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!
The Nizam of Hyderabad’s Armoury was the largest single armoury that my father, Walter Clode, purchased during his times in India. The size and expense of the armoury led to a joint venture between his old friend and former manager of Westley Richards London, Malcolm Lyell. Malcolm went on to combine his acquisition of the Westley Richards Agency London with Holland & Holland. The joint venture between Holland & Holland and Westley Richards was a financial split and my father taking care of all the purchase and logistics getting the armoury home from India with which he was much more capable than the other party involved.
Over the weekend I was talking to my father about various times past and this little catalogue was brought out of some cubby hole and given to me. I had seen it many years ago but forgotten about the display cabinets which it represents. I have no idea how many were ever made and sold but I have never seen them appear on the market since.
I am sure that many of you who follow the market and auctions will have seen in recent months various collections being disposed of which were made at the time of this deal taking place. Hyderabad weapons featured quite strongly in these collections and were all magnificent items. I hope that the content of the catalogue will provide the information on the cavalry pistols so I have not repeated it.
For me this catalogue reminded me the attention to detail that Malcolm Lyell applied to the work he did at Holland & Holland. Rather than just sell the pistols individually he created and had made these displays which keep a group of the pistols together, a very nicely considered piece of marketing.
Every year Malcolm would have some special exhibition piece to draw attention to the company and sell, the carved guns by Alan Brown, Saurian 4g, Herculean 4g, the Rococco .410 gun, cased sets of rifles and sets of guns. These items went under the term “Products of Excellence” an annual offering which was immediately stopped by Roger Mitchell when he took over from Malcolm. I have always thought that a very, very stupid move!
At home discussing the ‘old times’ including Hyderabad with my father last weekend.
Stick making is a widely practised art in England, walking and thumb sticks of all kinds are made by craftsman all over the country, each individual maker with a particular style and price point. The county and country shows have demonstrations on technique and it is obviously a satisfying pastime to go out for a walk, harvest the stick and turn it with some hours work into something of use.
My favourites, and the small group I have put together are from this maker who is at the top of his game and carves each stick with individual game, dogs with immense care and attention. They are almost too nice to take in the field and certainly some of them have protrusions that make it difficult to warrant doing so, they are actually remarkably tough though.
These are not an item for the web store as very limited in availability. They do however make a very special gift which is why I am showing them here on The Explora to what I feel is a limited audience. For anybody interested in getting one of these as a special Christmas gift please let me know and I will see if we cannot deliver in time.
To me, a great part of the enjoyment of fine guns is the discover of things apparently insignificant; the “bits and pieces” that form parts of the whole that is history. Here are three of them that speak quietly of grand times gone by.
It is a simple thing, a finely painted tin box holding a miniature pillow anointed with some very special elixir. We often find the “Selvyt” cloth, a kind of short velvet, perhaps the predecessor to micro fiber for wiping down and preserving guns. But here is the Selvyt “Preserving Pad”. Its single purpose was to maintain the wonderful Westley Richards Hand Detachable Locks. At this modern moment it has another, to correct and maintain history properly. They are not, droplocks. They are, “Westley Richards Hand Detachable Locks, one of the grand accomplishments in gun making. Regardless of purpose, the wee Selvyt pad and tin are one of those delights of days gone by.
Next is a tool, the only of its kind I have ever encountered and one that more or less should not exist. It is a “Fixer” a tool very common in the world of the Holland & Holland Paradox and other shot and ball guns. Its job is to create a ring crimp in the cartridge case, pressing into the big groove in the Fosbery-Paradox bullet. These “normal” Paradox loads began as black powder loads (that were routinely reloaded) and evolved to some degree into the nitro era. Our “Fixer” here is Westley Richards AND Explora marked. The curious thing about it is, unlike the other shot and ball guns, the Explora began life as a very high performance nitro/cordite round. There were many sophisticated things inside: a special liner to support wads allowing the powder to burn and among others a very long “primer” that was turbo-charged with black powder or gun cotton to effectively ignite a powder that was fundamentally too slow for the application. Also, the L.T. Capped Explora bullets had only a very small central ring and the Explora cartridges I have seen are not “ring” crimped in the same way as the other shot and ball loads. In short I just do not think the average hunter/shooter loaded Westley Richards Explora cartridges. But here we are, confronted with a Westley Richards Explora Fixer. My answer to its existence is the “Special bluff cone jungle bullet”. These are big round nose bullets, with a very large central ring. I suspect this fixer is made to crimp them in place, perhaps in darkest Africa or India, with black powder.
Lastly we find a quiet relic, something to my eye that is very special. When I bought it, it was quality shot pouch in nice condition. The maker was “Bishop” but I thought little of that. When I unwrapped it, there it was; not just Bishop, but Bishop Bond St.! Now that was another Bishop altogether, this Bishop was none other than Westley Richards Bishop, The Bishop of Bond Street. This is William Bishop who was Westley Richards’ agent in London for a very long time. His hands and a Westley Richards percussion gun grace the dust cover of The Second Edition of the Bicentennial book Westley Richards, In Pursuit of The Best Gun. Also, within the book is a very interesting chapter about “The Bishop.”
The flask is simple plain leather with a steel lever top, but obviously of fine quality and one that has had care beyond the norm. All of the stitching and leather are still in good pliable working order, including the ring at the bottom. These almost always fail after 150 years. It is shown in the photograph with an original swivel, spring snap on an original harness, keeping company with Westley Richards #9360, a best percussion lock 10 bore game gun circa 1850. (The serial number conflicts with later dates, but there is a significant duplication from the mid percussion era and the early 1900s in that range). I will carry the gun again this autumn, but this year it will be charged from the Bishop’s flask. If one is afflicted with the romantic, it is pretty easy to see the Bishop in his top hat and white cuffs handing the gun to his customer and wrapping the flask in a packet of brown paper for the coach ride home.
The drawings are transferred to the guns with some corrections according to the real “geography” of the objects. I’m practicing on steel copy of British coin, 38 mm in diameter, the figure of Pistrucci’s St. George is bigger than the horsemen on the shotguns, any way, technically it is close. Sending photos of all stages of unfinished experiment.
I am sure that less than 10% of our readers will ever have the opportunity to actually visit our factory in Birmingham. Everyone has the opportunity but the distances, oceans and time factors make trips like this difficult.
Recently I was fortunate enough to have the factory photographed by one of the worlds leading interior photographers, Simon Upton a keen sportsman himself. Simon travels the world extensively shooting magnificent interiors for magazines. His client list is a who’s who of interior and decoration magazines amongst which are The World of Interiors, Vogue, House and Garden, Elle Decor, Harpers Bazaar, Architectural Digest and Vanity Fair.
We were joined for the shoot days by the man who is largely responsible for the overall look of the factory,Hubert Zandburg. I first met Hubert, a young South African interior designer in 2005, just prior to my embarking on the new factory project. Hubert like myself is a compulsive ‘collector hunter gatherer’, we cannot resist buying items of interest and allow them to take over our lives and he has a remarkable ability of displaying the collected items to be shown at their very best. Literally give him a pile of objects large and small and short hours later they will be displayed in a manner you would never have expected and to great effect.
My decision to work with Hubert on the factory came from an initial sketch he did for the lobby to display my Elephant head. He placed this on a black steel riveted stand and left it in isolation in the hallway, it excited me very much. It was a clean modern look and one I felt totally appropriate for the factory, from this clean space lobby you would enter a world of objects, colour and interest. What Hubert has created for Westley Richards is very special indeed and I remain totally indebted for his work, advise and the friendship that has resulted from our meeting all those years ago.
The result of this collaboration has received a huge amount praise, the ambiance and interest that the factory generates has been fantastic and I hope that as many of you as possible will be able, at one point in your travels, be able to visit in person. We look forward to welcoming you.
This series of photographs covers the entrance lobby, showroom and after the image of antlers on the back staircase ‘my space’ at the top of the building where I now have my office and photo studio. We did not shoot in the gun making area, another set of photographs I commissioned and taken by Brett covers this and I will be posting a selection from that shoot later on this month.
Two months ago when Paul Lantuch visited the factory after completing the finishing of the Africa rifle we discussed at length the next projects that were on the cards. These included a pair of round action 12g guns, a .577 Hand Detachable lock rifle and a further .600 NE sidelock double rifle in the Africa, India series.
I was in 2 minds whether to post these drawings of the fist project up, the pair of 12g round body sidelocks, initial thoughts of people plagiarising a practise rife in this area. Perhaps it is a bit premature, but then I felt they are such nice drawings why not!
The drawings also show nicely the process of designing an exhibition gun so that a concrete theme can be executed. So many guns are engraved with minimal, if any, layout and composition work being done in advance. Paul and I have been bouncing drawings and thoughts back and forth across the Atlantic for the past 2 months and these are now the working drawings for the guns. There will of course be additional engravings and carvings but the “theme is set”.
The pair of guns will be executed in the Rococo style, carved steel relief figures and decoration with a gold background. I am afraid you will have to be very patient to see the end result but we are off and running now as they say!