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British Industrial History

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Westley Richards and Co

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January 1899.

Westley Richards and Co of Grange Road, Bournebrook, Birmingham, Gun and Rifle Makers

1812 William Westley Richards went into business (presumably as a silversmith) - he is also said to have founded his factory at this time.

1815 Richards appointed a London agent, William Bishop, who became known as "The Bishop of Bond Street". He was a master salesman who became a legendary Regency sporting character and he managed his shop at 170 New Bond Street for over fifty years.

1821 Richards took out an extensive list of patents, nine in all, the first in 1821 for improvements to gun and pistol locks. Some of these derived from his own practical experience as a shot and his observation of the requirements of the sportsman who used his guns. His famous motto was always: "to be the maker of as good a gun as can be made", which remains the motto of the company today.

1832 Richards left the silversmith business

1839 William Bishop was recorded as a silversmith at 170 New Bond St[1].

1840 Granted a royal warrant by HRH Prince Albert

1849 Directory: Listed as makers of guns and / or gun components. [2]

1851 William Bishop was goldsmith and gun maker's agent, of 170 New Bond St, London[3]

Presumably the business had become Westley Richards and Sons, involving Westley and Charles.

1858 The most significant of the many innovations by Mr Westley Richards, the eldest son of the founder, was the breech and muzzle-loading carbine, which became known as the 'Monkey Tail' owing to the profile of the long lever which operated the breechlock

1862 Westley Richards patented a new type of single sliding snap bolt, known as a 'doll's head' extension, an inspired technical improvement which became a defining element of the Westley Richards and most other sporting guns.

1865 William Westley Richards died.

1868 Westley Richards developed a hinged falling- block breech-loader. When the falling- block Martini rifle was adopted in 1868 as the standard British infantry rifle, it was found to have infringed Westley Richards' patents (1931 of 1868) in "the principle of construction". The British government was obliged to pay £43,000 in royalties.

1871 The Company played a critical role in developing the solid drawn brass cartridge (patent 1572 of 1871) which allowed guns to move from single shot to repeating or automatic.

1871 Patented a new rifle with a breech mechanism of the sliding block type. Known as the Deeley-Edge Rifle it was named after John Deeley the Elder, who in 1871 became the sole commercial manager of Westley Richards & Co. and James Edge who was foreman of the company's Sporting and Military Rifle Department.

1871 Licensed to store explosives at Holdford Mill, Witton, premises which had been taken over from Messrs Ludlow at Perry Barr[4].

c.1871 The Westley-Richards Arms and Ammunition Co acquired rights to the Martini-Henry Rifle as selected by the British government, the patents for the Henry barrel and the Jones cartridge.

1871 Charles Richards (1823-1871) died; John Deeley, manager of Westley Richards and Sons, was one of his executors[5]

1872 Westley Richards retired; he sold the business to John Deeley[6]

1872 The National Arms and Ammunition Co was formed to establish factories on a "complete and extensive scale" for manufacture of rifles, arms and ammunition[7]. It would take over the works of the Westley-Richards Arms and Ammunition Co; the directors included 3 with addresses given as Westley-Richards Arms and Ammunition Co; the managing director was late superintendent of HM Small Arms Factory at Enfield; the resident engineer was also from Enfield[8].

1872 Factories taken over by National Arms and Ammunition Co; application to transfer license to the new company[9].

1873 Incorporated as a limited liability company - Westley Richards and Co

1875 The first really successful hammerless gun was developed using the Anson and Deeley patent action.

By 1884 the assets of the National Arms and Ammunition Co had been dispersed - the ammunition business had been sold back to Westley Richards as they were the principal customers for that business[10]

1884 Development of the ejector mechanism. Under John Deeley the Younger the 'fore-end ejector mechanism' was invented and patented

1894 Relocated to a purpose built new factory in Bournbrook. It was designed by C. E. Bateman, a local Birmingham architect, associated with the Arts and Crafts movement and the Birmingham Guild of Handicraft

1897 Patent for the hand detachable lock (an ingenious variant on the Anson and Deeley action) and known in the USA as a 'droplock'.

1899 The company was registered on 2 May, to take over the business of gun manufacturers[11] of the same name; John Deeley was chairman[12]

1899 Leslie Taylor succeeded John Deeley, the Elder, as managing director seeing the company through the First World War and through the 1920's

1957 Company bought by Walter Clode

1994 Walter ran the company for 37 years before handing over to his son Simon in 1994.

2008 A former enamelling factory was converted to become the company's new base, located near Birmingham's old gun quarter. Westley Richards is the only one of the famous historic Birmingham gun makers which still operates in this area.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  1. 1839 Pigot's Directory
  2. History and Directory of Birmingham, 1849: Guns
  3. 1851 Post Office Directory
  4. Birmingham Daily Post, 8 July 1872
  5. National Probate Calendar
  6. Rifles of the World, by John Walter
  7. The Pall Mall Gazette, 1 February 1872
  8. Birmingham Daily Post 6 February 1872
  9. Birmingham Daily Post, 8 July 1872
  10. Birmingham Daily Post 16 January 1884
  11. The Stock Exchange Year Book 1908
  12. London Gazette 5 May 1899
  • Company Web Site
  • Birmingham’s Industrial Heritage by Ray Shill. Published by Sutton Publishing 2002. ISBN 0-7509-2593-0