Birmingham Small Arms Company Limited

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

MSS.19A contains: incomplete series of minutes of committees and board meetings, 1907-45; incomplete series of reports to the Board of BSA, 1907-1960; minutes of Knight and Kilbourne (European) Patents Co., 1913-1925; minutes of the meetings of the Research and Design and Management sections, 1944-1952; copies of the minutes of minutes of the Sales, Research and Design and Management meetings, 1944-1945; financial statistics, including balance sheets, trade accounts, valuations and analyses, 1890-1938; miscellaneous financial files, 1877-1935; correspondence and subject files, 1897-1943; BSA annual reports and publications; miscellaneous publications, 1913-1973; historical works on the BSA, c. 1900-1961; legal and administrative documents, 1873-1956; material relating to personnel matters, 1889-1961; material relating to the BSA's property and works, 1897-1951; internal reports, c. 1906-1920; material relating to technical matters, 1892-1959.

MSS.19B contains: minutes, c. 1972; financial papers, 1970-1987; publications and reports, 1966-1987; legal papers and agreements, 1945-1976; material relating to works and technical matters, 1964-1973; press-cuttings, 1978-1982.

MSS.19C contains: minutes of the Directors, annual and shareholders' meetings, and the Management, Research and Design and Sales sections of the BSA, with reports to its Board, 1875-1973; minutes of its cycling (1919-1934), engineering (1972-1973) and gun-making (1919-1954) subsidiaries, 1919-1973; minutes of Daimler Co. Ltd., 1932-1945.

Administrative / Biographical History

On 7 June 1861 the Birmingham Small Arms Trade Association (formed in 1854 by some of the city's master smiths) decided to form a public company, the Birmingham Small Arms Company Limited. Their stated purpose was to make guns by machinery. By 1863 the factory at Small Heath was complete. In 1866 it acquired its munitions factory in Adderley Park, Birmingham. From 1880 it went into bicycle manufacture, making its own designs from 1881. Between 1888 and 1893 it devoted itself solely to production of a new magazine rifle, returning to the cycle industry in 1893 with the manufacture of cycle hubs and other components. In 1906 it took over the National Arms and Ammunition Company's premises in Sparkbrook and acquired the Eadie Manufacturing Co. Ltd. of Redditch in 1907. In 1910 it acquired the Daimler Co. Ltd. of Coventry.

Following concentrated production of the Lee Enfield rifle during World War I and further expansion, in 1918 it put its three main activities under separate management. BSA Cycles Ltd. (at Small Heath and Redditch), BSA Guns Ltd. (small arms work at Small Heath), and BSA Tools Ltd. (at Sparkbrook). Daimler returned to normal production at Coventry. From 1918 it also acquired Burton Griffiths and Co., William Jessop and Sons (1920) and Birtley Co. Ltd. (1939). During the Second World War, New Hudson Ltd., Sunbeam Ltd. and Ariel Motors Ltd. were also to join the Group. A post-war boom in motor cycles meant that BSA Motor Cycles Ltd. was created in 1953 (separate from BSA Cycles Ltd.). In 1951, the Group purchased Triumph Engineering Co. Ltd., and in the mid-1950s, Carbodies of Coventry and the Idoson Motor Cylinder Co. Further companies, such as BSA Broach Co. Ltd. and BSA Small Tools Ltd. were also created from existing BSA companies as designs and production were developed. Daimler was sold to Jaguar Cars Ltd. in 1960. In 1973, BSA was taken over by Manganese Bronze Holdings Ltd., which held Norton Villiers. Norton Villiers and BSA were merged to form NVT Ltd.

Reference: BSA Group News (Birmingham, 1961).


. The three deposits have been allocated the references MSS.19A, 19B and 19C.

The Modern Records Centre uses a classification scheme. For further details of the scheme, see It is compatible with ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description (2000).

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on access to these papers.

Acquisition Information

MSS.19A was deposited with the Centre in January 1974 by the Company Secretary of BSA Co. Ltd., following its 1973 takeover. MSS.19B was deposited with the Centre in August and September 1990 by Mr A.G. Cave, formerly Works Manager of BSA/NVT and Managing Director of NVT Engineering. MSS. 19C was deposited in June 1992 by Mr J. Borwick, Managing Director, Manganese Bronze Holdings plc, with the co-operation of Mr D. Skidmore, who was in charge of closing BSA Foundries Ltd., Darlington. The Centre is also grateful to Dr S. Koerner formerly of the University of Warwick, Centre for the Study of Social History, who located this source and provided the necessary contacts leading to deposit.

Other Finding Aids

MSS.19B has been catalogued to fonds level. A copy of this catalogue is available in paper format in the Centre's searchroom.

MSS.19A and 19C have been catalogued to file level. Copies of these catalogues are available in paper format in the Centre's searchroom, at the National Register of Archives in London and in Chadwyck-Healey's National Inventory of Documentary Sources.

An authority file exists for the Birmingham Small Arms Company Limited (GB 152 AAR1385) and the Knight and Kilbourne (European) Patents Company (GB 152 AAR1542).

Alternative Form Available

Some items are duplicated among the records at Solihull Library.

Conditions Governing Use

No entire document may normally be copied from MSS. 19B. Otherwise, there are no restrictions on the use of this archive, apart from the requirements of copyright law.

Appraisal Information

The deposits have been weeded for duplicates.


Further deposits are not expected.

Related Material

The principal BSA archive is held at Solihull Library. Further BSA material can be found at Birmingham City Archives. Various deposits of Daimler Motor Co. Ltd.'s records are held by Coventry City Record Office (Accession 594), with further Daimler material in Accessions 669, 680, 682, 699, 1054, 1358, 1620. These include material relating both to BSA and BSA subsidiaries.


A more detailed guide to other archival collections relating to automotive history has been produced by the Centre, R. Storey (ed.), Automotive History Sources in Coventry Archives(MRC Sources Booklet 6, Coventry, 1996).