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The Surviving  Armoury Road Buildings











The threat



Historic importance



World famous BSA products



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  BSA Trust 



The BSA Trust is a voluntary body dedicated to preserving the glorious heritage of the Birmingham Small Arms Company of Small Heath. Our most urgent challenge is to conserve the surviving BSA buildings in Armoury Road, Birmingham B11.

The surviving 'Old BSA Building' has the potential to be restored to its former glory. But urgent action is needed to save it. We are therefore strongly supporting the application recently made to English Heritage to protect this historic factory by having it listed.

Ultimately we would envisage the restored building becoming The BSA Heritage Centre.



Unfortunately the 1915 BSA Building has now had the original windows removed.

Our formal requests to the owner (Mr Mirza), English Heritage, Birmingham City Council (Planning & Conservation), and Birmingham Conservation Trust  were all met with only lukewarm interest at best.

Sadly, the Birmingham authorities appear to be blind to the value of their own culture and history.

The honourable exception to this offical myopia is the Twentieth Century Society - who warmly supported the case for listing.

Our hope now is that Mr Mirza, the building owner, would consider selling the property for restoration in future. Watch this space.


Click here to join the campaign for the 53 forgotten BSA workers that were killed in a devastating

air raid on the BSA factory in Armoury Road on the night of Tuesday, 19th November, 1940.

BSA Small Heath Plant 1918 - surviving buildings shown in colour

NEW! Click here to see the Truscon buildings under construction in 1914


  Click below to view 1950s movie clips of the Small Heath plant in action   (after the intro ad)

BSA Factory Tour Part 1 - YouTube

BSA Factory Tour Part 2 - YouTube

BSA Factory Tour Part 3 - YouTube

BSA Factory Tour Part 4 - YouTube



The Oldest Surviving Truscon Building in England?

From 1861 to 1973 the BSA Small Heath factory in Armoury Road was the centre of the world famous Birmingham Small Arms manufacturing empire, known across much of the world for its motorcycles, guns and bicycles.

The landmark 1915-1916  ‘Old BSA’ building in Armoury Road is a unique survivor, one of the pioneering ‘Model factories’ of revolutionary ‘Truscon’ trussed concrete and steel construction. English Heritage have confirmed this is one of the three oldest surviving buildings of its type in England. However, this historic building is now in imminent danger.

The Immediate Threat

In April / May 2010 Birmingham City Council granted consent for a change of use for car breaking. More worryingly, consent was granted for re-cladding and re-roofing with alterations to windows etc (application 2010/02561/PA).

It is likely that these works will irreparably damage the historic fabric of the building. We therefore support the application recently lodged with English Heritage to grant the building Listed status.

Although the owner (car-breaker Mr M S Mirza) indicated in writing to us that he would forgoe the cladding works, and is aware of the building's historic importance, sadly he has now proceeded to carry out these works regardless.

To support Listing please email  English Heritage, Birmingham City Council (Planning & Conservation), and Birmingham Conservation Trust


Scarcity Value

There is little doubt that the ‘Old BSA building’ has enormous scarcity value as the oldest building of its type still in existence in England - or at the very least an extremely rare survivor (see architectural importance’ below)

The Twentieth Century Society have pointed out that whilst they know of several restored factory buildings from the 1920s and 1930s inter-war period (such as Owen Williams’ Boots Factory) there is nothing of this type from the Great War era.

The ‘Old BSA’ building can be dated fairly accurately to 1915–1916. The almost identical and much larger ‘New Building’ fronting Golden Hillock Road with its distinctive ‘H’ plan, 3 bay layout (demolished in c.1977) was erected between as 1914-16. According to the ‘Looking At Buildings’ website  the similar 1915-16 Trussed Concrete Steel extension to their older factory on the opposite side of the road still survives.’  ‘It is a ‘notable example of a reinforced concrete frame’.

Also, the original BSA Company brochure from 1918 (see below) includes a detailed drawing of the entire 32 acre Small Heath plant and the subject property is clearly evident, apparently well established by the end of the Great War.


The Condition of the Building

To appreciate the true significance of this building, you have to look beyond the understandable first impression that  ‘it’s too far gone’ or to assume that there’s ‘a lack of surviving fabric‘.

We would counter this perception by pointing out that it was originally built as an extremely simple structure where function dictated form - a radical notion at the time, even for factories. It was a no-nonsense design with clean lines. The only ‘fabric’ of the building was that considered essential for its purpose.

The structure comprises a massively strong reinforced ‘trussed’ concrete post & beam frame, with the main walls in-filled with brick panelling and very large metal frame windows. The windows are key, being a striking architectural feature, providing substantial light and ventilation. The original interior was sparse – an environment specifically designed to accommodate new mass production techniques.

This all makes the task of conservation considerably easier than for more elaborate buildings, despite the obvious extent of the dilapidations. Also the relatively small size of this factory building makes it a viable proposition. In our opinion as chartered surveyors, the building should be a practicable project to restore to its former glory.

Architectural importance

In the early part of the 20th century new production methods were being developed in the USA  spearheaded by Henry Ford and the automotive industry.

The newly developed reinforced concrete system developed by the Kahn brothers in Detroit was marketed by the “Trussed Concrete Steel Company”, or “Truscon” as it was often known. In 1907 the Company established an office in London.

These revolutionary new buildings soon became known as “Model factories” with their design (known as the “Kahn Daylight system”) based on a regular grid of column, beam and slab. Concrete sections were fully exposed and external wall spaces were glass filled with slender glazing bars.

Truscon opened their first example of this type of building in the U.K at Trafford Park, Manchester (1911) for the Ford motor company. Soon after in Dumfries, a three story ‘E shaped’ factory was built for the Arrol–Johnson Motor Company (1912-13), A four story building for the engineers G.J Weir ltd, Glasgow (1912-13) and another for the Albion Motor company in Glasgow (1913-15) were also completed.

The Birmingham Small Arms factory (B.S.A) in Small Heath was built  from 1914 - 1916, with a design that appeared as ‘a chequer board of concrete piers and rectangular windows’.

This new construction method using reinforced concrete was fast, economic and adaptable and co-incided with a shortage of building materials created by the military build-up in 1914 for the First World War which lead to a relaxation of building regulations.  The Company’s 1918 brochure described this development as follows:-

 “With the enormous acceleration of B.S.A. production [in the Great War] it was not long before a series of huge buildings, erected by the most modern methods, were being added, on a scale never previously equalled in the Company's history. These additions amounted to about two miles of shops sixty feet wide, and equipped with the finest and newest machinery”

Historic importance

BSA’s Small Heath plant has a glorious history, not just with regard to the world famous guns and motorcycles it produced in huge quantities, but also in terms of workers’ welfare – with amongst other things Company surgeries with free treatment for sickness or injury, plus a substantial staff gymnasium (see 1918 brochure). In fact, for many years, BSA was Birmingham's largest employer. By the end of the WW2 BSA employed 28,000 workers and controlled 67 factories, including Daimler Cars.

The company’s enormous Small Heath HQ played a major role in armament production during the Great War and went on to manufacture more than half of the guns used by British forces during the Second World War. They also produced 128,000 military bicycles and 126,000 military motorcycles in WW2.  

Inevitably, the Small Heath BSA works was marked on Luftwaffe  maps of the area as one of their main targets. In 1940 the factory was bombed 3 times in 3 months, killing 53 people, injuring 89 injured, and destroying more than 4 acres of the factory.

After the war BSA went on to lead the world in Motorcycle manufacture (see below).

First World War munitions production

1,500,000 Lee Enfield rifles and 145,397 Lewis machine guns.

Second World War munitions production

1,250,000 rifles, 468,098 Browning machine guns, 42,532 Hispano 20mm Cannons for both Spitfires and Hurricanes, 32,971 Oerlikon 20mm guns, 59,322 Besa machine guns, 68,000 anti tank rifles, 404,383 Sten guns, 750,000 anti-aircraft rockets.



Early Company History from BSA’s brochure of 1918

Truscon buildings are clearly evident in the lower left photo in July 1915.

Small Heath’s world famous products

There’s no shortage of websites detailing the famous products produced at Small Heath, many in vast quantities.  In the 1950s and 60s BSA was the biggest manufacturer of motorcycles in the world. Famous bikes included the legendary BSA Gold Star, the ubiquitous Bantam & C15, A7 and A10 Golden Flash, Spitfires, A65 Thunderbolt & Lightning, B50 Victor and the legendary BSA Rocket 3. Some Ariel and Sunbeam bikes were manufactured at Small Heath, as well as some Triumphs, including the early Trident and legendary Hurricane. The Small Heath factory won numerous trophies for competition racing and motocross in UK and USA.



BSA C15 motorcycle production line 1965within Truscon building

A Viable Future  -  and Support

Our immediate objective is to prevent the imminent threat of damage from the approved re-cladding, re-roofing and replacement window works. Only by listing can this unique building from the Great War now be protected.

Once listed, the owner may want to proceed with the planned car breaking use. However, any works to the building would need to be carried out with care to preserve the surviving original structure and fabric.

If, as the BSA Trust, we were able to purchase the building at some point in the future, we are confident that funds could be raised for use as ‘The BSA Heritage Centre’. This would suit the building and significantly add to the amenity value of the locality, with a more positive impact on adjoining uses than at present.

The intention would be to exhibit a wide range of famous BSA motorcycles, cars, commercial vehicles, guns and cycles etc, and to tell the amazing story of how Small Heath helped win 2 world wars and exported its famous products to all four corners of the globe.

Today, there are at least 4 main firms trading under the BSA brand, although they are relatively small compared to their world-renowned Small Heath- based ancestor. These include BSA Regal, BSA Guns (UK), BSA Clothing and BSA Machine Tools. There are also BSA Owners’ Clubs.

Perpetuating the BSA brand and helping preserve its history has broad support.  The Heritage Centre could include a retail outlet for the BSA range of clothing, books, memorabilia, as well as air rifles and possibly hand-built motorcycles. Related events would be held, and local employment opportunities thus generated.

Above all, the Small Heath community would have a focus in which to take pride at their achievements. The alternative is to see the surviving historic building sink into oblivion, taking its glorious history with it.

Unless the ‘Old BSA’  is now urgently listed, Birmingham and the country will have lost a unique surviving building and a valuable link to a glorious history


BSA Small Heath factory 1968. ‘New building’ to front faces Golden Hillock Road.

Photo shows entrance to Armoury Road

With thanks to Phyllis Nicklin



Photo 1953: From Golden Hillock Road, Armoury Road leads down to original Victorian factory. Entire plant and houses to left (backing onto railway) demolished c.1977 except for surviving ‘Old BSA’ 1915 Truscon concrete frame building and BSA Guns Ltd workshops




B.S.A. Works, Armoury Road, Small Heath, Birmingham  in  1968

Armoury Road Works entrance leading to original Victorian factory.

Surviving Old BSA Truscon concrete frame building to left.

With thanks to Phyllis Nicklin


View of BSA New Building from Golden Hillock railway bridge.

With thanks to Phyllis Nicklin


Canal side of New Building - late 1960s?


The original Victorian 1862 factory at the end of Armoury Road,then surrounded by open fields.

Sadly demolished by Birmingham Corporation circa 1977.  It would have made a great hotel, conference centre or even offices? Site now used as a dump for skips and waste processing


Above and Right: Demolition of Armoury Road Victorian workshops circa  late 1970s

1987 demolished site from Golden Hillock /canal side- Surviving Armoury Rd Truscon building visible in distance




    BSA Companies



    Although BSA was liquidated in 1973 and most of the Small Heath plant  subsequently demolished, there are a number of smaller firms that still fly the flag. BSA Guns (UK) Ltd occupy the surviving Victorian workshops adjoining the 'Old BSA' Truscon building (left)

    BSA Regal Group Ltd

    BSA Guns (UK)



    BSA Machine Tools Ltd



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