Thomas Horsley Gunmaker, was originally founded in 1832 in Doncaster, England moving within only a couple of years to the City of York where the rifle shown here was manufactured circa 1840. This particular .450 percussion rifle retains much of its original finish and patina, but is particularly interesting in that a damascus telescopic sight has been added at some stage, presumably by the maker. This is the only muzzleloading double rifle that we have seen fitted with a quick detachable telescopic sight and there certainly cannot be too many around as it would undoubtedly have been a very new invention for the time.
Going back to the business, Thomas Horsley the elder passed the company onto his son Thomas who continued the operation from Coney Street, York. On his death, circa 1915, the business passed on once again to his son, another Thomas (!) who ran it with his brothers from Blossom Street, York and later Micklegate, York, which was to be the company’s last address when it ceased trading in the late 1950’s.
Another interesting feature of this rifle is its compact size. Whilst we cannot confirm it, we have always rather romantically referred to this rifle as a ‘Howdah Rifle’ as its compact nature befits the tight space likely encountered from the howdah on the back of an Indian elephant. It would certainly be very handy to use and the telescopic sight might just help pick an animal out from amongst the tall grass. The wonderfully naive engraving on the lock plates of tiger and deer adds greatly to this hypothesis!
It is always nice to see another ‘beast’ completed here at the factory and this .577 droplock proves that we continue to lead the way with the production of big bore double rifles. Based very much on the Sutherland .577 double rifle that we have here at the factory this rifle has been built very much to be used and its new owner is itching to get the rifle into the field and hunt some dangerous game.
This rifle is the full blown magnum version of the .577 firing the 750 grain bullet, however the rifle only weighs in at 12lb 8ozs and so it is a little lively on the range! Before anyone asks, this is how the client wanted it built and so true to form we built the rifle. Lets be honest, in the face of a full on charge a handy .577 will be of less concern than a touch of recoil!
Another masterpiece has returned recently from one of our top engravers and we have to say that it is certainly one of the prettiest small bore guns that we have seen anywhere in a while.
The actual engraving is a choice made from several designs that were put forward, aimed specifically at the small bore guns that we build, in this case a 28g droplock. The client was looking for an intricate design that would look both complex and clean on the delicate frame of the gun. The etched background only adding to the overall effect of the design.
As with all elaborate scroll engraving, the actual ‘flow’ of the scrolls is very important and this particular execution seems to capture that very well. The little carved touches add considerably to the whole design and once case colour hardened, inked and brushed the gun should look spectacular. We look forward to sharing the end result with you.
You may have found us a bit quieter than usual of late. Well, that is because we have been hard at work on an exciting new project. After considerable time and effort, we at Westley Richards are proud to announce the launch of our brand new website.
Featuring the finest imagery and design, and industry-leading technology, it showcases the world of Westley Richards like never before. Designed and developed especially for those with a passion for fine guns, hunting, bespoke leather goods and the very best shooting clothing and products, the new site is a reflection of what we do here at Westley Richards in our relentless pursuit of perfection. We hope you enjoy it and we look forward to welcoming you all into our world.
There are certain things that Westley Richards is famous for, such as the drop lock action, the .425 or the snap lever work, but the .318 Accelerated Express cartridge is about as Westley as it gets and one that provokes great emotion, not only with collectors but the ‘gun nuts’ here at the factory. This .318 that we recently acquired has been round all the gun makers, each one, in turn, taking his time to admire the shape, feel and form of a classic Westley rifle, hand crafted by their predecessors 104 years ago. They cannot but appreciate the skills they possessed, feel a sense of pride that this is ‘one of our own’ and then try and work out how they are going to acquire it for themselves! It’s really quite special to have this rifle back in our possession and a rarity to say the least.
The .318 is a thing of legend and its credentials needs no questioning. Formidable for its size and a firm favourite for many a hunter, with its 250 grain bullet, it’s conquered the largest of game and has been used around the world. Even after the release and rise in popularity of the .375 H&H Magnum it was still a hugely popular calibre and other gun makers built bolt action rifles in this calibre, proving the success and demand for this round.
This rifle, which is a really super example in characterful condition was completed in 1913, features a 22″ barrel with our combination foresight, raised express sight with one standing 100 yard and four folding leaves regulated to 500 yards. The action is engraved with bold scroll, chequered bolt grip, has a flag safety and a hinged magazine plate with release latch. The full pistol grip stock measures 14 1/2″ to the centre of the steel plated butt and has a grip cap with trap, side panels with points, horn forend tip, cheek piece and a neat peep sight fitted into the nose of the comb. The rifle weighs 7lbs 14oz, has been tested on our range and shoots a 1.5″ group at 50 yards. It will be on our used gun site soon!
The British .303 cartridge was at one time a favourite choice for the small bore double rifles being built by the great rifle makers of the pre First World War years. Its great benefit was that it was the service round of the British Army which with its vast Empire meant ammunition of some description was always available. The majority of double rifles were regulated for the 31 grain cordite cartridge firing a 215 grain soft point bullet. This was a very effective load on small to medium game, solid nickel bullets were even capable of taking large and dangerous game in the right hands.
All the British makers initially offered the .303, but as each developed their own calibres to feed an imaginative market so the .318, .350, .375 2 1/2″ and others started to take a share of the market in small bores. Another theory is the ban on .450 calibre rifles by the British Government in 1907, may have worried makers about the adoption of anything too military based and so the .303 fell out of favour.
The rifle here is a lovely Westley Richards fixed lock ejector that was completed in 1900 and sold via our London, Bond Street address. Often the giveaway of these pre 1900 rifles is the lovely swamped ribs which have a short raised island holding the express sight as opposed to the later adoption of a full quarter rib. This particular rifle has all the hallmarks of the period, including fine house scroll engraving, checkered side panels and the distinctive Westley Richards kidney cheek piece. The ‘bolted’ safety is another of those lovely features that existed on many pre-war double rifles built by Westley Richards, H & H and J.Rigby.
In unmolested condition, complete in its oak and leather case the rifle is another of those classic time capsules that we all like to stumble across from time to time.
Many names spring to mind when one thinks of the most famous, important or influential engravers to have worked in the English gun trade over the years and you could reel off a list as long as your arm, but one name which should always be near the top of that list, if not the top, is Henry ‘Harry’ Kell. He was a pioneer in game scene and animal engraving and pushed the boundaries of artistic, unusual and life like styles of engraving. For three quarters of a century the name Harry Kell, both father and son, was associated with the very best London gun making.
Considered to be possibly the most famous work Harry Kell did was three miniature guns that were presented to George V on his silver jubilee and of course the pair of Purdey guns he engraved for Queen Mary’s Doll House. He engraved for all the best London gun makers but most of his work was unsigned. His work inspired a new generation of engravers, most famously Ken Hunt, who was apprentice to Harry and was taken on by Purdey’s in 1950.
Harry Kell, born Henry Albert Kell in 1880 into a family of engravers served an apprenticeship under his father, Henry John Kell (1860 – 1929), also known as Harry. Henry learnt his trade under Thomas Sanders and worked for his engraving business, Thomas Sanders & Son, which he joined around 1875. Thomas Sanders employed a small team of engravers doing work for much of the London trade and established his engraving workshops, which were based in Soho at 13 Dean Street, in 1862, moving to 6 Greek Street in 1866 and just before the outbreak of the First World War, he moved to 142 Wardour Street where he remained until the business closed in 1919.
In 1919 Henry Kell, who was already a partner in the business, took it over and named it Henry Kell & Son. Henry kept the business at 142 Wardour Street for a few years until moving it to 38a Broad Street in 1921. The business remained there until 1937 when it was moved to 45 Broadwick Street (Broad Street renamed) where it saw out the Second World War and remained until 1957.
Harry Kell was apprenticed to his father around 1894 and took over the company when his father died in 1929. Harry changed the name of the business in 1952 to Henry Kell, but remained at 45 Broadwick Street until 1957 when failing eye sight and health forced him to move into the Purdey factory, he died a year later in 1958.
The latest used gun to pass through our hands is a Purdey 12g sidelock engraved by the great man himself. Completed in 1932 as the No. 2 of a pair it was made as a lightweight gun weighing only 6lbs 3oz, with 28” barrels made for M.M. Johnson Esquire. Beautifully engraved game scenes with pheasants flushing from a wood, surrounded by intricate rose and scroll on the left lock, partridges in a woodland scene, again surrounded by rose and scroll on the right and a retrieving spaniel on the bottom of the action with more rose and scroll. The gun retains some lovely case colour and is a truly superb example of what between the wars engraving had become and what lead the way for future engravers, pioneered by the likes of Harry Kell.
Well they just keep coming! Another .500 3″ hand detachable lock double rifle has just been completed from engraving this week and it once again shows a subtle variation on the classic Westley Richards ‘house’ scroll. Yet another style of carved fence which combines a banner with acanthus leaves, nice indeed.
It seems that we are one of the few double rifle manufacturers actually getting anything out there these days. The beauty of this rifle is that it is going to a young enthusiastic hunter who will use it considerably, once again proving that we build genuine user rifles as well as the fabulous presentation pieces you see on this blog.
Whilst the shooting season may well be behind us now it is always nice to be finishing guns with a view to the coming season which for many is only 6 months away! The pair of guns shown here will certainly be one of the first pairs put to good use when the grouse season starts.
These 16g guns are built with 30″ barrels on our hand detachable lock action with traditional full scroll engraving, case colour hardening, double trigger and Prince of Wales grips. The slim beaver-tail forends are an unusual choice on a pair of guns for the British shooting scene, such forends found more commonly on guns built for the US market. That said the new owner shoots big days and is a big man so the extra surface area of the beaver-tail should make for comfortable grip on a hot peg!
Presented in our dark tan lightweight leather case with tools and gold leaf leather label, they make for a wonderful package which the new owner will have years of fun using. Hopefully the grouse numbers this year will be kind to him!
When it comes to shotgun shooting, eye dominance plays a pivotal role in the shooter’s success and can totally change the style in which you shoot or the gun you use. There are various types of eye dominance and some weird and wonderful ways to deal with them. For the lucky ones, we have absolute dominance of the eye looking down the rib, in my case right handed – right eye dominant. No action needed. For the nearly lucky ones, they have predominant dominance, meaning one eye is nearly but not quite fully dominant, this normally doesn’t cause any problems with the right amount of cast on the gun but some people need to squint the weaker eye so the other becomes fully dominant. For the not so lucky, these are the ones with true cross dominance, i.e. right handed but left eye dominant or vice versa. Actually quite common and there are a few remedies such as a squinting/closing the opposite eye, use a full cross over/eyed gun or, depending how ambidextrous you are, shoot from the other shoulder. Easier said than done! Intermittent or occasional cross dominance can be caused by poor focus or bad gun mounting and indeterminate dominance is when both eyes are fighting for control. Lastly we have central vision, where neither eye is dominant, so to combat this either put a patch on the opposite eye or shoot a central vision gun. Although every gun is different, normal cast measurements for a central vision or sometimes known as a semi cross over gun are: 1/2” at the comb, 7/8″ at the face, 3/4″ at the heel and 7/8” at the toe. The stock is often swept at the face to allow the head to move over further to create the central vision down the rib without the cast at heel being too dramatic. If you have absolute eye dominance it is certainly a bizarre sight picture when mounting a central vision gun but you have to admire the skill in the stocking and the ingenuity to overcome this, what I can only imagine, quite an annoying eye dominance to have. But I have no doubt the well-seasoned central vision shooter can shoot as good as any other eye dominance and I should imagine it would be quite fun to watch!
Recently through the WR doors came this interesting pair of Westley Richards 12g sidelock ejectors with central vision stocks. Completed in 1962 they have 26” barrels with double trigger, Holland style hand detachable, sidelock actions engraved with a large floral scroll. The dark, well figured stocks measure 14 3/4” to the centre of the butt and are cast off 9/16″ at the comb 3/4″ at the face, 15/16″ at the heel and 15/16″ at the toe. The guns are in overall very good condition and will be on our used gun site shortly. I’m sure there is a central vision shooter out there, somewhere!
Stocker, Keith Haynes, taking detailed cast measurements.
It’s rare to have central vision or cross eyed stocks on new guns these days but it certainly was much more common place between wars and for those of you who have been to the factory, you will remember the painting we have on the stairs of Colonel H.H. Shri Sir Ranjitsinhji Vibhaji, Maharaja Jam Saheb of Nawanagar, an esteemed cricketer who played for England and was said to be one of the best batsman of all time, standing proudly with two shot lions and a cross eyed stock double rifle. From the research done several years ago, we assume that the rifle in the painting is his Holland & Holland .240 cross eyed stock double rifle, which he ordered in 1922.