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Sidelock
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Sidelock

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Thanks for posting your Samuel Ebrall gun, Damascus. From the thin fences I'm guessing yours is an early gun. The hammers almost look Continental in shape, here for comparison are hammers on a 12-bore Lefaucheux-type pinfire gun by Chàlet, Père et Fils of St. Étienne, France (also on a gun with thin fences).

[Linked Image from i.imgur.com]

Shrewsbury had a population of 46,261 in 1861, large enough to have had three gunmakers at the time: Samuel Ebrall, Henry Jackson (1867), and William Summunds (1862-1868).

Last edited by Steve Nash; 02/04/21 05:54 PM.
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Keeping on the subject of provincial gunmakers, here is one who never achieved much fame, yet a variety of his guns have survived.

Manchester was a city that boomed during the industrial revolution. In the 1850s and 1860s (the population was 1,313,550 in 1861) cotton and finance were the main areas of development. With this wealth came the possibility of country pursuits, and at least 19 gunmakers were active in Manchester during at least part of the pinfire period: John P. Agnew (1849-1868); William Burtinshaw (1830-1865); Thomas Conway (1804-1871); John William Edge (1849-1864); Gasquoine & Dyson (1846-1864); William Griffiths (1855-1906); Griffiths & Worsley (1862-1869); Reuben Hambling (1866-1868); Hamer & Co. (1860); Thomas Hepplestone (1852-1910); John Kaye (1845-1866); Thomas Newton (1855-1906); Charles Pearson (1864-1869); Francis Preston (1858-1872); Francis Robinson (1858-1864); Henry Steel (1857-1859); Robert Stensby (1832-1971); Thomas Warhurst (1867-1869); and Robert Watmough (1854-1869).

We've already looked at a gun by Reuben Hambling, let's look at one by Robert Watmough.

Robert Watmough was born in Lancashire in 1821, and he and his wife Elizabeth had a daughter named Anne on 5 November 1845. Robert worked for the gunmaker Thomas Conway, who operated at 4, and later 15, Blackfriars St. in Manchester. Conway was a well known gunmaker who was renowned for his pistols. Whether Watmough apprenticed under Conway, or was a journeyman in his employ, is not known. Robert Watmough set up his own gunmaking business at 13 Blackfriars St. in 1854, closing in 1869. That is about all than can be traced for this maker.

Thankfully a few of his guns survive. Here is a 16-bore double-bite screw-grip rotary-underlever pinfire sporting gun number 4029, made 1865-1869. The 27 3/16" damascus barrels have Birmingham proofs, and the top rib is signed "RobT. Watmough. 13. Blackfriars. St. Manchester." The barrels also have a maker's mark "W.M," which I believe is for W. Marshall, gun barrel maker of 10 & 14 Vesey St., Birmingham, who was in operation from 1865 to 1868 -- which helps to date the gun. The back-action locks are signed "R. Watmough" and are nicely decorated with dog and game scenes (curlews and pheasant). The bores are still very good with only slight pitting at the breech, and the gun weighs a slight 6 lb 8 oz.

Despite its obvious attractiveness, game scenes are uncommon on pinfire guns, with acanthus leaf patterns predominating. Price may have been a factor, though I don't think so -- talent came at very little cost back then. A similar Watmough pinfire recently sold at auction in the US, so perhaps game scene engraving was part of a "house style," as it was for John Blissett of London. When executed well such scenes are very attractive and, when done crudely... Um, to paraphrase comments from elsewhere on the board, who wants to look at flying turnips?

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Last edited by Steve Nash; 02/04/21 05:56 PM.
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Sidelock
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I made a new post as a follow-up to the Erskine patents I mentioned:

https://www.doublegunshop.com/forums/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=578890

And here is the direct link to the new article on them:

https://aaronnewcomer.com/the-pinfire-patents-by-james-erskine/


Clock Guns, Pauly Guns, Pinfire Guns and Pinfire Cartridges
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Sidelock
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Superb quality and style exhibited in the Watmough ..lovely!

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Sidelock
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Great research, AaronN, well explained. Has anyone else come across a Erskine pinfire?

The Watmough is a delight in the details. The game scenes are the best I've encountered on a pinfire game gun, the chiselled engraving is Holland-esque, and I particularly like the fore-end, with the raised lip on the fore-end iron, the full chequering, and the shaped tip lacking the usual horn or iron finial. While it does not have one of the patent snap-actions popular at the time, the overall construction and attention to detail on that gun suggests it would have been one of his better offerings.

For anyone new to this thread, a TJ Watkins gun has similar (though not quite as nice) game-scene and foliate-scroll engraving, shown on page 17 of this thread.

Last edited by Steve Nash; 02/04/21 05:56 PM.
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Sidelock
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In the 19th century Belfast was a major port and a big player in the Industrial Revolution. It was the biggest linen-producer in the world, and a major centre for tobacco-processing, rope-making, and shipbuilding. With this kind of industrial might came wealth, and the rich class could pursue outdoor leisure activities such as shooting, fishing, and golf. Joseph Braddell started his business in 1811 at Castle Place, Belfast, Ireland, around the corner from the Ulster Club, popular with the local gentry. The firm probably became Joseph Braddell & Son in about 1825, but the actual date in unknown. In about 1850, possibly due to the death of Joseph Braddell, the business was reportedly sold to a Mr. Playfair, who may have been Charles Playfair of Bentley & Playfair, Birmingham. As with so much of the early British gun trade, information can be incomplete, confusing and contradictory. The gun below may in fact have been made by Bentley & Playfair, as the firm of Joseph Braddell & Son is more likely to have been a retailer of guns made for them by the trade, rather than a maker themselves. The firm continued, as a seller of guns, fishing rods and tackle, and golf clubs, until 2014 when it closed for good after a fire. Unfortunately a previous fire in 1895 destroyed the records prior to that date, so no early guns can be traced. It is therefore unfortunate that what is decidedly a fine gun can tell us so little about how it was made, and for whom.

The gun is a 12-bore double-bite screw grip rotary-underlever game gun, retailed by Joseph Braddell & Son of Belfast, number 2500, probably made in the mid to later 1860s. The 29 15/16" fine damascus barrels have London proofs (Ireland did not have its own proof house, so all Irish guns had to undergo proof testing in Birmingham or London), and the top rib is signed "Joseph Braddell & Son Improved Bar Lock Breech loader 17 Castle Place Belfast." One of the more interesting features of this gun is that it was made for a left-hander, where the under-lever swings to the left instead of the right. The bar-action locks are signed "J. Braddell & Son," the action bar has fluted edges, the flat-sided hammers are nicely sculptured, and the trigger guard bow has a slight indent fitted to receive a tiny bump on the under-lever. As with all guns of the period the fore-end is fixed with a cross key, but in this gun it pushes out from the left side, a nice touch to match the underlever. The gun has quality foliate scroll engraving throughout, and there are still traces of colour on the lock plates and the fore-end iron. The gun has mirror bores with only slight pitting at breech, and it weighs a solid 7 lb 5 oz.

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Bar locks, the fore-runner of the modern hammerless sidelock, were preferred by some over the more frequently encountered back locks. Some have argued that bar locks, by the positioning of the mainspring, are ever so slightly quicker to strike, though the difference in reality might be irrelevant. Bar locks usually have flat lock plates and require a squared action frame, and much inletting and fitting of metal. Back locks require significant removal of wood in the crucial hand area of the stock, but allow for gracefully rounded lock plates (hold the edge of a piece of paper at right angles to a back-action lock plate to appreciate just how rounded they are). Some considered bar locks as more traditional (and closer to muzzle-loaders in general appearance), and somehow fancier -- while best-gun maker Boss & Co. built all their pinfires with back-action locks. Guns with bar locks tended to provide a greater canvas for the engraver's artistry, while others (and I include myself here) simply preferred the lines of guns with back locks.

Last edited by Steve Nash; 02/04/21 05:57 PM.
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Pinfire guns have 'U' shaped protrusions at the top of their standing breech to help
position and secure the pins. Does anyone know if those protrusions have an agreed-upon name?

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Steve, I called it a keeper, but for no good reason as pinfire guys to talk to are quite rare.

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Sidelock
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Keepers? That works for me. They vary in shape and prominence, from barely there, to quite prominent and fitting into a squared recess in the barrel rim (an example of the latter is on a Dougall Lockfast). They might act as a gas seal or gas deflector (to reduce the size of the pin hole), or simply to 'round' the pin hole on the barrel, which would otherwise have a 'D' shape.

The Breechloading Armoury gun covered earlier, and seen again here, lacks them entirely, but it was built as a dual-fire gun. I can understand conversions from pinfire to centrefire having the 'keepers' filed off the standing breech, as the pin holes are generally filled during the process. There is no point in doing so for a dual-fire gun, so I have to speculate the Breechloading Armoury gun never had them at all, which is unusual for a pinfire.


Thanks for your posts, gentlemen, I would never have gone back and noticed the difference otherwise!

Last edited by Steve Nash; 09/01/20 01:45 PM.
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Sidelock
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The previous posts of mine and others have presented some fine guns built or retailed by provincial gunmakers outside of the gunmaking centres of Birmingham and London. Clients in towns and villages that were not from the higher strata of British society would only be able to afford cheaper offerings, of the type put up by "the trade," a catch-all term encompassing the several hundred mostly independent craftsmen operating from Birmingham's Gun Quarter. In the next posts I will be covering guns made by "the trade," but before departing the subject of provincial makers entirely I have to mention how such guns were essential to the makers who did not do their own actioning, lock work, barrel work, and so on. So today's gun is a basic utility game gun most likely made in Birmingham for a small-town gunmaker. What is interesting about this gunmaker is that he was British, but not technically in Britain...

I learn something new every day, such as why I couldn't find any reference to John William Hunt in any of the usual reference works on British gun makers, a maker who operated in St. Helier, Jersey, in the Channel Islands. I was surprised to learn the Channel Islands (the Bailiwicks of Jersey and Guernsey, and a number of uninhabited islets), located off the coast of Normandy, France, are not considered part of the United Kingdom at all, though these islands are held by the monarch of the United Kingdom. Specifically, these crown dependencies are island territories that are self-governing possessions of the crown. Jersey, located just 12 nautical miles off the coast, was part of the Duchy of Normandy, whose dukes went on to become kings of England from 1066. After England lost Normandy in the 13th century and the ducal title surrendered to France, Jersey and the other Channel Islands remained attached to the English crown. Jersey has enjoyed self-government since the division of the Duchy of Normandy in 1204.

The 18th century was a period of political tension between Britain and France as the two nations clashed as their ambitions grew, and the Channel Islands were caught up in the turmoil. Then, after the Napoleonic wars (1803-1815), the number of English-speaking soldiers stationed on the island and the number of retired officers and English-speaking labourers who came to the islands in the 1820s led to the island gradually moving towards an English-speaking culture. The population of Jersey rose from 47,544 in 1841 to 56,078 in 1861, largely due to agricultural development and industries such as ship-building and commodities such as cider and wool, and later the famous Jersey cattle. The parish of St Helier accounted for approximately half the population of Jersey at the time, and the urban portion of the parish made up the largest town on the island (it still does).

The gun maker P. Vincent established his business in 1833 at Royal Square, St Helier, Jersey. In 1847 H. Vincent took over the business and moved to Parade, St Helier. In 1855 his sons joined the firm and the name changed to H. Vincent & Sons. In 1858 the business moved to 23 Halkett Place, and in 1861 to 7 Saville Street. In 1863 H. Vincent was recorded at 4 Hampton Place, Parade, St Helier, but not after that year. It would have been around this time that John William Hunt took over the business from H Vincent & Sons (though one of Hunt's advertisements mentions taking over the business somewhat earlier, in 1860). In 1889 John Hunt was recorded as a gun maker at 69 King Street and 26 Broad Street, and he was also armourer to the Jersey National Rifle Association. It is interesting to note that early local advertisements for the firm appear in both English and French, a reflection of the mix of cultures on the island. Unfortunately, reference works on British gun makers only list those recorded within the territory of the United Kingdom, and therefore gun makers and gunsmiths operating in the crown dependencies have been excluded and there is very little in the way of information on them.

The gun is a 12-bore double-bite screw-grip rotary under-lever pinfire sporting gun signed John William Hunt of St. Helier, Jersey, with no serial number. The 30 1/16" damascus barrels have Birmingham proofs and the maker's marks "C.N" and "HB" (the latter is possibly Henry Bayliss, Birmingham barrel maker 1855-1869, or Henry Boot, Birmingham barrel maker, 1867). There is also the mark "J.M" on the barrel flats. These marks may identify who actually built the gun for John Hunt, as this is a typical utilitarian low-grade pinfire that Birmingham built for the trade in the late-1860s -- and more likely to have been used by a farmer than a wealthy sportsman. From the estimated age the gun may have been retailed from the 4 Hampton Place, Parade, St Helier, address. The top rib is simply marked "J. Hunt Jersey", and the back-action locks are signed "J. Hunt". The gun is in poor, worn-out condition, with evidence of old repairs and part replacements. A curious modification is a simple V-notch sight added between the fences, suggesting the gun was used at some point for shooting ball. As there are no large-game species on Jersey (I'm discounting the mammoths and woolly rhinoceroses last hunted on Jersey during the Ice Age), I have no ready explanation to propose, and it might have been added at any point in its long period of service. The bores are pitted, and the gun weighs 7 lb 1 oz.

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Last edited by Steve Nash; 02/04/21 05:58 PM.
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