Records of London Small Arms Co Ltd

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

  • directors’ meeting minute books, 1866-1920
  • ledgers, 1867-1906
  • memorandum and articles of association, 1866
  • papers re share transfer, 1920
  • mortgage register, 1891
  • site ground plan, 1887
  • financial papers, 1866-1918

Administrative / Biographical History

Originally founded as The London Armoury Co Ltd in 1856, this company was dissolved, reconstituted and incorporated as The London Small Arms Co Ltd in 1866. Like the Birmingham Small Arms Co formed in 1861 (better known today for the vehicle manufacture it commenced in the early twentieth century), it was established by a private consortium of gun-makers in order to compete more effectively with the proposed Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield, opened in 1857, in the mechanised production of firearms with interchangeable parts for the British government. From 1867 onwards, the London and Birmingham companies maintained an agreement to fix wage levels and product prices, and share contracts for rifle production.

Unlike its larger northern counterpart, however, the London Small Arms Co did not successfully diversify its production, and remained a small enterprise. Whereas immediately prior to the First World War, the Royal Small Arms Factory at Enfield was producing 1,000 new rifles, and repairing a further 1,000, each week, and the Birmingham Small Arms Co was producing 750 rifles a week, the London Small Arms Co was producing just 250 rifles per week. Upon the outbreak of hostilities with Germany, the British government asked both the London and Birmingham companies to step up production. By 1915, however, all the available land on the London Small Arms Co’s factory site in Tower Hamlets was used, leaving no room for further expansion. The dissolution of the company was agreed in 1935.

London Small Arms Co was a customer of Glyn, Mills, Currie & Co.

Conditions Governing Access

Historical researchers are welcome to use the archives at our Edinburgh store. Access is by appointment and researchers are required to complete an access form before they visit. Some records are subject to closure periods. For further information please email archives@rbs.co.uk or telephone 0131 334 1428.

Related Material

  • The National Archives: Companies Registration Office’s dissolved company file 1866-1935 (Ref: BT/31/30754/3249); papers re claim to the Ministry of Munitions for additional payment for supply of rifles under contract 1915 (Ref: MUN 5/190/1420/8).
  • Modern Records Centre, University Library, University of Warwick: Comparative production statistics for Birmingham Small Arms Co and London Small Arms Co, 1888-1914 (Ref: MSS. 19A/3/3/1,13,15); arrangement for diversion of rifle orders between Birmingham Small Arms Co and London Small Arms Co 1908 (Ref: MSS. 19A/7/LE/10).

Bibliography

  • C M Duff, ‘British armoury practice: technical change and small arms manufacture, 1850-1939', Manchester University M.Sc. thesis, 1990
  • R Lumley, ‘The American system of manufactures in Birmingham: production methods at the Birmingham Small Arms Co in the nineteenth century’, Business History, vol. 31(1), 1989, pp.29-43