Issue 28 October 2021

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Fit For an Expedition

A travelling man's sporting & protection battery.

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Guns & Gunmakers|October 2021

 It is 1845 and the world is a dangerous place for travellers but an inviting one for sportsmen. When on the roads, oceans or dirt tracks of the largely untamed globe in search of fortune, adventure, knowledge or experience, modern essentials were not always available and self-sufficiency was a neccesity.

The gentleman complier of this set of rifles, guns and pistols must have been acutely aware of this when he instructed the construction of a travelling case of arms for every ocasion.

Within the oak framed case, in neatly compartmentalised sections, also of neatly fitted oak partitions, nestles every weapon and accoutrement that would be necessary to sustain a long journey through wild and hazardous places.

Within the case, we can see a 100-bore pair of muff pistols by Jeavons, brass bodied, with colour case hardened barrels and central hammers. These would slip neatly into pockets for wakling home through il lit streets in strange towns, providing a degree of confidence that, if challenged, there would be some means of escape or defence.

To the right of these is a rather more fearsome pair of 28-bore holster pistols with side hammers and octagonal barrels. Like the muff pistols, quality is very high and the maker also Jeavons. Finally, the last pistol in the tray is an unsigned pepperbox revolver in 100-bore, with a six-shot 2 1'2" barrel and central hammer. All these pistols remain in very good condition, wih a high degree of original finish. Elsewhere in the tray, patches, balls, cards and wads are stacked, long with bullet moulds, cap dispenser, tins of copper caps and various other tools.

Jeavons is listed as a gunmaker in Birmingham in the mid 1840s with premesis at 37 Staniforth Street.

The condition of these supplies is remarkable, having remained in the box for a hundred and eighty years, which is astonishing. The labels for 'Walker's Improved Anti-corrosive Caps' and 'Metallic Gun Wadding' are ledgible and evocative of the era.

The interior of the tray is lined with red velvet and it and the partitions remain in good order, though naturally faded by the pasage of time.

Rather than being made and supplied by a single maker, it appeas that the gentleman responsible asked someone to either make a box for his own weapons in preparation for a journey, or asked him to buy and fit out the neccessities for such a journey. That would explain the variety of maker's on the firearms within. Had the order been commissioned from one gun-maker, the case would likely have been ftted with a trade label and all the contents would be branded by that maker.

In addition to the five pistols for personal protection, there are sporting arms in the form of a rifle and a shotgun. The rifle is a fine quality percussion of 60-bore, by E. Akrill, with single set-trigger and 30" barrel fitted with three leaf sights. Bullet moulds, powder flask and tools are provided in the same tray

The shotgun is a good quality percussion, double barrelled, 14-bore with bar-locks signed 'Constable'. A shot flask and over-shot cards are packed alongside it. The only Birmingham Constable I can find listed is John Constable, a lockmaker, in New Street Darlaston, Staffordshire  in 1894. However, there is a listing in London for a Benjamin Constable in Goodman's Fields and a Constable, based in Westminster both trading from 1805-1808. While these dates do not correspond exactly with the likely dates of the guns, the names are likely to be linked.

The entire package is a delight. A true time capsule from a period in which travel was by carriage, horse, cart and sailing ship, if you were lucky. A time when the known world was small, the United States extended only as far west as Arkansas, Louisiana and Missouri and Africa was largely unknown to Europeans beyond the coastal regions.

New Zealand became a British possesion in 1840 and two years later, Britian also took control of Hong Kong. By 1850, Britain was the strongest of the World's empires, which then included those of Russia, the Ottomans, the Quing, the Brazillian and the Holy Roman Empire.

The world has changed beyond all recognition but here this compendium of arms sits, exactly as it did back then.

 

Published by Vintage Guns Ltd on

Guns & Gunmakers|October 2021

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