After nearly 2 1/2 years in the making Westley Richards is pleased to announce the first printed edition of The Explora journal.
Since the introduction of Westley Richards blog The Explora in July 2013 much discussion has centred around the exceptional photography and unique insight that the blog has given to the world of fine guns and the shooting community at large. We were often asked by our followers whether a printed edition of The Explora would ever see the light of day and that it seemed such a shame that the great imagery associated with the blog would never become available in a printed hard copy. With so much else going on at the factory and the constant quest to build better and finer guns a priority, the idea of bringing The Explora to print seemed but a distant thought.
With the passing of former Chairman and Managing Director Simon D Clode in 2016, we thought it only fitting to pay tribute to him by bringing to print the vision he had started in 2013. And so began the seriously hard work of putting together something that was not only visually stunning but also of genuine interest. A true labour of love this journal has taken almost as long to put together as one of our fine guns and as with all things Westley Richards the final product is second to none.
So what can you really expect from The Explora journal? Well it goes without saying that the journal is lavishly illustrated throughout with superb colour and monochrome imagery, 90% of which has never been seen before as it was specially commissioned for the journal. Sumptuous photo essays from the Westley Richards factory accompany detailed articles that delve into aspects of the gun and shooting world, topics we are sure you will find as equally interesting as we do. Guns and rifles naturally grace the pages as do the gunmakers that build such works of art. All of this capped off with in the field imagery and of course wonderful touches of ephemera and nostalgia.
Presented in a beautifully-designed luxury format with a combination of high quality uncoated and gloss coated paper stock and an outer cover finished with soft coat laminate and gold foil embossed logo. The 180-page, advertisement free journal, epitomises the exceptional standards and painstaking attention to detail synonymous with Westley Richards and is certain not to disappoint the avid sportsman and gun enthusiast.
With a strictly limited edition print run The Explora journal is certain to become a collectors item so you would be wise to place your order sooner rather than later. There will be no reprint once we sell out. For all those loyal followers of this blog whom we have kept entertained for years, you can now finally get to hold something of The Explora truly in your hands!
To advance order your copy of The Explora journal click here
For those sportsmen and women with a genuine passion for the outdoors and the pursuit of fish, fowl or game, no home or office is complete without some object of art. A great piece of artwork whether on canvas, board, paper or sculptured, pick your medium, brings back fond memories of a frequently pursued species and often transports us to a place where we wish we could be or may shortly be going.
The art bug can be very addictive turning many a sane person into an avid collector. Some chose a particular style of art, certain species, perhaps are patrons to a particular artist, or in my own case a collector of several artists, each representing in their art a particular period in my life when I pursued one family of bird or species of animal.
And so it is that I first came across the sculptures of David Mayer a year or so back when I was looking for an artist whose work accurately portrayed the two animals that have featured so much in my own experiences, namely the African Elephant and the diminutive European Roe Deer.
The real beauty of David’s work is that it captures the animals anatomically correct and for those of us who have been lucky enough to regularly be in the vicinity of both species, you will certainly see this. Not only that, but there is a real genuine movement in David’s work, the swift-moving away of the startled elephant and the hesitant steps of the Roe buck are all too familiar.
Based in Herefordshire, England, David himself, he is a very normal, humble, unpretentious individual. I have met many a great talker in the sporting art world but those with real talent don’t have to say too much, they let their art do the talking. He works predominantly in bronze and is currently undertaking full-size commissions and projects that he feels need exploring. He has been surrounded his whole life by wildlife which shows through in his work and he has an unbelievable passion for the outdoors and the animals he sculpts. If you get a moment look him up, you’ll not be disappointed by what you find.
Anatomically David’s Roe Buck is beautifully proportioned. Each set of antlers is unique to each casting, a wonderful touch.
Further details of David and his work can be found at:
I recently had the pleasure of hosting one Tyler Sharp, a journalist and photographer from the USA. I first met Tyler earlier this year at the Safari Club International convention when he casually and rather shyly wandered onto our stand holding a copy of some new publication. My initial thoughts were of some mildly eccentric character, better placed in a Western movie than the floor of the worlds largest hunting show.
Waiting for some lame sales pitch and preparing to savage all that he might say, I took the volume from his hand and began to flick through the pages. First impressions were of a beautifully produced publication, the like of which I had yet to see in the hunting world. This was no throw away magazine, this was something different and as the Texan boy told me his story I knew that this was someone with real passion for what he was doing and that we had a common interest in the future of our sporting heritage.
Since that first meeting I have found Tyler to be a uniquely honest and immensely passionate individual with genuine enthusiasm for the outdoors and the wider hunting world. This month we spent a couple of days here at the Westley Richards factory before heading off on a fabulous hunt for Roe Buck in the heart of the Wiltshire Downs.
I would encourage you, perhaps even urge you to subscribe to this great publication, or at the very least obtain a copy. You’ll be surprised at just how good it is and how the future of the sport we enjoy so much is going to rely on a refreshing new perspective. The world is a fast changing place and we face many new challenges as outdoor sports men and women.
I’ll now leave it to Tyler to give an insight into his mission and that of the ‘Modern Huntsman’.
Greetings Westley Richards readers, I just wanted to introduce myself, as I’ll likely be contributing some ongoing stories from the field. My name is Tyler Sharp, and I’m a photographer and writer based out of Dallas, Texas. I’ve spent the majority of my career documenting hunts, adventures, and conservation efforts all around the world, which has all led to my recent charge as Editor in Chief of a new publication called Modern Huntsman.
It was this that led me to the Westley Richards team, and we quickly realized commonality in virtue, ethical hunting pursuits, and creative storytelling. I’ve recently returned from a trip to visit the factory in Birmingham, England, which we’ll further detail in a future installment, but for now wanted to give you a bit more background on Modern Huntsman.
For those of you who don’t already know, Modern Huntsman is a biannual publication for like-minded conservationists, creatives, and outdoor enthusiasts. Born out of frustration with the way hunting is often misrepresented today, this publication is told from the perspective of hunting purists and philosophers, unaltered by the skews of mainstream media, corporate interests, or misinformed emotional rants. In short, we’re returning to the root traditions, in hopes of improving the perception of hunting in modern society.
For many of us, hunting is a way of life, a tradition passed down by our grandfathers, fathers, and brave mothers. It’s a way of staying connected to the land, harvesting wild food to sustain our families, our souls, and is a shared passion and pursuit in many countries the world over. Hunting also plays a majority role in conservation, which ensures that expanses of land stay untamed, and that wildlife populations thrive — something we’ll be prominently focusing on as we move forward with the publication.
But this isn’t just for hunters, and while we know that there will be opposition, we believe that through our collective stories, photographs, and films, we’ll be able to educate some folks about overlooked realities, and win the minds and hearts of those who still have them open. Through presenting stories based in virtue, ethics, personal growth, and statistical merit, our aim is to inspire, educate, challenge, and set the record straight in some cases.
We’ve assembled some of the best photographers and writers in the outdoor world, many of which you might already know. These are folks who’ve spent their years living off the land, enduring extreme conditions, and have sometimes risked their lives to ensure that wildlife thrives, and the traditions of hunting survive the modern age.
From the mountains of the American west to the fields of south Texas, the savannahs of East Africa to the governmental councils on regulation, Volume One covers a diverse range of topics, all unified by common ethics. Printed on thick matte stock, and bound into a substantial book of over 200 pages, it is more of an art portfolio than a publication, and a fitting showcase for the breathtaking work everyone has produced. We have no advertisements in the first issue, and as we move forward we’ll begin to integrate select brands and organizations to partner on stories of hunting history, conservation success, and notable characters, outfitters, chefs, and artists in the community. These will be collaborative, integrated stories instead of intrusive and heavy-handed ads, which will help us keep the message pure, and the conversations constructive.
We’ve sold through our first print run of 5,000 copies in three months, and have just re-ordered another 5,000 to continue sharing our mission with both hunters and non-hunters alike. Volume Two is scheduled to release in the fall of 2018, and will be centered around a theme of public lands, which is a hot topic in the United States to be sure. Apart from the political applications, we’ll also be exploring the realities of land access in other parts of the world, and how that affects land use, wildlife management, and hunting access. We’ll also be focusing on how these issues can bring folks together under common cause to protect what’s important, rather than squabble over something potentially insignificant.
This is just the first step in a long, important journey for Modern Huntsman, and we’d be honored to have you join us. To conclude, I’d like to leave you some parting words, which is the epilogue in the last few pages of Modern Huntsman Volume One, as a sort of call to action in what has become such an emotionally charged debate:
For hunters, we ask that you carefully consider the effect that your actions can have on not only your environment, but on the perception of this tradition. Whether through deed, word, or photograph, we feel that care should be taken, and respect given, for how quickly news can be spread in today’s world for good or ill. Therefore, choose your steps wisely, and wherever possible, see that they aim in a direction of positive progress and accurate representation, instead of confrontational detriment and further divisiveness.
For non-hunters, we appreciate your open-mindedness, and willingness to hear what we feel is a different, yet very important side of the hunting narrative. While we can’t speak for everyone, it is our aim to give voice to the overwhelming amount of like-minded hunters and conservationists who often lead quiet lives, in hopes of connecting with more folks like yourself, and finding common ground. We’d ask that as situations arise, you recall the beauty and honesty on these pages, as compared to the message that the mainstream media presents, and let respectful passion and conservation statistics win out over the often skewed biases and violent emotions.
And while some of you may never pick up a bow or a shotgun to harvest your own food, know that should the day come when you decide to, this community would jump at the opportunity to show you the ropes. Where you may have once felt opposition, you’d now find comradery, and a sense of belonging in one of the oldest traditions known to humankind. In short, we’d love to take you hunting.
Whether in the field, or in metaphor,
For more information, to order a copy, or subscribe to Modern Huntsman, you can visit one of the links below.
An interesting find this last week was this ‘Spicer’s Stalking Records’ of 1914, detailing Red Stag trophies from the 1913 season. The reason we say interesting is that a close link existed between Westley Richards and the famed taxidermist Peter Spicer of Leamington Spa, which until now we have never seen published in anything other than Westley Richards ‘Centenary’ catalogue of 1912.
Peter Spicer was born in 1839 and died in 1935, aged 96. He was one of the pre-eminent taxidermists of the day and was renowned for the quality of his cased birds, fish and Red Stag mounts. His studio operated primarily from Leamington Spa with an offices based in Inverness, Scotland, that handled many of the trophies hunted in the north.
Peter Spicer 1839-1935
The opening page of ‘Spicer’s Stalking Records’ giving the two retail address’s used by Westley Richards at the time.
Individually ‘tipped in’ photos of some of the better stags shot during the 1913 season.
‘Spicer’s Stalking Records’ is a very nice publication that detailed many of the great deer forests, along with the best trophy Red Stags shot on those estates. Many of the better stags have tipped in images along with a short story about the trophy. The would unquestionably have been fierce competition amongst estates to produce the best trophies!
Westley Richards clearly had strong links with Peter Spicer and although no records exist today of how this relationship came about, it is probably safe to assume that it was of mutual benefit between the two great companies. If clients shot game with Westley Richards guns and rifles then clearly they needed a good taxidermist to prepare the varying trophies. It is worth remembering that Westley Richards also offered fishing rods, reels and accessories at the time and so all forms of taxidermy were a requirement for the sporting elite of the day.
Interestingly, Spicer’s Inverness office offered for sale Westley Richards guns and rifles, clearly acting as an agent in the north for the company, something we were until now unaware of.
The First World War would soon consume everyones attention and it would be somewhat sobering if time permitted, to see how many of the names listed in this 1914 Stalking Records actually survived the war.
An advert for Westley Richards Deer Stalking rifles.
Whilst we often associate the sporting gun with the British sportsmen and the great shooting that this country has to offer, it is always worth remembering that the sport of shooting is a truly worldwide affair.
The USA was and still is one of the largest markets in the world for shooting and hunting related products. At one time meat on the table was often through the efficient use of a favoured gun or rifle and the ‘market gunners’ of old kept a very healthy and expanding population fed with what many saw as an endless supply of game birds and animals.
Obviously where there was the need for shotguns and punt guns to take quarry so there was the need for powder and shot to take them. It is therefore nice to see vintage items like the one illustrated here turn up from this now bygone era.
Clearly a salesman travelling companion this very neat case outside inscribed ‘Tathams American Standard’ is a wonderful fold over case that contains inside 20 samples of American shot sizes ranging from the very finest ‘Dust’ to ‘FF’. The quality of workmanship in the whole piece is superb and once again it goes to show the detail that companies once went into with everything they made. The shot itself is perfectly round and was obviously made from a ‘drop’ tower so that the lead shot formed perfectly.
On the edge of the case you can clearly read Patented June 19 1874 which dates the whole thing very nicely. Tatham Brothers was a lead pipe, sheet lead and shot supplier based in 82 Beekman Street, New York. In existence from the 1840’s they appear to have patented many improvements in both the manufacture of shot, bullets and other projectiles, and were heavily involved in supplying the Union Army during the American Civil War of 1861 to 1865. It would appear that the manufacture of lead shot with the company ceased prior to 1907 when their own ‘shot tower’ was demolished. The rest as they say is history.
The Princely rulers of India were noted for the opulence and extravagance with which they led their lives. The possession of beautiful objects made from the most precious of materials was a display of both wealth and power. Images abound of these rulers draped with the finest pearls, diamonds, emeralds and rubies assembled into some of the finest jewellery the world has ever seen.
Naturally this extravagance extended to the personal weapons carried by these individuals and here we have a selection of some of the finest Indian edged weapons that we have seen in a long time. Primarily jade handled, the curve bladed daggers or ‘Khanjar’ as they are known in India, are set with diamonds, rubies and emeralds, the stones in fact set in place with fine gold. One dagger has very fine pearls set into the blade which is most unusual and each of the blades is decorated with fine gold damascene work.
One all steel dagger or ‘Kard’ is fully damascene embellished including the hilt which forms the shape of a bird with rubies for eyes. The quality of craftsmanship is superb as you would expect from the very finest workers of the day, engaged by the great families of India. You can now appreciate where some of the creative influence for the ‘India’ rifle came from and why we chose to inlay precious stones.
On our travels we are always on the look out for any interesting ephemera, photos and journals that may have a link to either the history of Westley Richards or the sport of hunting itself.
Last week in the US we picked up several vintage postcards that certainly make for fascinating viewing. Published in 1910 they depict various hunting scenes from the epic safari of Theodore Roosevelt’s which was conducted from 1909-10. At the time this was the largest safari ever conducted in Africa and involved some of the greatest hunters of the day including F.C.Selous and R.J.Cunninghame.
Over 500 animals and birds were collected by the former US President and his son Kermit, all of which were carefully skinned, prepared and shipped to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington. This huge safari set the standard for the luxury safaris that were to follow and clearly put East Africa on the map for the dedicated US hunter.
Today Africa remains a magical safari destination where sportsmen from around the world can still participate in one of the last great adventures. Whether or not you would be able to send postcards such as these today is another matter altogether!
On my ‘Bucket List’ for the past 20 or so years has been the re-patriation, to where it rightfully belongs, of the original painting of The Bishop of Bond Street which currently hangs in the Holland & Holland Bruton Street gunroom.
When Malcolm Lyell left Holland & Holland in the late 80’s and the company was sold to Chanel, the painting had been hanging in an office at Holland’s with little attention paid to it. Malcolm when he had bought the Westley Richards agency in the early 50’s had use of much of the contents of our Conduit Street shop. These included, furniture, signs, record books, William Bishop’s Clock (which I now have back), his portrait and many other items from our past.
Roger Mitchell who took over as MD of Holland’s approached my father with an offer to buy the painting and one which my father accepted. He blames the fact that he didn’t really know what he was selling as hadn’t really seen it that much. Whatever, the painting passed into Holland’s hands and has remained there since.
In its own right the painting is a very good portrait executed by Henry Barraud in 1848 and one that shows the character of the Bishop very well, a man who was never caught without his Top Hat off! As a painting that hangs in another gunmakers gunroom I have never quite understood the relevance and why they would not rather promote their own history, founders and managers. It has always seemed strange that they allow the ‘good management’ of a Westley Richards gunroom to be displayed with such importance in their own place of business.
Over the years, I and many other of my good customers have tried to get the painting back, alas to no avail. I tried again once more last week and asked the current MD Daryl Greatrex if there was any chance to buy or exchange for money and a painting I have of a notable Holland client shooting and was told ‘no’ he thought there was no chance! I don’t believe in all these years that the question has ever been asked of the man who could or would actually make the decision to let the painting return to the company it rightfully belongs but perhaps one day that will happen.
I think now I have to expose the painting and ‘link it’ permanently in peoples minds to Westley Richards so that when anyone visits the Holland & Holland gunroom they immediately think Westley Richards. Perhaps in the end this is better advertising use than having it myself!
Obviously any help from a ‘well connected’ person in getting the picture back would be most appreciated!!
The only photograph of the Bishop that I have ever come across and probably the one used for the portrait.
The William Bishop Clock and the Tombstone of ‘Tiny’ his dog who features in the painting sitting on the chair.
The original painting hanging in Holland & Holland’s showroom.
The day’s pass rapidly by and I am very conscious that I have been negligent on keeping the new posts put up here on The Explora, we value your visiting the site and following our story. Please let me reassure you that I have not disappeared and the normal frequency will be resumed now that I am back at the factory, I had a short and I feel, well deserved break away! I am pleased to say that there are some very nice and nicely illustrated subjects coming up shortly.
The Shoot meeting lodge at Vaynor Park
Recently I sent photographer Brett (ByBrett) on a day’s shoot at Vaynor Park, a shoot which has always been one of my favourite days out in the field, a classic English driven bird shoot on the most beautiful estate.
The workshop of Hayden Hill with its belt driven machinery.
Brett has also photographed for me the “Birmingham Trade”, the small workshops in the Birmingham Gun Quarter which are homes to individual craftsmen’s business’s. Nobody is sure how long the Gun Quarter will survive in its current guise as the developers continue to transform Birmingham. Also visited was the remarkably preserved and interesting Birmingham workshop of Hayden Hill. Hayden maintains a full compliment of belt driven machinery which is unique these days and which compliments his family’s quite formidable gunmaking history.
Stocker Keith Haynes keeping a close eye on his work.
It would not have been sensible to not shoot new photographs in our own workshops whilst we were at it, so a fresh new look at the workshops is also coming shortly.
In the new gun department we have some super Bolt action rifles just completed and a pair of .600 NE rifles, the first pair we have made. In the finishing shop we have 3 pairs of 28/.410 guns each set engraved in a different style by engravers Lepinoise, Spode and Silke.
We have been busy also with our used gun department and will shortly be showing our recent acquisitions. These include guns, bolt action and double rifles of our own make as well as those by J. Purdey, Holland & Holland, J. Rigby and Fabbri.
Once again thank you for your patience and my time “off”.
I was kindly lent this old original tool which was made to take apart and reassemble the first Anson & Deeley boxlock shotguns. The purpose of the tool is to compress the main spring and allow the hammer to moved into position so the pin which goes from each side of the action through the pivot hole of each hammer can be aligned up.
If anyone can do a better technical explanation I would be happy to put it here! I am better at managing the ephemera collection it seems than doing the explanations of use!