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The Birmingham Proof House

Museum, Arms & Ammunition Pattern Rooms

The Birmingham Proof House Museum and its Arms & Ammunition Pattern Rooms can trace their history back to 1858 when Mr Greener, a renowned and innovative Birmingham Gunmaker, held a meeting at the Birmingham Town Hall to establish a collection of firearms at the Proof House. The subsequent managing committee of gun trade members set the collection's criteria: to create a historical record of the evolutionally manufacture of small arms. This included examples of modern improvement in their design, as a reference source for Master Gunsmiths and to enable inventors to gain publicity for their designs.

In 1873 the nucleus of the collection was formed when the Guardians of the Birmingham Proof House purchased a collection of arms & armour from the former collection of Claudio Calandra, a keen Italian firearms collector, who had spent a great deal of time amassing a vast and exquisite collection of small arms and associated memorabilia. In August 1876 the collection was gifted, with conditions, by the Guardians to Birmingham Borough Council so that members of the public may enjoy the collection.

Various attempts were made throughout the early and mid 20th century to re-establish a collection of arms and ammunition at the Birmingham Proof House. However, this was not achieved until the tenure of Proof Master, Mr Roger Hancox. The first Ammunition Pattern Rooms were officially opened in the year 2000, followed later by a number of additional rooms, including the Firearms Pattern Rooms. Interestingly there are a number of items from the original Count Calandra collection, on loan, included as part of the Firearms Pattern Rooms collection.

The Library of Small Arm & Ammunition Related Source Material includes over 1,000 original cartridge drawings. The Museum library holds over 3,000 books and documents linked to the gun and ammunition trades. Access can be obtained only by prior appointment with the curators of the Birmingham Proof House Museum.

The Birmingham Proof House is very much a state of the art working establishment having all the 21st century capabilities and equipment a modern CIP Proof House requires and more, with ISO accreditation in place for both the Proof House and the British Proof Laboratory. 

As part of the Proof House's wider brief for small arms saftey in general, organised tours began in 1997. These tours ensure that the historical development and heritage of small arms and ammunition, particularly that relating to Birmingham, is properly preserved and accessible.

On arrival visitors will be served refreshments and biscuits in the main boardroom. They will then receive a talk and visual presentation relating to the history of the Birmingham Proof House and the evolution of the gun and ammunition trades, focusing on the Birmingham Gun Trade.

The tour includes the Museum Pattern Rooms: the first devoted to the history and evolution of small arms, with particular reference to former Birmingham manufacturers; the second relates to small arms ammunition and the ammunition trade. There is a reference collection devoted to small arms which have been subject to incident, either through misuse in the field or have failed during the proofing process due to weakness or poor workmanship. The tour guide provides a running commentary on each area and items of interest.

Visitors are required to complete a “Visitor List Form” listing attendees and their addresses. We reserve the right to undertake security checks on potential visitors and refuse entry without explanation. Photography is not permitted on site, unless specific permission is sought and granted by the accompanying guide.

Visitors under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. We do not recommend the tour for children under the age of 12. The premises are Grade II* listed buildings, with narrow access areas and no lift. Therefore tour parties are limited to a maximum of 10 persons. Visitors will need to be able to access the 1st floor of the building on a number of occasions during the visit. Visitors with mobility restrictions must bring this to the attention of the museum when booking, so that, if possible, special arrangements can be made.

For those, due to heath issues, prevented from visiting the premises, it is possible to loan a 2-hour documentary CD which covers the majority of the tour. Smoking is not permitted on site.

The visit costs £200 including VAT for each group visit of upto 10 people. Payment is required on the day of the visit either in the form of cash or cheque or direct payment to A/C 00540957 Sort Code 30-90-95. Card payments are not accepted.

For tour and museum related enquires please contact –

Please allow up to 10 working days for reply.

Parking for visiting groups are restricted to no more than three vehicles. Tour vehicles are to be parked within the Proof House front yard area, between the two sets of gates.

There are numerous public car parks sited within 10 minutes walking distance of the Proof House

The Birmingham Proof House possesses a fine Georgian boardroom which can be hired, during working hours, to hold small conferences and events. The Proof House does not offer “in house” catering facilities, but can provide details of outside caterers.