Rigby Records Restoration

Rigby Records Restoration

Read Article v

Guns & Gunmakers|April 2024

Britain's oldest gunmaker is John Rigby & Co, which started business in Dublin at least as long ago as 1775. Ireland was at the time part of Britain politically, as well as geographically.

Rigby opened his first shop in London in 1866 and, for a while, traded in both cities. Around 1888 he sold the Dublin shop to Trulock & Harriss and thereafter became a London gunmaker only. Like the Scots John Robertson and James Purdey and the Irishman Stephen Grant, Rigby became one of the 'big names' in London gun-making circles and established a dedicated clientele among London society and retained his following of Irish aristocrats, most of whom also kept grand houses in England;'s capital.

The records of Rigby's transactions with his customers and the manufacturing particulars of the guns, rifles and pistols he made and sold are contained within some huge volumes, now filling the shelves at Rigby's London headquarters at Pensbury Place.

 The most important of the remaining records are the Serial Number Books. They contain orders in sequence, with details recorded as to who the customer was, the date of the order, the date of delivery, the names of the various craftsmen who worked on the gun, its dimensions and other details.

These Serial Number Books (five in-tact and a further one in a badly degraded state) are an important part of Rigby's history. When Rigby owners want to find out details about their guns and rifles, what can be located in these books forms the major part of that search. Rigby offers a Certificate of Authentication service, providing certain data that verifies the particulars of a treasured possession.

 In 2023, it was decided to undertake a full review of all the books in Rigby's custodianship. They were then assessed for conditon, content, date and importance. There are Accounts Ledgers, which often contain no more than numbers and brief notes 'to cash' etc. Then, there are Day Books, which record every transacion that took place over the counter of the shop in order of date. There are some outliers - books containing details of barrels and actions (1886-1936), for example. However, the Serial Number Books are of the greatest importance.

They were also in the worst condition, being the books most frequently opened and examined. All had been re-covered in the past to a standard unbecomig of their value today. These covers and bindings were now degraded and the task needed to be repeated.

Rigby identified twenty-five books in need of restoration. The fist batch to go to the restorer was the six Serial Number Books, along with the Barrel & Action Book. That, and teh first five Serial Number Books are now completed and ready to face anouther century of reference.

The company charged with the task of restoration was Ludlow Book Binders, based in the Shropshire market town. They specialise in binding collector-grade editions of new and iconic publications. They also restore old books to their former glory.

The factory is rather like a gunmaker's, with traditional skills being applied by dedicated craftsmen (and women) using the same materials, hand tools and presses as their Victorian counterparts.

Marc Newton, Rigby's CEO, chose a dark 'Rigby Blue' leather cover material and this was gold-embossed with the famous Rigby logo, as well as the content and dates each book contained.

These books are now back on the shelf and ready to be referenced when Rigby's archivist Diggory Hadoke, is asked to look-up a customer's gun or rifle. The earliest Serial Number book is still undergoing restoraton to the pages, which are brittle from age and require stabilisation; a process involving supplementing the original page with Japanese tissue paper, which binds to the old page and dries clear.

 The earliest of Rigby's extant record books starts with entries for 1784

Over the next two years, Ludlow Book Binders will continue the process of restoring the Rigby Archives and protecting the contents for future generations of Rigby owners to enjoy.

In the meantime, Rigby continues to research the volumes for greater clarity and further details that will unlock more stories from the company history. There is almost 250 years of data hidden within!

To request a search of the records and discover the details of your Rigby, contact John Rigby & Co. at https://www.johnrigbyandco.com/services/

Craftsmen at Ludlow Book Binders undertook the restoration. 


Published by Vintage Guns Ltd on (modified )

Guns & Gunmakers|April 2024

Vintage Gun Journal category advertiser: HGSS Shipping Services

Vintage Gun Journal category advertiser: Rigby Highland Stalker

Vintage Gun Journal category advertiser: Ormiston coat

Vintage Gun Journal category advertiser: Donald Dallas Books