The Factories

Large scale motor cycle production in Birmingham starts with James Norton whose works in Aston commenced production in 1898. The most famous name, B.S.A., was a large conglomerate making many engineering products including guns and pedal cycles. The initials stand for Birmingham Small Arms. They started making motor cycles, with the famous crossed guns emblem, in 1903. In the same year Birmingham made the first ever sidecar.

The car industry started in the city in 1895-6 by two firms. F.W. Lanchester started from scratch in Ladywood Road. The Wolseley Sheep Shearing Machine Company in Adderey Park decided to diversify into the new industry. To run its new department it appointed a dynamic young engineer named Herbert Austin. In 1905 Austin, frustrated by changes in management, left to set up his own firm. Following the example of Cadburys at Bournville he bought land on the rural fringe of the city at Longbridge.

Austin was an exception in building his own works. Most early motor firms used existing buildings or built very basic factory structures.