Continuing from last month's article, we pick-up where Oliver Robinson, 2nd Marquis of Ripon, had rejected a trio of 12-bores from Purdey, as they did not suit him.
Olly’s third trio were finally invoiced (although without serial numbers) on 28 July 1881, although the Dimension Book entry is dated 7 June.
These were Nos. 10,886/7/8, which were ‘Made to Match 8193 – Old No. 2 Gun – in every way.’ On the facing page are the weights of Nos. 8192/3/4, taken in March 1880, and suggesting that there were very minor differences between the three. That he should choose No. 8193 to be copied would suggest that it was his favourite of the three, and explain why he had so many extra barrels fitted to it, rather than across all three guns. These new guns also had patent concealed third grips, and although they were fitted into the case for the previous trio, the total cost still came to £209 9s 6d, leaving a shortfall of just under £6 to be covered once his credit had been accounted for.
These guns appear to have been far more satisfactory, and were in service for the next decade with no records of any major adjustments to the dimensions. They appear to have been fitted with Damascus barrels rather than Whitworth Steel, and even when a new set of choked barrels were fitted to the No. 1 in May 1886, these were also made in Damascus. Olly still retained his original trio for use, but with much less intensive servicing through the 1880s suggesting that they were not used so heavily. Nos. 10,886/7/8 were last worked on in March 1891, but had already been joined by their replacements at the start of the previous season: Olly’s last trio, Nos. 13,678/9/80.
Olly purchased this final trio in August 1890, at a cost of £211 1s. These are interesting for several reasons. By the standards of their time, their specification is more akin to something ordered by Charles Gordon than the pre-eminent game shot of his day. They were again fitted with Damascus barrels, but this time had clip sides to the action rather than concealed third bites. They had no chequering anywhere, not even on the heel of the stock, and were fitted with non-rebounding backlocks. These details were not noted against the previous trio, but as they were made as a direct copy of No. 8193, expanding upon that may not have been felt necessary. Olly does not appear to have had any issues with this trio, as there is no record of any alterations to the stock dimensions until their last entry in his account, almost exactly twenty-six years later.
Looking at Olly’s published game card, it would appear that his five biggest shooting years all fall between 1889 and 1894, and so were most likely shot with these two trios. His biggest year, 1893, had a combined bag of 19,135, with a little over half that figure made up from pheasant. It seems likely that this was achieved using not only Nos. 13,678/9/80, but also Nos. 8192/3/4, the pulls on all three being regulated in July 1893, and the No. 1 again that December – the last entry in his Purdey account relating to any of the original trio.
all three had fully-choked Whitworth barrels fitted
His last trio remained in service until at least 1916, and went through several rounds of major refurbishment over the course of their life. New choke Damascus barrels were fitted to No. 13,678 in July 1899, and all three had fully-choked Whitworth barrels fitted in August 1908. A final set of choked barrels were fitted to No. 13,678 the following June, although the charge was refunded at the end of the year without explanation.
Olly’s accounts reveal one final pair of guns which are slightly peculiar. As noted previously, his father’s last trio of guns were hammer ejectors, purchased in November 1895. In July that same year, Olly had a pair of similar guns, but incorporating two idiosyncrasies. As with his trio, there was no chequering, and the rebounding locks were fitted with half cock bents. The latter was superfluous, but may have been fitted to accommodate Olly’s personal preferences, given that he had been shooting non-rebounding hammer guns for about thirty years by that point.
He actually had them ‘Out in Black’ for the 1894 season, which explains the disparity between the serial number range and completion date. The accounts reveal that, unlike his father, Olly never paid for this pair. They were initially loaned to him in 1894, and when they were finally invoiced in 1895 no price is given; only a reference to ‘PL/8’ was made against the entry. This refers to the Private Ledgers, specifically to the Drawing Account of James the Younger himself, where the pair were noted as being ‘for’ Earl de Grey.
This entry is slightly confusing, as the following page lists two other guns as ‘presents’, suggesting that this pair were not a gift in that sense. The Private Ledger records a cost price for the pair of £89 15s, including case and fittings. This is a fascinating glimpse into the margins made on guns at that time, but is also important when it is considered that George paid £268 6s 6d - about £89 8s per gun. As such, George’s third gun covered the cost of Olly’s pair, and still allowed James the Younger a healthy margin on the original two.
Olly certainly does not seem to have been as keen on these guns, as they do not reappear in his accounts until ten years later, when he had them cleaned in December 1905. They were serviced again in January and July 1906, and then disappear from the records again. Unlike some of his other guns, the later history of this pair is known, having been gifted to Olly’s head keeper, Charles Julian, and then passing through the family until sold individually at auction by Sotheby’s. Whether they were gifted to Julian before or after Olly’s death is sadly not recorded.
He was exacting in his guns, particularly their fit
Both Olly’s gun purchases and their respective servicing history seem to fit neatly with both his character and game records. He was exacting in his guns, particularly their fit, and used them hard. He was also slightly more conservative than his father when it came to the finer details, but perhaps this is to be expected when he was clearly so attached and familiar with his first trio of guns.
Today, his guns are perhaps some of the most noteworthy of their age to come to auction, and always generate interest when they do appear. However, both Olly and George were keen stalkers as well as game shots, and the next article will look at their ownership and usage of rifles.
Dr. Nicholas Harlow is Gunroom Manager at James Purdey & Sons, London.
Published by Vintage Guns Ltd on