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.
It is always nice to find rifles with good provenance and the Potocki family certainly bring that. This .318 carbine rifle is very nice in a few ways, we don’t see many surviving Westley Richards rifles in this original carbine format, rarely when we do will they have the original telescope and pouch. To have it in its original case and with provenance is the icing on the cake in this instance. This rifle was built for the 3rd Count Alfred Potocki who inherited the family estates during the first world war and who was reputed to be the wealthiest man in Europe. Descendent of William the Conqueror, godson to Kaiser Wilhelm II, this final Count Alfred was related to virtually all the royalty of Europe. Though land and legal reforms in the 1920s stripped him of some of his inherited properties and noble priviledges, Count Alfred was believed by some to be the wealthiest man in pre-Second World War Europe. Educated at Oxford and Vienna, Alfred traveled the world visiting royalty, hunting on safari, collecting impressive works of art to add to his palace collection and tending to his many properties throughout the continent. In the years before World War II, royalty and the super-wealthy dined, hunted and vacationed at Count Potocki’s palace and his several impressive lodge houses throughout the area.
Another famous member of the family Count Józef Potocki (1862-1922) inherited his mother’s estate in Antoniny, while his elder brother Roman was master of Łańcut. A man of remarkable talent and energy, he turned the 55,000 ha property into a very profitable entreprise. His gains financed the expansion of a stud via acquisitions of new stock in Egypt, India and the Middle East, which brought him in contact with Anne & Wilfred Blunt. His true passion however was hunting. Józef organized several remarkable expeditions in the 1890s to India, Ceylon, Somaliland and later to the Sudan, recounted in beautifully bound and illustrated books. One of them was translated in English under the title “Sport in Somaliland” and this book remains one of the most expensive and collectable books in the big game hunting department, often commanding prices in excess of £6000, a copy of which I have never ‘manned up’ enough and bought!
I think we have only made a handful of pairs of 16g hand detachable lock guns during my time here. As I have mentioned in the past the 16g is a fantastic gauge of gun, filling the position of weight and power so well between the 12g and 20g. The wide variety of cartridges available for 12 and 20 doesn’t cover the 16g as well, which has perhaps dampened the popularity of the gauge, that said there is an increasing rather than decreasing offering now available and we seem to be making more 16g guns now than ever previously over the last 30 years.
This pair of guns were completed in 2008. The guns have 30″ barrels, 15″ stocks which are currently cast on and can be altered cast off. The 2 3/4″ guns are choked 1/4 & 3/8 in both pairs of barrels and they weigh in at 6lbs 1oz. Bore and barrel measurements are as new.
With the £ value against the $ so low now these guns are a rare and excellent opportunity for an as new cased pair of game guns. This pair of 16g guns are on our used gun sitewith full selection of detailed photographs.
It is well known that the Birmingham gun trade, in addition to servicing its own requirements, supplied an enormous variety of individual parts, part finished and finished guns to the both the London and the provincial gun trade. There are many examples, for example I have a copy of the records of the London gunmaker James Lang & Co. Ltd and its later incarnation as Lang & Hussey and I’ve lost count of the number of times the name Osbourne appears in the ledgers under the heading “from”. In the past I believe that this was perhaps an inconvenient truth to some people, but now the same knowledge is recognised for what it is; unequivocal evidence of the diverse range skills and entrepreneurship of generations of craftsman from Birmingham and the Black Country. What was often of less concern to many in the past was the supply of parts and part-finished guns from Birmingham to the provincial gun trade. I’ll put my cards on the table; I am a strong advocate of the hypothesis that numerous examples of guns can be found bearing the names of provincial makers that are unknown to many but are at least equal in terms of quality and craftsmanship to those that carry the name of many well-known London makers.
My paternal line has at least part of its origins in Manchester and I have in my possession a memorial plaque or “Widow’s Penny” sent to soldier’s families during the Great War bearing the name of my Great Grandfather, Private Thomas Newton of the 1st Battalion King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, who fell at Ypres on 2nd May 1915. When I learned that there was also a Manchester gun maker called Thomas Newton, I had all the excuses I needed to start a collection.
One of the first Thomas Newton guns I acquired was an early 20th century Anson & Deeley type box ejector. It was in overall good condition but there were a few dings and scratches on the stock which had also been spoiled with a varnish-like finish, so I set about to strip the old finish, raise the dents and apply a proper hand rubbed oil finish.
When I took the forend wood off the iron work, I found the words ‘Westley Richards & Co’ a number, which I assumed is a part number, and ‘WR’ in a triangle engraved on the ejector box.
I had started researching the history of the maker Thomas Newton and the businesses which subsequently traded under his name and now another piece of the jigsaw had just fallen into place. What else might it tell me I thought? I got in touch with Karena Clode whose business card I had picked up at a CLA Game Fair, I emailed a picture of the ejector box and asked if these marks could be used to date the part or if anything was known about the supply of these to the Manchester gun makers such as Newton ? My email was forwarded to Trigger who quickly confirmed that the marks were original and it was a genuine Westley Richards supplied part, but unfortunately no records existed to show when such parts were supplied to the trade or anything else.
As quickly as that door on the history of Thomas Newton’s business had opened, it had closed, but never mind it was further proof of the provenance of my Manchester gun; Westley Richards played a part in creating my wonderful box lock ejector before it moved north to Manchester. My collection of guns, both hammer and hammerless and other pieces of shooting ephemera bearing the name Thomas Newton, has grown since I discovered the connection with Westley Richards’ work for the gun trade. Now, I’ve always wanted a Westley Richards and I’m wondering is this the excuse I need to start another collection?
Dear Simon, I have an idea for what I think would be an interesting blog post, that only you can do, and that is valuation in buying and selling of the kind of guns that WR deals in. A great example would be the recent Lancaster’s. They are a time machine. In fact if you didn’t own them I would be suspect. Single guns, not so hard I know. But more toward unique guns. I know that you must have ready buyers and high volume collectors for a lot of the high end guns. I think that folks would be interested in how condition, rarity, attribution, etc. is weighted in you thinking to arrive at a price. I play this game all the time in my mind seeing a gun and mentally attempting to price it. I think it would be of great interest.
When taking orders for our new guns it is often quite hard to sell a best quality case to go with the gun or rifle. This is understandable, they are hand made to each gun or pair of guns and as such expensive, they also have no real practical value for todays travel as cannot be checked in to a flight and taken on hunts, they are suited to car, private jet or ocean carriage only, cases to be handled with care.
I think for me, the case is always the cornerstone of the guns of value, the original case play’s a very important part in my whole buying, valuation and selling process. This applies to antique guns as well as what we can term as modern guns, those built since 1900 to the same designs we use today. So if we were to roll on 100 years from orders taken today, I think that then the original fitted makers case will play an important part in the value of the guns and more than return the investment made. I know one large collector who has in recent year stopped casing his new guns, this from a practical reason as much as anything, he has a whole huge shed full of cases and the logistics of finding a case is quite complicated. I do however feel this is a mistake as when the time comes to sell these high end multi barrelled sets of guns, things are going to get in a muddle.
So firstly I believe the presentation of the guns is an extremely important factor in the valuation of the guns. Simply put a pair of mint condition guns in a plastic travel case will not be as valuable as a the same pair of guns in their original case with all the accessories, the whole package patinated with age.
For my part a decision ‘to buy’ or ‘desire to buy’ is normally made within a few seconds of opening a case, it is a time at the gun trade shows, private homes or wherever the item is offered to me for the ‘poker face’. At this point you will first see the make, type and condition of the guns, you may open the case to reveal some heavily and badly restored guns or open the case to what you know are guns that have been sleeping untouched in their baize, velvet or calfskin lined box for many years. The seller will no doubt be looking for a reaction! The make and type for me is unimportant at this point as any gun in great condition has value, it will just be relative, a best name one more of course than a lesser name. The Westley Richards used gun department has always dealt in all makes of guns and rifles, we have never limited ourselves to dealing in our own product alone and over recent years have handled a sold a huge variety of different makes and types of firearms, condition of whatever gun we handle will determine the price.
Would I want this Gun back at this Price?
One final and important part of my valuation process is asking myself if the price I have set would lead me to wanting to buy the guns back in the future or would this be a sale that I would have to hide from the remainder of my life. I have built my business on a relatively small customer base, one to which I have provided an excellent service including finding best and unusual guns for their collection, items never seen on our used gun sites. The pool of very good guns is not deep, there are many average guns in the market, sporting guns which have now tired with age and whilst seemingly cheap are now in the breaking down stage, extremely expensive to maintain with new parts, assuming you can find the gun maker to effect the repair. Knowing that the really great guns are few and far between means that at some point in my career I will be wanting to buy the guns back so I can repeat the deal with a new collector. My clients are very familiar with my constant nagging about isn’t it time you sold me back this or that gun, you must be fed up with it by now!
When I value a gun I never go over the top, I always charge what I feel is a good fair market price and this price will have come from my knowledge of the market for the type of gun, the presentation, condition and finally my rule will this price allow me to make a further deal some years down the road.
Many of the prices asked now on guns for sale are what can only be called ‘pie in the sky.’ I see so many guns with quite extraordinary prices on, totally unjustifiable and they just tend to sit and sit for years unsold getting in worse and worse condition as they are hauled from show to show and handled badly. These guns have either been purchased badly and the owner is adamant about not making a loss or in order to win consignment sales high tempting prices are given the owners and they are unachievable. The Peterson collection of recent years is a typical example of highly overpriced shotguns and rifles, items at $150,000 which should be more like $70,000 which is what they would perhaps fetch on the open market.
Valuation is an important aspect of the business, quite frankly we need to be selling the guns to remain in business and turn our stock like any other business. None of us want to leave money on the table but in order to get deals working on a constant and regular basis I think it is best when valuing guns to leave some incentive as a knowledgeable buyer will know he is being well looked after and return to do more business, which after all is what it is all about.
The breech loader got its real introduction to England in 1851, when Casimir Lefaucheux exhibited his breech-loading pin-fire at the Great Exhibition in London’s Crystal Palace. Legend has it that Edwin Hodges, a multi-talented ‘gunmaker to the trade’ with Islington workshops, made an adaptation of the Lefaucheux gun for the established West End firm of Joseph Lang.
Lang’s gun is widely credited as the first proper sporting gun in Britain that successfully combined pin-fire cartridges with a usable, forward facing, under-lever locking mechanism with barrels that drop in a hinge. The idea stuck and breech-loading pin-fires were to dominate the scene for the next fifteen years.
While this step-change in technology was instigated by a London gun maker developing a continental idea, as with so much else in the history of sporting gun development, Birmingham firms, including Westley Richards, were at the forefront of perfecting new concepts and devising better operating mechanisms.
Pin-fire ammunition, though quicker than muzzle loading, was imperfect and the quest to improve upon it was quickly underway. However, in tandem with ammunition developments, the other challenge was to provide a quick, efficient and safe method of locking barrels to breech face. Many sportsmen were afraid that the new breech-loaders would come apart in their faces. Others claimed no breech-loader would ever ‘shoot as hard’, to use a then common phrase, as a muzzle-loader.
The development of the Dolls Head. From Bottom, Pull back lever, Rotating with developed Dolls Head, short lever rotate over extension, Top the first breech opening gun sold by Westley Richards
Among the first and most influential improvements on the rather flimsy Lefaucheux locking mechanism was the Westley Richards ‘doll’s head’. This is based on a projection from the breech ends of the barrels, extending from the rib. It has a rounded ‘head’ with a slot and the whole is drawn into a corresponding cut-out in the standing breech. The slot is engaged by a sliding top-bolt, preventing gravity from pulling down the barrels once the gun is closed.
Very early guns built with doll’s head rib extensions had a simple, long turning lever, which blocked the path of the doll’s head when closed. The first of these was made in 1858 as a pin-fire.
The first version of the, now familiar, system employed on Westley Richards guns features an 1862 patent sliding top-lever, rather than one that pivots. It most closely resembles the more commonly encountered Horsley of 1871 in the way the lever is operated. When the lever is pulled back with the right thumb, it slides the locking bolt out of the slot in the doll’s head.
The second version quickly followed in 1864 and became the basis of a classic. While examples of the first version are rare, those of the second version are legion. They span the pin-fire and centre-fire eras. In this second version, the lever rotates to the side when pressed with the right thumb. This rotation operates the removal of the top-bolt from it’s slot. This is still the sole means of securing the barrels to the action. To modern eyes it seems flimsy but it works and many guns built this way are still in regular use. It was employed on both shotguns and double rifles.
The third version of the Westley Richards action retains the doll’s head with its top-bolt as an effective third bite. However, the main holding mechanism is Purdey’s patent double under-bolt of 1863. The combination of the Purdey bolt and the Westley Richards bolted doll’s head is retained to this day in the firm’s double rifles and shotguns.
The Westley Richards treble-grip bolting system was used by other firms in the wider gun trade but far less commonly than the combination of top-lever, Scott Spindle, or Greener lever-work, operating a Purdey bolt. The wider trade favoured simplicity and the doll’s head concept was often imitated in the form of similar looking devices without a third bolt or grip. Third grips became a feature of Birmingham guns, while many London makers preferred the cleaner lines of a gun without a rib extension, preferring to rely on well-made actions and a Purdey bolt alone.
Greener’s rival ‘Treble Wedge Fast’ concept consists of a simple vertical slot in the breech, accommodating a rib extension that drops in, drilled with a hole to accommodate a round-section bolt, which slides into place horizontally, thereby bolting the barrels to the action through the fences, as well as via the Purdey under-bolt. The wider gun trade adopted versions of this system in all grades of gun. When made well, it is very secure but in lower grades, where the fit of parts is not perfect, the benefits of the Greener top-bolt are dubious.
Some firms even adopted a version of the doll’s head without any kind of bolt. The concept persisted with designers and the doll’s head extension became a key part of the Webley & Brain screw-grip action that was so widely used throughout the gun trade in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Westley Richards hammer guns of the 1860s bridged the development in ammunition from pin-fire to centre-fire. After Daw introduced the centre-fire to the British market in 1861, it began to gain traction. Today it is possible to find Westley Richards hammer guns, as described above, made as pin-fires or centre-fires and a number will be conversions from pin-fire to centre-fire.
The aesthetic norms for hammer guns developed along with the mechanical improvements. Early Westley Richards guns will typically be of bar-in-wood form, with most of the metal of the action covered by a veneer of stock wood, extending to the knuckle. The forend wood is similarly shaped, with wood enveloping the forend iron and looking somewhat like the hinges in the exoskeleton of a crustacean, hence the widely used term ‘crab joint’ to describe this style of gun.
As the 1870s progressed, hammer guns gradually lost their wood coverings and became the familiar pattern of exposed locks and actions with stocking limited to the areas behind the action and forend wood reducing to the, now familiar, ‘splinter’ style, with an exposed iron fitting into the knuckle.
Westley Richards were early to the party when hammerless guns began to gain favour. As patentees of the Anson & Deeley action in 1875, the firm were quick to favour this simple, brilliant and reliable hammerless gun as their house style, while many other firms continued to make hammer guns and experiment with various styles of hammerless action. I think that in the minds of the Westley Richards directors at the time, the hammer gun era was over in 1875.
The Classic .425 Westley Richards rifle has become a scarcer and scarcer item to locate. The distinctive style and performance make it a desirable rifle for both collectors and hunters alike. The rifle has a totally distinct look which is, like the hand detachable locks, unique to our company. The .425 round is a match for the .416 Rigby, Rigby would say their round is more powerful and we would of course claim our is. Both use a .410gr bullet. The .425 is certainly more comfortable to shoot and being built on the standard size Mauser action is also faster to feed and load. The drop magazine was designed to take ‘at speed’ the contents of the 5 round clips of ammunition by which it was sold.
Finding a .425 rifle like this in its original specification and without having been through poor restoration or repairs is a very welcome surprise these days, it is a rifle I would like to be able to sell frequently but rarely get the chance. This particular rifle has been ‘sleeping’ in South Africa ‘has done a little work’ and is now home here at the factory and will be up on our used gun site shortly.
The rifle was built in 1937 and has the original 28″ barrel ( 27 3/8″ from front ring of which many of which have been shortened to 25-6″) stock length of 14 3/8″ and weighs 9lbs 15oz. The rifle is not cased and the accessories shown are from my collection of bits and do not come with the rifle. We do make in our leather shop a replica of the sling with hooks and also the belt and ammo holder.
I am afraid this will be a general, visual post rather than a technical one, I took these photos just before I left the factory on Friday and I didn’t note down any of the details of the pair of pistols, the main and obvious question being the bore size. I was slightly (actually very) overwhelmed by the quality and condition of the whole package and the details seemed irrelevant at the time.
The Howdah pistol was the ‘last line of defence’ for a hunter high on top of an elephant whilst hunting tiger. If a Tiger was to charge the elephant and climb up to attack the people occupying the Howdah there was little room in which to defend oneself at the last moment, it was likely that the muzzle loading long arm had been discharged by this time.. Hence the Howdah pistol the short barrel, large bore firearm that could be drawn and manoeuvred in tight space, providing a killing blow, or in the case of this pair 4 barrels, 4 killing blows.
I have always liked very much the whole concept of the Howdah pistol and it was always something that I wanted to make a current version of, a large bore rifle cased together with a matching double barrel Howdah pistol. Our laws on barrel length and pistols has prevented that project from ever happening which is a shame.
Whilst I have seen a small amount of Howdah pistols in my years dealing, they are certainly not common and they have normally been single and quite plain models. I had a pair of Holland & Holland .577 Howdah pistols many years ago at Las Vegas and I remember them selling in a flash.
This pair is quite unique and the condition is remarkable, all the accessories down to spare springs numbered for each lock. One of the oil bottles even has the seal unbroken and contains the very oil filled with 150 years ago, quite remarkable!
This sculpture is at the Royal Armoury in Leeds where the National Collection of Firearms is held. It depicts very well the drama of the tiger hunt and the moments leading up to where a Howdah pistol would be useful if the shot he has held is a miss!
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.
After a couple thousand targets, a few doves and one armadillo who insisted on digging under everything in our yard, I’m down that road far enough to have formed some opinions about .410 guns and one Westley Richards gun in particular.
First and foremost, this gun has given me more enjoyment and just plain fun than any gun of any sort I’ve ever had. Super quick, super light, no recoil and super unforgiving if I don’t pay very strict attention. When the stars align and things seem right with the world, targets break and birds come tumbling down. When they don’t, they really don’t.
For me, at least, the lesson is pay attention to all the little details; leads, follow through and especially gun mount. The slightest error in any of these things and my success rate drops, really drops.
Chokes and loads have been an education. While I have neither the patience nor the statistical background to properly dissect the mathematical meaning of all those little dots on our plating board I can determine if the centers of patterns are where they belong and if a bird or a target is in danger at various distances in those patterns. Loads go where I point, no question and with both barrels. Half ounce loads of number nines will break every target on the skeet field if I do my part but much beyond 25 yards with .004″ constriction skeet chokes things fall apart very quickly. In my opinion this is simply not an adequate combination for game shooting. However, thankfully there is a three quarter ounce of number eight and one half loads from Winchester which is another story indeed. I’ve shot several hundred of these loads at various distances at targets both feathered and clay and I see little difference between success rates with the .410 Winchester loads and with standard 28 gauge loads. If the Quail gods smile this season I fully intend to do as much damage to the population as I possibly can with this little .410 as the primary weapon.
By this point the gun has been pretty well vetted and I can say as an absolute fact that the function has been perfect. Ejectors always work, trigger pulls consistent and lock up is the same after a couple thousand rounds as it was with the first box of cartridges.
For whatever it might be worth, the view that a .410 is a silly, useless toy is simply wrong.
A really good .410 with the proper chokes and loads used under reasonable conditions can be as enjoyable a gun as one could hope for.
Proof of the pudding being I run my eye over a group of pretty nice guns almost daily and recently realized I’ve used almost nothing else for the past two months. That is something that has never happened with me prior to this Westley Richards .410 showing up at our door. I’m fortunate indeed.