Guns in Birmingham

In 1813 Birmingham was given approval to set up a Gun Barrel Proof House in Banbury Street, and between 1855 and 1864 six million were tested and proofed.

In 1865 nearly ten thousand workers were employed in Birmingham's gun industry. It was of great importance throughout the century, from the Napoleonic wars when the town supplied two-thirds of the arms used by the British. In times of peace it proved less successful, weapons being required mainly for field sports. Kelly's directory for 1874 lists 329 names connected with the gun trade in Birmingham, 210 of which had premises in the Gun Quarter.

The Birmingham Small Arms Company had an influential factory in Small Heath from 1862 which spanned twenty-six acres between the Great Western Railway line and Warwick Canal. This thrived in the First World War. The factory was supported by independent gunsmiths, who supplied the parts for the finished weapons, and who were concentrated in the district around Steelhouse Lane. Only two manufacturers (William Powell and Son and Westley Richards and Co.) from this area are still in evidence, and these have moved from the city centre.

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