The English gunmaker William Moore & Grey produce shotguns, rifles and pistols and have come a along way since they began in 1808. GunsOnPegs look at their historical journey, their connection with famous names in the gunmaking industry, to where they are today, and why their more individual approach to gunmaking represents the tradition of William Moore & Grey accordingly. Manton was probably one of the most influential gunmakers ever. Although he never knew it, it was from his firm that several of the later iconic English gunmakers mastered their skill. William Moore and William Parker Grey were two of them. William Moore set up his own firm in 1808 to be joined later by William Parker Grey. Together, they formed William Moore & Grey, a London best gunmaker that was different by all means.
They produced shotguns, rifles, pistols and retailed Tranter revolvers and later also Webley revolvers. Owners of several patents, they had employees such as Henry Atkin and the equally famous Frederick Beesely who are both very much part of gunmaking legend.
The production of military guns as well as the partnership through Moore & Harris in Birmingham underlined that William Moore & Grey were in the Victorian time, a modern and dynamic company. Due to the reputation that they were building, at one time they had to confirm that hundreds of fake guns of poor quality produced in Belgium and commercialized in the US were not made by William Moore & Grey despite having the name engraved on them. William Moore & Grey were gunmakers to H.M. King William IV as well as to H.R.H. Prince Albert the Prince Consort and were getting recognition from the very top, until in 1908, the firm was purchased by Cogswell and Harrison. For a century, William Moore & Grey became something of a historic reference thanks to their high-quality guns that were still in use and being appreciated by their owners.
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From an early 20th Century catalogue: Powell guns made thirty to forty years ago are still in use and likely to be for some time to come, whilst those now being manufactured on the most sound methods will still be going thirty to forty years hence. This greatly understates the longevity of these guns. Thanks to superior materials and workmanship—plus careful maintenance through the generations—Powell guns from the 1840s are still serving their owners today.
For more than two centuries, the first William Powell (d.1849) and his descendants have built bespoke sporting arms for clients around the world. The Powell family was, and continues to be, entwined with the gunmaking history of England. At the dawn of the 19th Century, the principal suppliers of guns and gun parts to the United Kingdom were all in and around the city of Birmingham. Their production of military arms was twice that of London gunmakers and exceeded the total of France’s 10 government arsenals. It was in this environment in 1802 that William Powell and Joseph Simmons established a gunmaking partnership that seems to have lasted until about 1812. Thereafter, the independent Powell first located his business on Birmingham’s High Street and then moved to Bartholomew Row and finally, early in the 1830s, to High Street and Carrs Lane.
Formal, independent, standardized testing of gun barrels, to ensure their safety, began in London in 1637. Despite Birmingham’s stature as the centre of gunmaking in Britain, not until 1813 did Parliament establish a similar facility there also. Construction began in the same year, but testing did not become mandatory until 1868. At the peak of Birmingham production, in 1862, more than a million barrels were tested in a single year. William Powell was one of the gunmakers who lobbied for this proof house, and since then an unbroken string of his descendants have been among its Guardians, or directors. Great-great-grandson Peter Powell is the latest, having served the Birmingham Gun Barrel Proof House in various capacities for almost 40 years.
The founding William Powell was joined by his son, also William, around 1844. While few company ledgers from that period survive, a significant number of their guns do, and they clearly exhibit the quality that would later see Powell known as the “Purdey of Birmingham.” The senior William Powell died in 1848 at the age of 67. Existing records suggest that about 1,000 guns had been made under his direction. It’s a shame he didn’t live just a few years longer, for significant advances in technology were about to change both sporting and military arms.
As England neared the end of what became known as the Industrial Revolution, Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert and the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce organized the Great Exhibition of 1851, in a spectacular glass structure known as the Crystal Palace, purpose-built in London’s Hyde Park. Intended to spur Britain’s economy, the Great Exhibition was a celebration of technology and design from around the globe. Gunmakers from America, the Continent and across the United Kingdom took part. No surprise, then, that exhibitor number 249 was William Powell & Son. Among the items that Powell displayed was an ornate working miniature flintlock gun (cased with its accessories) that the family believes was made in the 1830s by the first William. It was last fired when Bernard Powell, William’s great-grandson and Peter’s father, accidentally blew out a stained glass window while showing it off at a well-known public boarding school. Now retired, the miniature remains safe in family hands.
When Joe Simmons and William Powell formed their partnership, in 1802, England had been at war for decades and much of Birmingham’s gunmaking energy was being devoted to military arms. Powell family lore tells of a penny notebook kept by William that describes a contract with the Crown for best-quality muskets at 10s 6d each. Then, in the 1850s, came both the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny. Powell became involved in the latter with a sale of 300 18-bore carbines to a Capt. Watson of the 12th Regiment of the Bengal Irregular Cavalry.
With strong sales and a seemingly bright future, on 25 April 1860 Powell bought land from the Birmingham and Oxford Junction Railway Co. and put up a five-story building at what would become 13 Carrs Lane. For the next 148 years, this was a destination for generations of sportsmen and fine-gun fanciers. A retail showroom opened there in the late 1950s, after William Powell acquired Westley Richards’ fishing department.
Firearms technology was advancing rapidly now. Metallic cartridges and breechloaders were becoming common, and telescopic sights, better rifled barrels and precisely shaped conical bullets made long-range shooting more and more accurate. Even more significant—for Powell, at least—was the introduction of Casimir Lefaucheux’s novel breechloading break-action pinfire gun at the Great Exhibition of 1851. The legendary Birmingham gunmaker William Greener derided it as “that French crutch gun,” but when shooting men saw how quickly it could be reloaded, demand skyrocketed. Modern driven-game shooting, which began late in the Victorian Era, would not be possible without these sophisticated and fast-handling double guns.
In the move to Carrs Lane, the company’s ledgers up to 1858 were lost. Thus exactly when Powell made its first breechloading gun isn’t known—but surviving records from mid-1859 show such sales. This was the beginning of a 30-year competition among gunmakers in the UK, on the Continent and in the US to create the best (or at least the best-selling) break-action gun. In May 1864, William Powell was awarded UK Patent No. 1163 for his snap-action, lift-up lever design. For the next 25 years, guns based on “Powell’s No.1 patent” accounted for a substantial portion of company sales. Powell sold two “lifter” guns in 1864, 70 in 1865 and more than 100 the year after. Eventually, approximately 2000 were built. The high survival rate of these guns is a testament to the elegant simplicity and robustness of the lifter locking design. Some aficionados still wonder why it was ever replaced by the top lever.
Other Powell patents followed, but none enjoyed the lifter’s success. Powell’s strength was in fit and finish, not innovative design. In January 1867, Powell sold its first centre fire-cartridge gun (as opposed to pin fires and needle fires) and entered what is now called the Golden Age of Gunmaking.
By the late 19th Century, the demand for sporting guns and rifles in the UK seemed insatiable. In the 1860s the Prince of Wales was grooming Sandringham into the kingdom’s first shooting estate; almost single-handedly, he made driven game a fashionable pastime. Along with England’s growing affluence and the ability to travel quickly by train, this propelled gun sales to new heights. Powell’s business flourished. Guns were being sent to clients, both retail and wholesale, in North America, Australia, Africa, India and the Middle East. In 1875, the appearance of the Anson & Deeley box lock action sounded the death knell of the hammer gun. Two years afterward, Powell adapted the lifter latch to an A&D gun. A decade later, ejectors appeared on Powell guns and shortly thereafter came the first side lock built on the lifter patent.
The modern game gun had reached its highest evolutionary stage. The most significant difference between a late 19th and an early 21st Century Powell gun is simply that production has moved across the Channel from Carrs lane.
But Golden Ages always end, and the decline began with the American market. The US Tariff Act of 1890 imposed a 35% to 45% value-added tax on imported firearms and related parts. In 1893 came a financial depression. India assessed heavy duties on firearms and then restricted .303- and .45-caliber rifles, both military and sporting. South Africa, which had been an important market for Powell, suffered through the Second Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902. In England, gun-control measures were being debated. The Gun License Act had been passed in 1870 to raise revenue. Next came the Pistols Act of 1903, which included the first restrictions on firearm sales. Powell sold very few handguns, so this was of little consequence to the firm, but it was a harbinger of future restrictions that would steadily shrink the domestic market.
HRH King Edward VII—“Bertie,” the sportsman of Sandringham fame and a Patron of Britain’s National Rifle Association for 47 years—died in 1910. Four years later, on the streets of Sarajevo, Gavrilo Princip fired the fateful shots that killed Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophie and launched the Great War. The Golden Age of Gunmaking was truly finished.
In 1902, as William Powell & Son completed its first century of business, the building was now numbered 35 Carrs Lane and the second William Powell died and was replaced by his son, William Leith Powell. The ledgers indicate that by then more than 11,000 serial numbers had been assigned in those 100 years. While some in the gun trade relied heavily on the patronage of the aristocracy, Powell had built a solid client base of industrialists and the landed gentry of the Midlands, with an occasional Maharaja or head of state. Powell’s first “No.1 Patent breechloading best” gun sold for £25 in 1864. By 1911, the price for a best side lock ejector, on the same patent but with Whitworth steel barrels, had risen only to £45.
A circa 1912 Powell catalog offered a full selection of side lock and box lock guns and rifles—side-by-side, single-shot and bolt-action. The exclusive sales agreement between John Rigby & Co. and Mauser ended in 1912, and in November of that year Powell sold 15 Mauser rifles and 15,000 .275 cartridges to a client in Muscat (Oman).
The Great War changed everything. After 1914 it became increasingly difficult to get materials to make guns. In 1916, William Leith Powell died. In its issue of June 1, Arms & Explosives (the magazine of Britain’s gun trade) reported that “The business of William Powell & Son will still be continued under the direction of the deceased’s two brothers, Mr. Arthur Powell, who has control of the cartridge department, and Mr. G. Victor Powell, who has acted as the late senior partner’s understudy for upward of twenty-five years, besides being the expert fitter of the firm.”
The war savaged Britain’s gunmakers and their suppliers and clients alike, forcing some of the best-known companies to close or merge. Close to 900,000 British soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines died in the war and a million and a half came home injured. Many returning gun workers joined the emerging automobile industry instead. The war ended in 1918, and then the Spanish Flu pandemic killed another quarter-million people in the UK. Despite these challenges, William Powell & Son remained strong.
An early 1920s catalog offered a full range of firearms, ammunition and accessories and indicated that G. Little & Co. was Powell’s London agent. Prices in England had doubled during the war and that was mirrored in Powell’s best guns: What had cost £45 in 1912 had risen to 100 guineas. Inflation in the 1970s saw prices double again, and by 2008 the price of a Birmingham-made Powell best side lock ejector had soared to about £50,000 before tax.
In 1923, the fourth generation—Bernard Victor Powell, son of G. Victor Powell—joined the firm. But just as business began to rebound solidly, with sizable orders from India and military officers scattered across the Empire, came the Great Depression of 1929. Down but hardly out, Powell worked hard to re-engage the American market and entered into a relationship with Stoeger Arms, the big New York distributor and retailer. Shipments To New York began in 1938, but had to end less than a year later when Britain went to war against the Axis powers. At that time, Powell’s No. 1 Best cost £94/10s (£105 for a self-opener) or about $700 US—where a Ford Tudor Sedan cost $681.
Just as had happened a generation earlier, most if not all Birmingham gunmakers switched over to military production during WWII. Powell made gauges for airplanes, armoured cars and other military vehicles.
Carrs Lane escaped the Nazi bombing. In the hope that at least one of them might survive the war, George V. Powell, head of the firm, “distributed” his five sons among the army, the Royal Air Force and Navy, the Home Guard and the fire brigade. As it happened, all five came home again. After the war came an attempt to restart the relationship with Stoeger, which failed. Personal taxes increased dramatically as the Empire disintegrated with the loss of India. Demand for fine guns declined along with the popularity of shooting, while country gentlemen simply kept their well-made guns instead of ordering new ones. In the mid-1950s, part of the first floor of Carrs Lane was converted to a retail showroom for guns, ammunition and gear. In 1955, Bernard Victor Powell’s son David (the fifth generation) joined the firm. The retail business expanded with the purchase of Westley Richards’ fishing business in 1960; and then, in 1965, Powell started a mail-order shooting business that was probably the first of its kind in the UK.
Britain’s gun trade continued to decline through the 1960s and ‘70s as one famous maker after another closed its doors. Foreign competition was growing, but the industry had failed to invest in new machinery and methods. By the end of the decade, most of Birmingham’s famous Gun Quarter had been demolished to make room for the new Inner Ring Road. This became known as “the concrete collar,” as it cut off the city centre to pedestrians and speared straight through the Gun Quarter.
In 1973, Bernard Powell retired after 50 years. His son David replaced him as Managing Director while his other son, Peter, who had just completed a five-year apprenticeship, became Works Director. Survival of the business continued to demand change, creativity and flexibility. In 1977 the Carrs Lane building received a major renovation to suit a renewed emphasis on mail-order sales. In the workshops, guns were being built at a rate of only about 20 per year, so the firm actively sought repair work and refurbished second-hand guns.
On the Continent, two traditional gunmaking centres—Eibar, in Spain, and Gardone, in Italy, both established in the 16th Century—were producing quality guns at prices British makers couldn’t match. In 1984 Powell began selling its “Heritage” line, high-quality guns made in Italy by Abbiatico & Salvineli. With prices starting at £7,200, they cost about 20 percent less than a comparable gun made by Powell in Birmingham, and the time to fulfill an order was cut about in half.
Eventually, the old began to conflict once again with the new. Catalogue sales had grown dramatically, but the venerable five-story Carrs Lane building had neither a lift nor a proper loading dock. (Every delivery had to pass through the front door and the showroom en route to the upper floors—by hand truck.) And it wasn’t only the building that was getting on in years; the Powells, David and Peter, had spent their adult lives in the family business. Like the generations before them, they had also served the Birmingham Proof House, the Gun Trade Association, the Long Sufferers Association and the Gun & Allied Trades Benevolent Society. This time around, no younger member of the family was keen to take on the business.
If there was to be an orderly transition of the Powell gunmaking tradition, the Powells had to find a buyer, a new owner who would be willing to continue and grow the gunmaking part of the business. In 2008 the firm was sold to Mark and Christine Osborne of J.M. Osborne & Co., the leading sporting-land management company in the UK. Mark Osborne had been a partner in Churchill Gunmakers, near London, and saw a golden opportunity to step up his involvement in the gun trade.
The Osbornes moved Powell’s operations from Carrs Lane to a modern facility in nearby Banbury. David Powell served one more year to help with the transition of the mail-order business, which now distributes 400,000 catalogues worldwide. Peter Powell stayed on until late 2014 to develop new lines of guns and manage the gunroom. Carrs Lane and the Powell lifter are now a memory. However, a Powell is still fitting customers and designing guns. Perhaps this is the new Golden Age.
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Various sources mention simply “Masu” as a gunmaker in Liège, Belgium from 1849 to 1853 (and possibly as early as 1845); “Masu Frères” (Masu brothers), gunmakers, in Liège from 1853 to 1876. The only other information from this period is the name of Pierre-Joseph Thonus, gunmaker and foreman at Masu Frères in Liège. Gustave Masu is listed as a gunmaker in Liège from 1876 to 1890, as the successor of Masu Frères. Concurrent with the Liège operations, the Masu brothers ran a business in London.
Not surprisingly, the few London Masu guns appear to have a somewhat Continental flavour to them, with fancy damascus barrels proofed in Liège. It is not known whether entire guns were built in London, or if they sold Liège-built guns to the London market, or if barrelled actions were imported from their Liège business and stocked and finished in London – possibly all three. Thanks to pinfire expert S. Nash for information supplied.
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Manufactured circa 1885. Single bead sight on the smooth solid rib marked "W.C. SCOTT & SON Patent "The Excellentia Triplex". The Premier Quality (tower with flag in an oval) 10.GT CASTLE STREET REGENT CIRCUS LONDON". The breech end of the rib and the extension have fine English scroll engraving. The receiver, locks, break lever, trigger guard and forearm hardware are engraved with fine English scroll designs. In addition the receiver and lock has a marsh scene with geese. The left front of the receiver is marked "PATENT BLOCK SAFETY". The shotgun is equipped with the crystal cocking indicators and are marked "Patent crystal Indicator". The bottom of each barrel is marked with the matching serial number and the flats are marked with various British proof marks and "NOT FOR BALL". The water table is marked with the matching serial number (33372). Brown Damascus barrels, casehardened forearm hardware, receiver and locks, and blue remaining parts. Extractor, double triggers, tang mounted automatic safety and mounted with a multi-point checkered walnut splinter forearm and pistol grip stock with leather covered butt pad.
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Stephen Grant was the son of a grocer, born in Ireland in 1821. He apprenticed to William Kavanagh of Dublin, completing his training in around 1843. and then crossed the Irish Sea and headed for London, where he began working as a gunmaker for Charles Lancaster. This period was one marked by the Irish Famine. Between 1845 and 1851 around 300,000 native Irish went to the mainland in search of a better life. London was a hostile climate for young Irishman but Grant succeeded at his chosen craft and was retained by Lancaster until his death, in 1847. Management of the firm was taken over by Lancaster’s sons and, shortly afterwards, Stephen Grant moved to St. James’s Street to work for Thomas Boss.
Both Boss and Lancaster had reputations for building guns of the highest quality, so as a gunmaker, Grant would have proven himself to be in the first rank. Grant worked for Thomas Boss for about a decade, until 1857, when his employer died. Then in his mid-thirties, Stephen Grant went into partnership with Boss’s widow and became Managing Partner of the firm. He remained as such until 1867, when he started his own business at 67A St James’s Street. The earliest gun to bear the name ‘Stephen Grant’ dates from 1867 and the earliest number recorded is 2480. This was the era of change-over from pin-fire to centre-fire and early Grant guns are to be found, made to both patterns, centre-fire quickly taking over.
Grant clearly formed a strong relationship with Edwin Hodges, a gunmaker to the trade with Islington workshops. Hodges built guns for most of the London ‘names’ at one time or other and was a clever inventor, as well as a skilled gunmaker and astute businessman.
Grant guns built on the Hodges for-end cam patent of 1866 are relatively common. They generally have a Jones under-lever action. Early examples have non-rebound locks and later ones have rebound locks. The next Grant & Hodges collaboration was the 1871 triple-bite action, with twin bolts acting on lateral projections attached to the rear lump. All these guns are generally of back-action, peninsular-lock form.
The 1871 pattern is perhaps the best-known and classic ‘Grant Side-Lever’ that collectors refer to. However, once the patent rights to the Purdey bolt lapsed, Grant started building some bar-action, side-lever guns with a simple Purdey bolt rather than Hodges’ more complex system. Grant started the 1870s well, with an order from Queen Victoria for a pair of hammer guns to gift to her son, the Prince of Wales. He got one for his birthday and one for Christmas. They are 16-bores built on the Hodges 1866 pattern and cased individually. He went on to build hammer guns for the Earl of Aylesford, the Duke of Marlborough, the Earl of Antrim, the Duke of Buccleuch, Lord Carrington, the Duke of Rutland, the Marquis of Donegal, the Earl of Wiltshire,'Bertie' the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Leinster.
As well as Edwin Hodges, many of Grant’s guns from this period were built by another London maker to the trade, John Robertson. Robertson had a supreme reputation as a gun maker and Grant won gold medals and First Class certificates at the Paris and Sydney exhibitions for guns finished and stocked by Robertson. Of course, Robertson went on to become owner of Boss, the firm that Grant had previously served as both employee and partner.
This period is arguably the most interesting for Stephen Grant guns. From 1867, when Grant started in business, to 1880, when Robertson sold him the rights for a hammerless, lever-cocking gun, invented by Horatio Phillips, Grant was building, predominantly, best-quality, centre-fire hammer breech-loaders. He continued building hammer guns into the 1880s but by 1882 was already offering hammerless side-locks. In 1889, the company style became ‘Stephen Grant & Sons’. Use of the distinctive side-lever extended into the hammerless era and both his trigger-plate guns and his hammerless side-locks featured it, almost always on the right-hand side of the gun.
Stephen Grant died in 1898, so guns in existence built during his lifetime span a period of thirty-one years. Those bearing simply ‘Stephen Grant’ on the locks were made between 1867 and 1889; a period of just twenty-two years. During his lifetime time, Grant achieved Royal warrants from The Prince of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh, the King of Spain, the Russian Court, Queen Victoria and the Sultan of Turkey. Not a bad effort for an Irish grocer’s son, at a time when being an Irish immigrant in London was a tough go.
Grant may not be a household name in the way that Purdey or Holland & Holland are but to those who know, there is nothing quite like a best Grant hammer gun.
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The original incarnation of the most well known of all British service rifles was the Rifle, Magazine, Lee-Metford, adopted in 1888 just as several other major powers were adopting nitrocellulose small bore cartridges and new magazine rifles. It was named, in British convention of the era, for the bolt action of Canadian gun designer James Paris Lee and the rifling design of William Ellis Metford. Lee's bolt action design had its antecedents in his prior Model 1879 and Remington-Lee 1885 rifles for the United States Navy, but the design made for the British was a significant improvement over these and featured a 10-round box magazine fed by an en bloc charger, offering unheard of firepower. Metford's gently-rounded polygonal rifling pattern had been a mainstay of the military-match world for almost two decades (notably in the Gibbs-Farquharson-Metford and Deeley-Edge-Metford rifles) and was regarded by many experts as being superior in accuracy and minimizing blackpowder fouling when compared to Alexander Henry's angular rifling pattern.
The Lee-Speed resulted from design improvements introduced by Joseph J. Speed, a manager and later Superintendent of the Enfield Royal Small Arms Factory (RSAF). Among these were the safety lever on the bolt and alterations to the magazine to incorporate a 10-round detachable box. Speed's design improvements became standard on the Lee-Metford and later Lee-Enfield rifles, but the rifles produced by the Birmingham Small Arms (BSA) factory for commercial sale were often named Lee-Speed in recognition of Joseph Speed's innovations rather than Lee-Metford, even though the Metford rifling was most typically used in sporting arms even after it was superceded by the Enfield rifling pattern in the military rifles in 1895 to improve barrel life with nitrocellulose propellant (it was concluded, apparently, that the rate and volume of fire for sporting arms did not pose this concern).
The term 'Lee Speed' rifle comes from BSA and LSA arms built for the commercial market. Patents were held by James Paris Lee (bolt and mag) and by Joseph Speed (mag) and so had to be marked on commercial arms sold to the public. Lee Speeds were built by BSA and LSA 1890 - 1914. After that the patent expired and was no longer marked on the rifle. So technically, there were no Lee Speeds after 1918, but the moniker stuck and all factory BSA & LSA sporters got the handle Lee Speed. There were also volunteer arms available for purchase, full blown military specs, so these are also 'Lee Speeds' but usually don't get called by that nick name.
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Holland & Holland was founded by Harris Holland (1806–1896) in 1835.
Harris Holland was born in 1806 in London. Although accounts of his background are somewhat sketchy, it is believed that his father was an organ builder while Harris had a tobacco wholesale business in London. He was successful, and was often seen at various pigeon shoots at important London clubs as well as leasing a grouse moor in Yorkshire
Having no children of his own, he took on his nephew Henry Holland as an apprentice in 1861. In 1867 Henry became a partner and in 1876 the name changed to Holland & Holland. Although Henry was a full partner, Harris kept strict control and was the only one who could sign a cheque until he died in 1896.
At first, the guns bore the inscription H.Holland, without an address, and it is probable that these were built in the trade to his design. It is not known when Harris Holland started his own manufacturing, but it is estimated to be in the 1850s. This start makes him very unusual among the London Best makers, as others such as Purdey, Boss, Lang and Lancaster had apprenticed with Joseph Manton, while others such as Beesley, Grant and Atkin apprenticed with Purdey or Boss.
In 1883, Holland & Holland entered the trials organized by the magazine The Field and won all of the rifle categories. This set a new standard of excellence for the competition among English gunmakers. In 1885, patents were granted to Holland & Holland for their Paradox gun, a shotgun with rifling in the front two inches of the barrel.
In 1908, they patented the detachable lock feature with a small lever, for sidelock shotguns. The last major development in the evolution of the sidelock side-by-side gun occurred in 1922, when the H&H assisted-opening mechanism was patented. This gun, the self-opening Royal side-by-side, has been hugely influential in gun-making throughout the world.
In the period after WW2 under the leadership of new owner and Managing Director, Malcolm Lyell, the company made sorties to India, where guns from the famous collections of the princes and maharajahs were bought back, developing an important market for second-hand pieces. In 1989, all remaining shares in H&H were bought by the French luxury group Chanel. Since then, the factory building, in use since 1898, has been extensively renovated and equipped with modern technology. Guns such as the Royal over & under or side-by-side double barrelled shotguns were improved and reintroduced, and are currently available from 4 bore to .360 inch. A hand-built gun from H&H can cost around $80,000 to $150,000, with prices roughly doubling with luxury engraving, and there is a waiting period of 2–3 years between ordering and delivery.
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In 1885 James Hooton, a schoolmaster and probably a customer and friend of the Jones family, bought a share of the business of Robert Jones II when he emigrated to the USA. Robert's son, Robert Jones III (b.1859) did not emigrate, he remained to run the business. It is possible that James Hooton was related to the Jones family but this is speculation. James Hooton (b.1843 in Sevenoaks, Kent) was recorded in the 1871 census as a schoolmaster living at 1 Admiral Street, Toxteth Park, Liverpool. He was married to Maria (b.1850 in Liverpool). They had one child, Harriet (b.1870 in Toxteth), also living with them were James' father, Thomas, his mother, Charlotte, and his brother, Arthur. The 1881 census records James as a teacher of English. A daughter and three sons were recorded, James (b.1872), Alfred (b.1875) and Thomas (b.1880). No record of the family has been found in the 1891 census but in 1901 they, but not Maria or her son James, were recorded living at 47 Kingsley Road, Toxteth Park, with another daughter and a son, Frederick R (b.1889). In this census James, aged 58, described himself as a gun maker and a widower. The firm bought their guns from Birmingham makers and some from Belgian makers.
An inscription "Hooton & Jones, Bond Street, Liverpool" has been seen engraved on a gun. When they moved to this address is not known. What happened to the firm after they were last recorded in 1913 is not clear. It is reported that the firm was sold to W C Carswell in 1920 but other reports say that at some time it was sold to W Richards (Liverpool) Ltd. James H Hooton was recorded as a gun maker from 1920 to 1924 at 6 North John Street. Presumably this was the original James Hooton's son. He appears to have traded for only a year or so. The firm sold shotgun cartridges under the name "Hooton & Jones Special".
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While many people think of London as the 'best' gunmakers, it is fact that Birmingham was the centre of the gunmaking industry and Birmingham craftsmen were the patentees of most of the important improvements in shotgun design and manufacture in the 19th century. Of the Birmingham gunmakers, none were making better guns or were recognizing greater achievements than William Wellington Greener, not just because of his prowess as a gunmaker, but because of his strict standards of excellence that put his firm's reputation at the forefront of British gunmaking. Greener is known for his development of boxlock designs superior to the original Anson & Deeley, the most important being his 'Facile Princeps' model, known to be the strongest action per weight of any boxlock designed then or even now. Greener was also one of the few makers to manufacture his own barrels from start to finish. This fine Greener, built circa 1910, is a grand example of the quality of a W.W. Greener mid-grade gun. Named the FH25 (as it cost 25 guineas in 1914), as the price increased through the years, the same grade of gun was called the FH35, then the FH50, commensurate with the cost of the day. The FH25 had about 40% coverage of fine English scroll engraving, nicely figured English walnut, finely checkered, a graceful long forend terminating in a Schnabel horn tip, and the finest nitro steel barrels found on a mid-grade English gun. The condition of this gun is factory original with 95% fading case color, 98% factory blue, near perfect checkering with no appreciable wear, no cracks or repairs, perfect screws, superb wood-to-metal-fit, perfect bores, barrels fit tight to breech face and hinge pin, and still in proof with 2 ½” chambers and .731 bore diameters…just the way you want to find a 103-year-old Greener! Best of all, this is a gun made for heavy use and proofed for 1 ¼ oz. loads and choked M/XF. What a pheasant, pigeon, upland game gun this is at 6 3/4lbs. with 30” barrels and balanced 3/16” in front of the hinge pin. Nice stock dimensions, all mechanics are in perfect working order with crisp trigger pulls, strong well-timed ejectors, and positive safety. This is a true work of art in high, factory original condition, with very desirable features for the modern shooter.
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