Think of a tie and the image of a gentleman in his finest business suit springs to mind. There is something about a perfectly knotted tie that gives you the confidence to take on whatever obstacles the day might throw in your way. In years gone by it would have been unheard of for any self-respecting gentleman whether president or postman to turn up to his place of business without a properly knotted tie around his neck.
Whilst not all of us here at Westley Richards can confess to being daily tie wearers and gone are the days where the gunmakers donned a tie in the undertaking of their duties, we do find ourselves drawn by the idea of wearing a tie on a more frequent basis. Now comes the problem. Whilst there are still a few remaining fine tie makers in England, their focus seems to be on paisley, blocks, stripes and dots, and whilst this is all well and good for the masses it does lack personality and individuality. Those ties that do reflect our hobbies, such as shooting, either appear dated in their motifs or are made poorly from a material that is stretching itself to be called silk!
So here at Westley Richards we set about making the finest ties we could, pulling together designers, manufacturers, printers and a whole raft of clothing to ensure the colours would work for shoot days or office days. First, we commissioned four distinctive designs of Grouse, Pheasant, Partridge and Mallard with the aim that they should be easily recognisable up-close and abstract at a distance.
We then took these designs to one of England’s premier tiemakers who put us in touch with one of the few remaining silk screen printers in England. Printing each design by hand on heavyweight 36 ounce silk and incorporating the W.R & Co. Ltd logo into the design, we selected a broad range of colours to suit (no pun intended!) the tastes of both the city and country man.
Once printed the silk was passed over to the tie maker to undergo the 9 stage process involved in creating a luxury 5 fold tie, a process that is only possible by hand and uses 50% more fabric than a standard tie, giving it a thick luxurious feel, ensuring a perfect knot every time.
The end result is a truly unique series of ties made to the very highest standards here in England. Available in a host of colourways there should be no excuse now turning up in the shooting field, or for that matter the office, without looking the distinguished gentleman!
Wilderness – noun – definition – an uncultivated, uninhabited, and inhospitable region. On our small island that we call home, there are few, if any places you can truly call a wilderness. The cities and towns are forever expanding into the countryside with the government’s relentless obsession of building thousands of houses on productive farmland, the dog walkers who see the woodlands as an extension of their garden for their beloved pooch to run riot wherever it so chooses and not forgetting the ramblers who exercise their ‘right to roam’ as if their lives depended on it. For the game, and those of us who chose to pursue it, we’re coming into contact with other people more than ever.
However in saying that, the Scottish Highlands is, in my opinion, our last true wilderness and one that befits its definition. Uncultivated – definitely, uninhabited – mostly, inhospitable – more often than not. An area and landscape that should need no introduction, it still offers a truly wild hunting experience for those who wish to escape the crowd, be surrounded by utter beauty and work hard for their trophy.
My latest hunt took me to a remote and central part of the highlands where my friend from college is the head stalker on a 20,000 acre hunting estate. The vast open hills, lochs, rivers and forests make up this sporting paradise where the Red Stag is king, or monarch of the glen as he’s more famously known. The enchanting hills are steeped in Scottish history and folklore, once home to hardy and violent clans such as the Robertsons, Macdonalds and Campbells, they have in recent history been made famous by the location for films such as Harry Potter and was the setting for the dramatic finale to the James Bond film, Skyfall.
The stalk is a hard one, the terrain is difficult to traverse, the hills are steep and the weather is often miserable, but that’s what I love about it. You have to put in the hard yards and be willing to graft for your game. The sodden ground is energy sapping and the peat hags that crisscross the moor are an obstacle course in themselves. The deer, however, can cover the ground like it’s not even there. They lie up on knowles which provide great vantage points, meaning the final approach to your chosen stag is more often than not a long and wet crawl through the soaking moss, mud and peat.
The 8 wheeled Argocat, which handles the hills like no other machine, is probably the most unpleasant vehicle to ride in but you’re certainly glad of it after a full day on your feet. It is also the means by which the game is extracted from the hill. Ponies were always traditionally the method used to get stags back to the larder but they are time consuming and often extremely stubborn. There are many stories of pony boys who have hiked miles to retrieve a stag, only for the pony to slip its lead and bolt all the way back to the stable, closely followed by a cursing, irate pony boy.
We spent the first 5 hours stalking and glassing the wide expanse, only to come across several small groups of hinds and young stags. The south west side of the glen was facing a strong and bitter wind, so we hiked over the ridge and dropped down into the sheltered corrie looking for a shootable stag. After a further hour of bumping hinds we spotted a good stag which was bedded down on a knowle, surveying his land. The wind was right but his view spanned nearly every direction, so it took a further hour and a half of stalking and maneuvering the edge of the loch to get into a good spot from which to take the shot. The rut has just started and a few stags were jostling for dominance, sorting out who was the boss amongst them. My stag was still bedded down when a younger and better stag approached him for a challenge, upon getting to his feet, the shot presented itself and the .270 cleanly dispatched him. The stag, which was roughly 8/9 years old, was past his prime and was certainly going back, the right beast to take and a good representative of a Scottish hill stag. No match in terms of size compared with their lowland cousins due to the hard life and poor diet but every bit the worthy trophy.
For me it’s hugely important to explore, hunt and experience these wild lands. To reconnect with what it is that we enjoy and treasure about the sport. To refresh your enthusiasm for adventure and savour in the solitude of such a place that will hopefully, always remain, a wilderness.
This last week Vincent Crowley payed us a visit to deliver back one of his more recent masterpieces. Vince and I have known each other from our earliest days in the ‘gun trade’ having both started out with Westley Richards. It has been a pleasure working with him for over 20 years now, on some of the finest guns and rifles to leave the Westley Richards factory.
Vince has always been one of those lucky talents and I remember with envy some of the exceptional pieces he created as little more than a kid. Both of us have matured (supposedly!) since those early days and through the kind patronage of some fantastic clients, have been privileged to put together some genuine masterpieces of the gun-maker and engravers art.
Gold feathers add beautiful detail to the lock plates.
The gun shown here is one of our classic hand detachable or ‘droplock’ shotguns in 28 bore. With this particular gun Vince has used a process where raised steel scenes are actually carved onto the main action body and cover plate, rather than being of a relief carved style. This gives the scenes unparalleled dimension and it is almost as though the birds are flying out of the backgrounds and streaming past you. For interests sake, the gun is adorned with Bobwhite Quail, Chukar and Pheasant, with a Black Labrador on the trigger guard bow.
As we have come to expect with Vince, the rest of the gun has a wonderful combination of super fine rose bouquets and scroll, carved fences, pierced lever work and super delicate gold work. All of us are very much looking forward to seeing the finished article, as there are a few other nice touches to complete the final package.
Pheasant adorn the cover plate, whilst a Black Labrador retrieves a bird.
Bobwhite quail stream down the right side of the action.
A few months ago we posted images of this gun fresh back from engraving and now here it finally is all complete and ready to head out to the USA. The transformation from ‘in the white’ parts to a finished gun really is quite distinctive and the gun as a whole becomes an object of both gunmaking art and functionality.
One of the more subtle features of the gun is the actual colouration of the steel after it has been case colour hardened and subsequently brushed. All of our double guns and rifles go through the case colour hardening process as carried out by the St.Ledger brothers here in the old Birmingham gun quarter.
Before CCH the steel has a certain silver quality about it that is in basic terms raw and bright. The actual CCH process creates a surface hardness which allows the steel to flex under stress yet provides a protective outer shell or ‘case’. When the fine surface layer of colour is actually removed the steel maintains a slightly more greyed tone which adds a real subtlety to parts that might otherwise look like a shined coin!
In direct sunlight it is often possible to see the very finest traces of colour which can be used effectively to enhance the engraving of the gun. Some engravers will insist on finishing their own work for this very reason. With Westley Richards, no matter who is finishing the gun or rifle, we always try to leave CCH on the triggers, action flats, action face, forend iron and inside the trigger bow. This always adds a tasteful touch, particularly when the gun is disassembled for travel. It also seems such a waste to remove them all!
The gold flush game scenes must be carefully cleaned and highlighted after the case colour hardening process.
The finished article in its lightweight leather case, complete and ready to go.
How nice is this?! The latest treasure to arrive at the factory is this simply stunning little Westley Richards .22 rook rifle. Originally built in 300 calibre, it has been Parker rifled to .22LR, as were so many rook rifles over the years and comes complete with an Aldis Bros Ltd scope on Parker Hale rings. The 25” octagonal barrel with matted top is fitted with a standing 50 yard express sight and two folding leavings regulated at 100 & 150 yards.
The action has our classic semi bold scroll coverage, snap lever work, beetle back safety and retains lots of original case colour. The pistol grip stock, which has been pinned at the head, is beautifully figured and has an extended tang, grip cap, silver stock oval and vulcanite stock extension to 14 ½”. The snap forend has the traditional horn tip.
A quaint and very rare little rifle, it weighs 6lbs 13.5oz with the scope on and the rifle comes in the original case with some interesting accoutrements. Completed on the 22ndMarch 1907 for ‘Twyford’, it was, for many years, the property of Major Ernest & Mrs. Vivian Ambler, of Branton Court, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire. Major Ambler of the West Yorkshire Regiment passed away in 1958 and Mrs. Ambler, who lived to be 94, passed away in 2002, which was when this rook rifle was acquired by its latest owner, another passionate collector. Their house was said to be a treasure trove of fantastic art work, antiques and arms. And clearly this little rook rifle had spent many years in a fine gun collection being well looked after.
The last time a rifle like this arrived back at the factory was in 2002 and was fortunately caught on camera. For those who don’t know, Clarissa & The Countryman was series of TV programmes in the UK which followed TV chef Clarissa Dickson-Wright and her friend Johnny Scott, involved in hunting and all things country pursuits related, a show which now would be the thing of nightmares for mainstream media bosses.
The TV crew paid Simon a visit at the Bournbrook factory and below is a short video of Simon inspecting a very similar rook rifle and an interview with barrel filer Roy Hall and mater engraver Rashid El Hadi (with a small clip from the proof house half way through).
As I sit and write this latest blog the UK is currently in the grip of a heatwave and the mercury is due to hit 88°F here in Birmingham today, which is hot for England! With weather like this, thoughts of last winter’s sport are a distant memory and it’s hard to image that in just over 6 weeks’ time we will be putting back on our tweeds, dusting off our shooting kit and heading north for the start of the grouse shooting season.
While most people are thinking about the beach rather than the shooting season at this time of year, estates all over the UK have been busy preparing for this coming season’s sport from the moment the final horn blew on the last drive back in February. Relying on purely wild numbers only, moorland keepers are taking stock of what grouse they have on the ground from their spring and summer counts and are planning drives and days accordingly. Lowland keepers are beginning to welcome this year’s birds to the woods and over the next few months will be feeding them into the various drives of the shoot. Equally as important will be the job of pushing back straying birds from the boundaries with their dedicated team of dogs.
We’ve been busy preparing guns for the coming season. We have recently completed an engraving job on a pair of droplocks for an American client who asked us to polish out the old scroll engraving and re-engrave a Cock Pheasant and Hen Pheasant motifs on the cover plates. Beautifully executed by Bradley Tallett, the iris of each bird is gold inlaid along with a gold ring border. The surrounding space is tastefully engraved with scroll work to match the rest of the action. Next step is to case colour harden the plates and brush and ink the motifs.
The client and his team are regular visitors to our shores to hunt driven pheasant and partridge and these guns are now a fitting homage to their chosen quarry.
Wishing all of our American readers a happy Fourth of July!
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.
As another busy week draws to a close and we head into the bank holiday weekend, below is a small selection of shots from the factory floor. Although this is technically deemed as the quieter time of the year, there’s certainly no let-up in the work load and we’re as busy as ever!
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.
In February 2018 the British Shooting Show celebrates its 10th Anniversary. The show has come a long way since its inception, and under the guidance of John Allison and Anne Bertrand has grown from being almost a local show into the pre-eminent gun, rifle and shooting show in the UK.
This coming year the show moves to the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, Westley Richards very own home town. The show promises to be the biggest of its kind in the UK, with prominent manufacturers from the traditional hand built gun market, including Holland and Holland, Boss & Co., Watson Brothers and John Rigby, through to the highly respected Browning, Perazzi, Beretta, Blaser, Mauser and Ceasar Guerini to name but a few.
Access to the show could not be easier with direct links by road, rail and air. Re-locating to the NEC certainly brings a more international accessibility and the show is sure to continue to go from strength to strength. We look forward to seeing you there.