1960's the cost of upkeep had become prohibitive, leading the Trustees to close it in 1960.


The Trust retained ownership of a small part of the Orphanage site which contained 36 Almshouses built in the 1920's and which are now called Mason Cottages. It then went on to build further Almshouses on our sites in Shirley in 1974 and Olton in 1979 and started providing care services in the 1980's.  

The Trust has continued to grow and evolve over the years and the need for the Trust is as real today as it was 150 years ago. We now enter an exciting and ambitious new phase of development in which we aim to improve the lives of many more people living in Birmingham and Solihull.

Sir Josiah Mason

Sir Josiah Mason

Mason Science College built in 1880, later became  Mason University College in 1898 and was incorporated into the University of Birmingham in 1900.  Two students of the college, Neville Chamberlain and Stanley Baldwin, later went on to become Prime Ministers of the UK.

A new flat at Mason House, Shirley, 1974

The completion of Mason House in 1974

The original Trust badge with the Trust motto 'Do Deeds Of Love'. The mermaid was a figure which Sir Josiah incorporated into his coat of arms and the heraldic badge of Mason College.  It is still featured in the logo of the University of Birmingham today.

sjm orphanage.jpg
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