Cost: Free

The Birmingham Gun Trade—Industry on a Human Scale

Ordinary Meeting of Fellows (Fellows and Guests Only)

The Birmingham Gun Trade—Industry on a Human Scale

Lecture by Bill Harriman, FSA

The Birmingham gun trade is interesting from the perspective of its specialistion and the smallness of the industrial units, most of which were converted dwelling houses. There are very few large factories, and they are small by comparison with those in the cotton and wool business. No dark satanic mills in Birmingham. Yet during the Napoleonic Wars Birmingham was the nation's arsenal, making millions of muskets and pistols. 

The photo below shows St Mary's Row in the heart of the Gun Quarter c. 1896. This started life as a street of quite posh houses fro the middle classes until the gun trade took it over. The rear gardens had cheap buildings to extend capacity and some highly skilled workers actually rented a bench or a room by the week. It all came down in 1965. The trade had decline since the 1890s as it could not compete with Belgium.