Onions / J.C. Onions



This venerable manufacture is claimed to have been founded in 1650 and existed until 1885 when it merged with Allday to become Alldays & Onions.

While the did manufacture anvils the major portion of the business seems to have been in the manufacturing of bellows and forges.

History of Onions Anvils


1650 – Business established[1]

1773 – Simon Onions (1773-1842) of Moseley-street Birmingham Born. [2]

1809 – John Collingwood Onions Born. [2]

1814 19th May – John & Simon Onions mentioned as Bellows Makers in Birmingham. – Taunton Courier, Bristol, and Exeter Journal and Western Advertiser page 3 as creditors of John Britton who was seeking relief of insolvent debtors. 

1820 – Simon Onions, of Bradford St, Bellows maker

1832 November 5th -A 13 year old apprentice runs away. Nov 5th 1832 runaway apprentice Onion Anvils

Runaway Apprentice.

Whereas on the 19th ult. JOSEPH PORTER, a boy of 13 years of age, with black hair, black eyes, of pale complexion, and with a dimple in his chin, absconded from my service. He had on a blue cloth cap, black velveteen jacket, cord trowsers, and a leather apron.

Any person detaining or giving information of him to Simon Onions, Bellow-maker, Mosely-street, Birmingham, will be rewarded for his trouble, and reasonable expenses paid; and all persons are cautioned from harbouring the said Joseph Porter after this notice.

Nov, 5, 1832

1845 – 

Listed variously as ‘Onions, John Collingwood, smiths’ bellows manufacturer, 63 and 64 Bradford St, Smithfield” in Birmingham and listed as ‘Onions, James, bellows maker, 32 Worcester st.’ in Birmingham.

John C. Onions Fire 1853

1853 February 19th –  The manufactory burned to the ground with considerable property damage and the death of one dog.  As reported by The Birmingham Gazette via. The Morning Post on Feb 24th. 

Destructive Fire in Birmingham – Early on Saturday morning [Feb 19th] last an alarming fire broke out on the premises of Mr. John C. Onions, bellows-maker, in Bradford-street, and which at one period threatened destruction to the surrounding property. Shortly after four o’clock, as Police-constable Heady was proceeding on his beat, his attention was attracted by large volumes of smoke issuing from the inner premises belonging to Mr. Onions, and he immediately gave an alarm and aroused the inmates.

Mr. Onions having hastened down stairs, found that his entire manufactory was in flames and his dwelling-house rapidly filling with smoke. He first directed his attention to the removal and preservation of his family, and afterwards succeeded in obtaining his private papers and household valuables. Shortly after the alarm had been given, the fire-escape from New-street arrived, by which time the flames in the back buildings were raging fearfully. With the aid of the escape a clerk of Mr. Onions succeeded, after incurring great risk, in collecting the account books and documents connected with the business, and carrying them away in safety.

The engines from the various offices speedily arrived, and a plentiful supply of water having been obtained from the street outlets of the Water Works Company, the flames were gradually subdued, and towards seven o’clock the fire was nearly extinguished. The engines, however continued to play throughout the morning, and those from the Birmingham Office remained until late in the afternoon. The whole of the workshops may be said to be entirely destroyed, the walls only being left standing. The stock of the bellows, leather, and other materials on the premises at the time of the fire was unusually heavy, and great quantities of finished and unfinished work were stored in the various shops, nearly the whole of which, with the exception of some finished goods in the front house, were reduced to ashes.

Fortunately the horses in the stable were removed uninjured, but a very fine Newfoundland watchdog, chained in the yard, was burned to a skeleton.

The origin of the fire has not been ascertained, but it is evident from the condition of the premises when Mr. Onions was aroused, that it had been burning a considerable time.

The damage to stock and property is estimated at from 4,000l. to 5,000l., and the insurance effected in the Birmingham Fire Office, we understand amounts to about 3,000l. This manufactory, which was on of the largest of the kind in England, was established so far back as the year 1650 and gave employment to 100 persons. By the energetic exertions of the firemen, the adjoining premises of Messrs. Griffiths, tin-plate workers, were saved as also were those to the right of the conflagration. – Birmingham Gazette.

1853 February 21st – John C. Onions thanks those who helped with the fire and assures his customers that he has made arrangements for carrying on his business without delay.  Aris’S Birminham Gazette Feb 21 1853 page 3.

Fire in Bradford-Street

Continue after Fire Birmingham Gazette 1853 Feb 21

John C. Onions, Portable Forge and Smiths’ Bellows-maker, returns his sincere and grateful Thanks to his Neighbours, the Police, and the Firemen of the several Insurance Offices, for their kind assistance in extinguishing the alarming and destructive FIRE which broke out on his premises on Saturday morning last. 

J.C. Onions begs to inform Merchants, Factors and his connection generally, that he has made arrangements for carrying on his business, without any hinderance or delay in the execution of all orders with which he may be favoured. 

62 and 63, Bradford-street

Feb 21, 1853

1859 June 4th – Advertisement in The Birmingham Journal noting the sale of Anvils.

1859 Birmingham Journal Add for John C. Onions

1862 After the death of John Collingwood Onions (1809-1862), the business was carried on by his son,[2] presumably John Collingwood Onions (1841-1904)

1862 – Advertisement in the Official Illustrated Catalogue Class VII. manufacturing machines and tools. Volume 3 by Weltausstellung 1862, London.

The advertisement notes bellows being sold to the Emperor of France, Napoleon III, with a reference letter dated May 23rd, 1854. The manufacture of Anvils is noted.

1863 Patent on portable forges.[3].

1866 Advertised that his was the only bellows maker of the name Onions in Birmingham; no connection with Thomas Onions, whose business had recently failed.[4].

1875 John C. Onions company (presume this is the same John C. Onions) registered.[5].


File:John C Onions forge bellows ad (1876).jpg

1877 John C Onions Ltd, with offices of the secretary at 20 Colmore Row, declared dividend.[6]

1885 Merger of William Allday and Sons with John C. Onions as Alldays and Onions.[7].


  1. gracesguide.co.uk/John_C._Onions
  2. Graces Guide – Simon Onions


Identification Text

List of Onions Anvils

ID Date Notes Images
NA ??? From IForgeIron