My thanks to everyone who has visited this new blog for your support and interest over the last few months since we have been posting. We look forward to bringing you more articles of interest during in the new year, especially a series where we will start looking at the different people and skills involved with the making of best guns throughout the country.
Wishing you a Very Happy Christmas from all the team here at Westley Richards and a Happy and Prosperous New Year.
For those of you searching for a particular calibre of Westley Richards double rifle, this list may come as a surprise. I cannot vouch for it being 100% accurate as turning page after page of journal entries and compiling the list was quite a long task. Also, the writing in many instances is not exactly clear so there are no doubt some minor mistakes. This list does however show how few rifles there are in the market in certain calibre’s and why some are seemingly impossible to find!
If this makes you give up the search you can always ask us to make one, we would of course be happy to do so!
Immediately after Christmas we will be heading for the USA and starting our tour of annual exhibitions held there. At each venue we will have on display a range of our latest guns and rifles together with our range of W R & Co Leather goods and the Courteney Boot range. We look forward very much to welcoming our friends and customers during these shows and sincerely hope you are able to meet us at one or more of these venues.
There are always a lot of requests for dating serial numbers for our guns. We have tried to put an easy search on our website to assist with this and will always try and answer any questions regarding the guns as time allows. For those who do not have a copy of the Westley Richards book ‘In Pursuit of the Best Gun’, here is the page which covers the quick reference to the serial numbers with dates for the best guns made here. This can be enlarged and taken off this site and printed.
For a more comprehensive search for your serial numbers including a certificate and copy from the ledgers please follow this link. Gun History.
In the old days, it might have been common to see what was called an apprentice piece, a miniature or reduced scale gun that has been a labour of love for some young gunsmith over a period of years. Having written that, I realise I have actually only ever seen very few of these, so it was probably very uncommon, perhaps more hearsay than actuality!
In an opposite direction to miniature, going for the largest gun possible, it is with remarkable energy and determination, that the young men, who have served their gunmaking apprenticeships here over the past 5-7 years, have delivered to our stockers the first of three, 4 bore droplock, single selective trigger shotguns. These guns are built on our traditional scroll back, hand detachable lock action, with Model C dolls head bolting, hinged cover plate, Deeley forend catch and single selective trigger. Each and every part has been scaled up in size in order to produce this massive 20lb gun, including a new single selective trigger, a new ‘magnum’ ejector box and massive lockwork.
Although these guns are not yet finished, it is for me, and the company as a whole, a huge milestone in our modern history. Here is a group of young men, all of whom approached us for an apprenticeship, displaying both aptitude and eagerness to pursue the career of gunmaker. Young men who for the years of their apprenticeship have weathered the ‘you will never make it’ attitude of the elder gunmakers, in order to slowly, but surely, impress them and often even amaze them, with their enthusiasm, knowledge, ability and determination, and finally deliver these guns which are of the very highest quality.
The work done by Chris Soyza over the last 6 years, assembling, mentoring and building this team of new craftsmen will be long remembered as a job ‘extremely well done’. One which started the regular process of introducing young, new blood into the company, thus securing the future. A process which has the company now with 60% of staff in their 20’s rather than the 10% when I joined in 1987.
Huge credit and many thanks go to all the older members of the team here and outside, the ‘grumpy old men of gunmaking’ who continue to work hard with our young men and apprentices, imparting their knowledge, keen to secure the future of gunmaking here and in the country as a whole.
Sam Banner who actioned the 4 bores, fitted the lock work, lever work and ejector work and finally undertook the huge task of filing up the guns in preparation for stocking.
Stewart Richards who is responsible for developing the single selective trigger work for the guns.
Lloyd Fox who has managed the project, modelled the gun in CAD and delivered all the parts to the bench workers.
In the year 1815 Wm, Westley Richards opened an establishment in London at 170 New Bond Street. He chose a most fashionable quarter, and a street made famous as the resort of that luxurious class to which his products appealed.
Not far off, on the opposite side, was Long’s Hotel, where Byron and Sir Walter Scott dined in this same year.
The ‘Bond Street Lounger’ was already quite a well known variety; and it was the ‘modern ease and fashion’ to adopt the ‘Bond Street roll’ with a tooth-pick between the teeth, and so lazily lounge along if one claimed to be a true devotee of the cult. The fashion has changed, the type still remains. The street’s influence is as magic as ever; fashion congregates there as of yore; and, with not a few, to go shopping in Bond Street is an event worth living for.
For this new establishment Wm. Westley Richards was fortunate to fall in with William Bishop, a Londoner, who became his agent, and was installed in the lofty narrow building then numbered 170, but now 178, which presents to-day, except for the shop-window front, its original aspect. ( 178 is currently occupied by the jewellers, Boodles and sits adjacent to Cartier on New Bond Street)
Bishop porved a good friend and staunch supporter; and his service to his chief is well summed up in the current phrase of the time, to wit. ‘The factotum of Westley Richards.’ He was regarded as a ‘character’, a term vulgarly applied to akan of distinctive personality. His pronounced profile and mobile features would have adorned the histrionic profession, the priesthood, or the Bench; obviously this was akan ‘detined to utter much speech’. No wonder he was reputed to be an excellent salesman, for he brought to the role natural good humour, patience, ready wit, and persuasive eloquence.
Mr. G. T. Teasdale-Buckell, who knew Bishop, in his book, Experts on Guns and Shooting, published in 1900, writes:-
‘It is unquestionable that Westley Richards’ guns owe much of their success to the personal skill and management of Westley Richards’ famous lieutenant, Wm. Bishop; under whose regime the house in Bond Street became quite an Institution….The Bishop of Bond Street! What does that convey to the generation of modern shooters? but to us of an earlier date what memories does it not awaken? Memories of times and of faces; of times long since passed away and of faces, now alas! gone from our gaze. Personally, we own to having some of the happiest recollections of our life associated with “Uncle Bishop”.’
Encountering in the daily round members of the world of fashion and sport he was not long in becoming on intimate terms with many of them. The young bloods, officers, fashionable country squires, in their idle moments, could always find a cure for ennui at the Bond Street rendezvous. It was a delight to battle wit with the Bishop, and a delight which even a foul, foggy day could not obscure. Occasionally, and by due arrangement, in proper fulfilment of their sporting dictates, he would spice his social attractiveness by organising a rat hunt, a cock fight, a bout with the gloves or the ‘raw ‘uns’, an hour’s practise with the duelling pistol or some other gentlemanly recreation in vogue. Doubtless the consciences of his guests at these sporting orgies required no salve; but assuredly if they did, the broad-brimmed topper, the black swallow-tailed coat, the white apron, and the shirt sleeves turned over the forearm like the lawn of a high church dignitary, might have been invoked to prove more than a lay sanction for their barbarous pastime.
Such qualities soon get gossiped into notoriety, and induce that attitude of familiar reference with which most people delight to discuss their heroes. William Bishop became one of the best known figures in the West End of London, and his fame was spread far and wide under the popular title of ‘The Bishop of Bond Street’.
The average cab-driver of the day accepted this term as a clear sufficient direction of his fare’s destination. A distinguished visitor was once driven by an old hand to 170 Bond Street. ‘What’s this, cabby?’ cried the astounded fare; ‘I told you the Bishop of London!’ ‘Well! can’t yer see him inside?’ demanded the perplexed Jehu, while he flicked away in indignation at the aspersion upon his knowledge of topography and celebrity.
Of all friends and companions, none had Bishop’s affection more unreservedly, than his dogs. He cared for his particular favourite, ‘Tiny’, as if she were a being of his own mould. When she died, at the age of fifteen, on 25 August, 1844, he had a tomb formed for her within the outer wall of the area of 170 Bond Street, special obsequies were rendered, and the tomb presently sealed by a marble slab. The dimensions of this slab are 3ft. 2in. by 2ft. 4in. ; and the following inscription, written to Bishop’s request by a friend, is carved upon it.
Some time before, ‘Tiny’ had been stolen, and the loss (it gives us a sincere pleasure that it was but temporary one) moved Bishop to take action in a matter which had grown into a veritable scandal. Dog-stealing, not altogether unknown in later times, was painfully rife in those days; its nefarious votaries finding their profit in ‘Rewards’ for returning the lost pet, or in selling either the animal or the skin of his murdered body. Owners were powerless, for the law provided no satisfactory redress. It is stated that Bishop spent the full sum of £1,000 – a big outlay for any person of the middle class at that period – in his determination to make the practice of dog-stealing an offence punishable by summary jurisdiction. His persistence crystallized in an Act of Parliament, introduced in the year 1845 by Mr. Liddell, Mr. Fitzroy Kelly, and Major Beresford. In due course, as dog-lovers gladly acknowledged, its stringent provisions provided a curb for the crime.
A copy of the Bill in our possession has stamped upon its cover, ‘THE BISHOP’S ACT’. It was probably presented to Bishop either by its Parliamentary sponsors or by some other public man who had taken a keen interest in its origin and fortunes. A sort of prefatory note within, which is called an ‘Address’, is as follows:
‘It is fit should be known that the adoption of the Act, which interposes, by its penal provisions, so material a check on the growing evil of dog stealing, owes its existence to the unceasing efforts of Mr. Bishop, the Gunsmith, of New Bond Street. His intercourse with persons of the highest distinction, who had been the victims of professed dog stealers, enabled him to obtain their aid in the Legislature to carry a measure, the absolute necessity of which had become apparent to all who valued a useful and faithful companion. To him, as well as to those gentlemen who co-operated with him in the attainment of so desirable an end, every grateful feeling is due.’
To commemorate his efforts, and the passage of his Dog Stealing Bill through Parliament, Bishop’s admirers and supporters presented him with his own portrait in oils. he chose to be painted in a circumstance of his daily calling. He stands aproned and hatted, his best Episcopalian look eloquent upon him, with a gun in his hand, whose points of merit he is evidently in the act of recounting. ‘Tiny’ and two other canine pets who wonderment; a bust of Colonel Peter Hawker is at the end of the perspective. The portrait was reproduced in a London journal at the time of Bishop’s death. it bears the title at the foot, ‘The Far-famed Bishop of Bond Street.’
Another photograph, which we reproduce here, does violence to a well-founded tradition that the Bishop was not to be seen without his hat upon his head. Here it would seem it is raised in ceremonious salute to some distinguished patron.
The Bishop died in the year 1871, after more than fifty years’ service in the Bond Street establishment. He seems to have been regarded by the generation which knew him with an esteem scarce less than affection.
Indeed, he was looked up to by men of superior station to himself. To some of them he acted as a mentor in the noble art; – Borrow might have envied his enthusiasm in the cause, and would certainly have claimed his brotherhood; – a kindly counsellor to others on matters outside the traffic of his duties; to all a friend; for he possessed a talisman in his character, that spark of Falstaffian humour, which could not fail to keep him bright in the memories of all who met him.
This article is Extracted from The Westley Richards Firm. 1812 -1912 by Leslie Taylor.
The original copy of the oil painting described and shown above, hangs proudly (for Westley Richards) in the Holland & Holland gunroom in Bruton Street.
Here at Westley Richards, we have an extensive collection of vintage Indian hunting images hanging on the walls throughout the building. It has always been very hard to find good quality images of early safari and as such I hope you enjoy these from an album acquired by ‘Trigger’ on good old ebay!
A letter to Malcolm Lyell, managing director of the London shop, from Sir Alan Lascelles, Private Secretary to King George VI and the Queen.
King Edward VII as a boy with his first gun, a single barrel Westley Richards percussion gun. This gun which is on display in the collection at Sandringham, was the first gun used by King George V and his brother the Duke of Clarence. It was also the first gun used by King Edward VIII (the Duke of Windsor) and his brother King George VI.
King Edward VII with his first tiger shot with a Westley Richards Deeley Edge rifle during the 1875 tour of India.