Grace's Guide To British Industrial History

Registered UK Charity (No. 115342)

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 162,539 pages of information and 244,522 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.

Grace's Guide is the leading source of historical information on industry and manufacturing in Britain. This web publication contains 147,919 pages of information and 233,587 images on early companies, their products and the people who designed and built them.


From Graces Guide


Small Tool Factory. 1907.


Small Tool Factory. 1907.


Small Tool Factory. 1907.


Body Shop. 1907.


Rifle Stock Making Shop. 1907.






Cycling Works. 1907.




Hub and Pedal Department.1907.


Cycling Component Assembling Shop. 1907.
February 1914. Ambulances.
July 1917.
1920. Small tool manufacturing shop at Sparkbrook.
1920. Small tool manufacturing shop at Sparkbrook.
August 1923


February 1931.
June 1936.


June 1936.
June 1936.
June 1936.
July 1936.
July 1936.
July 1936.
July 1936.
July 1936.
July 1936.
July 1936.
November 1941.
November 1952.


August 1954.


September 1954.
0.5 hp engine.
1950. 120cc. 2,800 rpm. Engine.

BSA (Birmingham Small Arms Company) of Armoury Road, Small Heath, Birmingham

See Also -

1854 Possibly founded in 1854 as an association of 14 (16? 24?) gunsmiths in order to supply munitions (hand-made muzzle-loading rifles) for the Crimean War effort.

1861 Incorporated as a Limited Company, The Birmingham Small Arms Company, to mass-produce guns. This was a response, by the larger makers of guns in the Birmingham area, to the success of large scale production at Enfield.

Large numbers of machine tools were ordered: gun stock machines from the Ames Mfg Co in the USA, and most of the metalworking machinery from Greenwood and Batley of Leeds. Engines and shafting were from Hick Hargreaves.[1]

1862 25 acre site on Golden Hillock Lane (later renamed Armoury Road), Small Heath, was selected for their factory.

1863 Factory opened for the manufacture of small arms by use of machinery.

1866 Government order to convert 100,000 muzzle-loading Enfield rifles.

By 1871 771 machines were in place.

1871 The government adopted the Martini-Henry Rifle and BSA started producing these from 1874.

1873 Acquired the Adderley Park Rolling Mills for the production of ammunition shells; name changed to Birmingham Small Arms and Metal Company.

1880 The company was approached by Messrs. Smith and Lamb, of Ipswich, with a request to manufacture the Otto Patent Safety Dicycle (not "Bi" cycle) the invention of Mr. E. C. F. Otto. On 2nd July, 1880 a contract was entered into whereby the company undertook to supply 210 'Ottos' at £8 15s. each, less tyres: the first machine was delivered on 20th September, 1880.

The output of B.S.A. safety bicycles and tricycles steadily increased but in 1887 the Government demand for rifles and ammunition was such that the Company temporarily discontinued bicycle and tricycle manufacture.

1893 The Government demand for rifles and ammunition lessened, so the Company once more was able to take up the manufacture of bicycles, initially bicycle components until 1919. Complete all BSA cycles were not manufactured until after WW1 (1919).

In 1896 the entire business of manufacturing ammunition, together with the property used for this purpose at Adderley Park and Streetly, was disposed of to the Directors of the Nobel-Dynamite Trust Limited, who formed a new company to take over the works in question, under the title of the Birmingham Metal and Munitions Co. Henceforward the Small Arms Company reverted to its earlier name, which it has held ever since, namely, The Birmingham Small Arms Company Limited.

1900 Birmingham Small Arms Co and the Royal Small Arms Factory (Enfield) shared the large orders for the Lee-Enfield Rifle; the Royal Small Arms Factory (Birmingham) would probably be called on to help although it had principally be involved in repair work in the past few years[2].

1906 Took over the Royal Small Arms Factory at Sparkbrook[3].

1907 Bought Eadie Manufacturing Co. The company was engaged in the manufacture of military and sporting rifles and components. [4]

1908 Recommenced the manufacture of complete cycles

1909 Started making motorcycles

1910 Acquired the Daimler Motor Co (1904) Ltd.

1914 Very busy in all departments; BSA bicycles and motorcycles were very popular - demand expected to exceed previous year; great demand for cycles and motorcycles from all over the world; great demand for the new BSA car; gun department working at full pressure on government orders as well as other types of gun; one of the most important types of gun is the Lewis machine gun for which the company held sole manufacturing rights for Europe[5]

1919 The BSA company restructured into three divisions. BSA Guns became a private company. Another was BSA Cycles.

1920? Purchased the then bankrupt Aircraft Manufacturing Co (Airco).

1920 BSA Tools became a private company.

1920 Acquired the steel maker William Jessop and Sons.

1925 BSA Motor Cycles became a private company.

1926 The BSA entered into an agreement with Standard Telephones and Cables - formerly the Western-Electric Co - whereby the developments of the latter company in connection with the broadcast receiving apparatus were to operate for both companies. A new BSA company was formed under the name of BSA Radio Ltd - the company to market the new BSA products. The head offices of BSA Radio was at Small Heath, Birmingham. Mr J. W. Bryan who was the publicity manager, and who was closely connected with the company's sales departments, was in charge of all matters relating to sales of BSA Radio.[6]

1927 See Aberconway for information on the company and its history.

1929 Merged subsidiary William Jessop and Sons with J. J. Saville and Co to form Jessop-Saville.

1944 Acquired Ariel Motors (J.S.)

c.1946 Acquired New Hudson and Sunbeam[7]

1956 Sir Bernard Docker was removed from the board, allowing rationalisation of the business to begin, moving it towards more dependence on motorcycles[8]

1957 Raleigh Industries acquired the BSA Bicycles Ltd subsidiary, which appears to have included New Hudson Cycle Co and Sunbeam Cycle Co and Eadie Manufacturing Co as Raleigh appointed directors to all these companies. BSA retained the modern factory for use by other parts of the Group.[9]

1958 The BSA Motor Cycles Ltd subsidiary was the largest producer of motor cycles in the UK; the firm planned to introduce a scooter to capture part of that growing market.

1959 Subsidiary companies included:

1960 Daimler and its subsidiaries was acquired by Jaguar. The Daimler brand was used for their luxury models.

1961 Listed as Birmingham Small Arms Co and parent of 32 subsidiaries. The group employed 17,000 persons. [10].

1961 Jack Sangster retired as chairman

1961 Home demand for motorcycles was less than expected, resulting in stock over hang, but export of motorcycles was slightly reduced but still substantial[11]

By 1963 Machine Tool and Small Tools was the largest segment of the group; the demand for motorcycles in the home market continued to decline although the export business was holding up[12]

1964 After 3 years of falling profits, the picture had been stabilised; demand for motorcycles at home continued to fall so export markets would be the mainstay for that division. BSA had 6 divisions:[13]

1965 Sold the industrial engines business to Villiers, freeing up capacity at Redditch for motorcycle work[14]

1966 Merger of all of the machine tool, small tool activities and kindred activities with Alfred Herbert as Herbert-BSA Ltd [15]

1967 Both the BSA and Triumph part of the motorcycle division received Queen's Awards for Industry. Nearly 75% of the motorcycles were sold abroad. Sold the titanium business of Jessop-Saville to Imperial Metal Industries (Kynoch) and the steel and other parts of the business to Thomas Firth and John Brown. Acquired S.M.C. Sterling. Arrangements made for the Tools and Steel Divisions would result in less capital requirements in future.[16]

1969 Closed the Redditch factory and transfer staff to Small Heath[17] SMC acquired BSA's circulating pumps business[18] in exchange for shares.

1969 Formation of Round Oak Steel Powders to build and operate an iron powder factory at Brierley Hill; it would be owned two-thirds by Round Oak Steel Works and one-third by BSA[19]

1970 Motorcycles delivered about 70 percent of the overall profits; expectations were high for sintered components business if the motor industry continued without trouble[20]

Motorcycle manufacture, both BSA and Triumph, were concentrated in the Meriden plant and Small Heath was used for engine manufacture and components. Overcoming the crisis involved a large number of redundancies at all level.

1971 Losses continued; sold the shareholding in Alfred Herbert[21]; sold the shareholding in Sealed Motor Construction; planned to sell most of the motor components division.[22]

"Trying to do too much in too short a time" well describes the frantic rescue attempt undertaken late in 1971, when no fewer than 13 new or much revised BSA and Triumph models were announced in a lavish gala in London.

1973 After the collapse of BSA's shares in the Stock Market, the company was sold to a new motorcycle company Norton-Villiers-Triumph, financed by the government and Manganese Bronze Holdings who would also put their own motorcycle company Norton-Villiers into the new entity. The non-motorcycle parts of BSA were acquired by Manganese Bronze Holdings[23].

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Birmingham Gun Trade and The American System of Manufactures, David J. WILLIAMS (2005) Transactions of the Newcomen Society, 75:1, 85-106
  2. Leicester Chronicle 10 February 1900
  3. The Times, 28 January 1919
  4. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  5. The Times, Jan 28, 1914
  6. The Engineer 1926/01/08
  7. The Times, Feb 05, 1947
  8. The Times Mar. 15, 1973
  9. The Times, Jul 12, 1957
  10. 1961 Guide to Key British Enterprises
  11. The Times Nov. 22, 1961
  12. The Times Nov. 13, 1963
  13. The Times Nov. 18, 1964
  14. The Times July 23, 1965
  15. The Times Nov. 15, 1966
  16. The Times Nov. 14, 1967
  17. The Times Nov. 28, 1969.
  18. The Times , Oct. 15, 1971
  19. The Times Aug. 8, 1969
  20. The Times Oct. 29, 1970
  21. The Times Aug. 26, 1971
  22. The Times Nov. 22, 1971
  23. The Times, 20 March 1973
  • Wikipedia
  • The Engineer of 10th November 1911 p487
  • The Engineer of 26th April 1968 p650
  • Birmingham’s Industrial Heritage by Ray Shill. Published by Sutton Publishing 2002. ISBN 0-7509-2593-0
  • Birmingham Engineering and Mining Journal Volume 9 for 1910-11