An unexploded First World War carrier shell, used as a doorstop for 40 years, was removed from a Birmingham factory yesterday by the bomb squad.

Police investigating a burglary at the Chidlow and Cheshire factory in Steward Street, Winson Green, immediately alerted the Army's bomb disposal team after discovering the shell shortly after 11am.

Neighbouring businesses and flats were evacuated and the surrounding area was cordoned off.

After closer inspection, the bomb squad found the explosives inside the shell had deteriorated and said it would have only been a danger if there had been a fire at the factory which manufactures car accessories.

Graham Chidlow, who owns the property with his brother Robert, said the police had been called after a break-in at 8am. He said the brothers had taken over the business in the 1960s from a company which had produced munitions during the war. "We've been at this factory since 1964 and the bomb had been used as a doorstop. I had no idea what it was," he said.

"It used to prop open the office door and it wasn't until the arrival of the police today that I realised how serious it might be."

The bomb was described as being about 15in long and four inches in diameter, with a metal finish.

Inspector Derek Packham, of West Midlands Police, said: "For the safety of everybody, we evacuated the premises and closed the street.

"It was one of our scene of crime officers who first saw it. There was no immediate danger to anyone else."

Councillor Peter Douglas Osborn (Cons Weoley), who lives in a flat overlooking the factory, was one of the few residents to be evacuated.

"The police walked in and asked would I mind leaving as there was a bomb," he said. "I have walked past it many times. I didn't realise at all."