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 163,139 pages of information and 245,599 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
Zip Fastener.
April 1899.



of Lion Works, Witton, Birmingham

formerly G. Kynoch and Co

See also -

1897 The shareholders of G. Kynoch and Co were warned that the Company would need to raise further capital to finance its rapid rate of development. They willingly complied and a new company was formed, Kynoch Ltd with a nominal capital of £500,000 and with Arthur Chamberlain still its chairman.

1897-8 A period of further rapid development. At Witton the new bicycle plant was producing 200 sets of components (hubs, pedals and brackets) each week. Large additions were made to the ammunition plants. Lion Works was for the first time equipped to cast and roll all of its cartridge brass. Production of candles reached 60 tons a week. A Kynoch machine gun was introduced.

1900s By the early years the firm had ten factories in Birmingham, Kynochtown in Essex, Barnsley and Ireland, producing explosives, engines, paper, soap, candles, brass, copper and all kinds of shells.

1901/2 Kynoch acquired various new businesses and premises: the Eyre Street factory of Hadley and Shorthouse, producing nails and brass and copper tubes and wire; a large factory at Stirchley to produce armour-piercing and shrapnel shells; Forward Engineering Co adding gas engines to their range of machine guns and roller bearings; a paper mill in Ireland.

1906 A second Irish paper mill was purchased. Negotiations started on the purchase of a South African explosives factory. New plant to make soap was installed at Witton and at Eyre Street to make tintacks.

1906 The trading results for the financial year showed a big deterioration and those for 1907 revealed an 80% fall in profits from their normal level. No dividend was declared.

Shortage of work led to temporary shut-downs at Witton of the Cycle Department and brass casting workshop, followed by general short-time working except for the steel, shell, soap and glycerine departments. Outside powder suppliers objected to the increasing use by Kynoch of its own smokeless powders in cartridge production on the grounds of unfair competition. Kynoch's response was brutal: henceforth it would only accept orders from its own customers which specify use of Kynoch powder.

1910 Acquired Holford Mills, a significant purchase of a run-down ammunition factory on an adjoining 33 acre site which had formerly been the National Arms and Ammunition Co. In 1888 the mill had been taken over by the Gatling Gun Co for a short time, and later by Accles to make guns but they had been forced to leave in February 1902[1].

1913 Arthur Chamberlain died and was succeeded by his son, Arthur Chamberlain Junior. He disposed of the two paper mills and gave more attention to metal production. The casting and rolling shops had had long periods of idleness but they were restarted and additional rolling plant installed.

1914 Manufacturing upon a large scale all kinds of Munitions of War, Sporting Ammunition, Blasting Powder, Fog Signals, Soaps and Candles, Paper, Coins, Metals, Nails, Iron Castings, Cycles, Gas Engines, Suction Gas Plants etc. Employees 5000. [2]

WWI Took over the Birmingham Metal and Munitions Co. By the end of the war 3.5 billion small arms cartridges had been produced.

1918 The company was merged into Explosives Trades Ltd, along with Eley and other ammunition makers.

1920 Explosives Trades Ltd changed its name to Nobel Industries; Kynoch retained its own name.

1921 Acquired over one-third of the issued capital of Rotax Motor Accessories Co.

1923 Chamberlain resigned as chairman of the local Board and was replaced by Sir Harry McGowan who was also Chairman of Nobel Industries.

The South African explosives interests were transferred elsewhere in the Nobel Industries organisation.

The Witton activities of soap, candles, cycles and general engineering products were abandoned. The site's activities comprised effectively "the ammunition side" and "the metals side". Three departments at Kings Norton, especially involving strip, were re-opened to meet increasing demand.

1924 Three more electric melting furnaces were ordered.

1925 Investment was made "to fit up the old Machine Shop at Witton to undertake metallic work for sporting cartridges and metal sundries". Copper consumption soon reached 400 tons per month. Despite Eley being the senior partner in the area of sporting ammunition within Nobel Industries, Kynochs succeeded in persuading the Board of Nobels to concentrate all production on the Witton site. The transfer of plant and personnel from Eley's Waltham Abbey factory, and the transformation of production facilities at Witton, was a long and gradual process. The Eley name was preserved by renaming all Nobel sporting ammunition "Eley-Kynoch".

1926 A new company was formed: Lightning Fasteners to handle the zip fastener business.

1926 As part of Nobel Industries, the company became part of the newly formed Imperial Chemical Industries; the Witton factory continued as the ammunition manufacturing centre and became the centre of ICI Metals Division.

1932 Installed a hot rolling mill.

1934 The Strip Mill was producing 500 tons a month and annual Rod Mill capacity had soared to 14,000 tons. Another tube mill, Broughton Copper Co of Salford, was purchased.

1935 Witton's own tube mill was commissioned.

1962 The Metal Division of ICI was reorganised and became known as Imperial Metal Industries.

1966 IMI Group quoted on the London Stock Exchange; ICI retained a majority shareholding.

1977 IMI became fully independent.

1993 The Ammunition Division was incorporated as Eley.

See Also


Sources of Information

  • The British Motorcycle Directory - Over 1,100 Marques from 1888 - by Roy Bacon and Ken Hallworth. Pub: The Crowood Press 2004 ISBN 1 86126 674 X
  • Birmingham’s Industrial Heritage by Ray Shill. Published by Sutton Publishing 2002. ISBN 0-7509-2593-0
  • [2] Staffs Home Guard Web Site
  • Trademarked. A History of Well-Known Brands - from Aertex to Wright's Coal Tar by David Newton. Pub: Sutton Publishing 2008 ISBN 978-0-7509-4590-5
  1. Black Country History [1]
  2. 1914 Whitakers Red Book