It is not known when or where William Ford established his business. He came to prominence in 1875 and 1879 as a barrel maker when he won awards at the "Field" gun trials (he bored barrels for W W Greener in 1875 and Lincoln Jeffries in 1879).
There are reports that the firm occupied premises at 14 Whittall Street in about 1879, but this has not been confirmed.
Reportedly, it was in 1883 that William Ford introduced his "Eclipse" light weight shotgun (some say this was introduced in 1887 and this date may be correct). This gun weighed 4lbs and used 1oz of shot (some say it weighed 5lbs).
In 1884 the firm was recorded at 4a (or 4 1/2) Weaman Row, St Mary's, Birmingham. In 1885 they moved to the "Eclipse Works", 23 Loveday Street. In 1885 the firm widened their sphere of activities into the manufacture of barrelled actions.
In 1887 the firm was granted patent No. 8841 for a cocking and ejector mechanism, this was followed by two further patents for similar mechanisms in 1888 (Nos. 2622 and 9348). This was when they commenced trading as gunmakers, selling retail as well as to the trade.
In 1889 the firm moved to 15 St Mary's Row, which they also called the Eclipse Gun Works. In about 1900 a company named Birmingham Gun & Cycle Co occupied part of 15 St Mary's Row, this may have been formed by William Ford to use spare capacity in his gun manufacturing business, it appears to have been replaced in about 1920 by Birmingham Gun Co. From 1906, workshops at the back of 15 St Mary's Row were occupied by Charles Chambers who did work for William Ford, an association that was to last until after the Second World War.
In 1890 William Ford patented his Try-Gun, the first of its kind. By this time the firm had opened shooting grounds at Small Heath in Birmingham and at Clayton in Manchester, and advertised their proficiency in gun fitting.
In 1898 the firm moved to 4 Price Street but they retained the 15 St Mary's Row premises. The Price Street premises appear to have been used up to 1948 amongst other things, for cartridge manufacture, they were retained until 1953.
In 1909 William Ford died and his son, A F Ford took over the business.
A F Ford died in 1946.
Reportedly, the firm changed its name to William Ford & Co but this has not been confirmed.
In 1951 the firm moved its principal office back to 15 St Mary's Row.
In 1953 the firm amalgamated with James Carr & Sons, and in 1954 they became a limited company, William Ford Ltd, but James Carr & Sons appears to have continued trading under their own name. In 1955 William Ford Ltd moved to Carr's premises at 10 & 11 St Mary's Row. These premises were also occupied by Thomas Yates, William Woodward and Henry Morris.
In 1964 re-development of St Mary's Row caused a move to 96 Potters Hill, Aston, Birmingham. A further move in 1972 to 352 Moseley Road was caused by development.
In February 1991 the company, then managed by Alan Thornton who wanted to retire, was taken over by Bailons Gunmakers Ltd which was owned by Sir Malcolm Guthrie Bt. Both firms closed in 1993.
B J Horton Corcoran was employed by the firm when Alan Thornton managed it, he went on to buy the firm of Daniel Fraser and establish a business under the name of B J Horton in Cromarty, Scotland.
The firm sold cartridges under the names the "Pheasant", the "Eclipse", the "Fleet" and the "Ignition Tube".
From about 1885 the firm often used a trade-mark of a solar eclipse.
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