Historical Manuscripts Commission

Summary report on the records


Westley Richards & Co Ltd, gunmakers, Birmingham

in private possession

(reference: GB-800819-Westley)

N James, October 1990
Historical Manuscripts Commission

Table of Contents



Summary report

Corporate records


Sales records

Production records

Records of guns made

Note on access

Access to the records in the following report is restricted and may be difficult to arrange. All enquiries about access should be directed in writing to the Historical Manuscripts Commission.

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Westley Richards & Co Ltd was established in 1812 by the celebrated Birmingham gunmaker, William Westley Richards (1790-1865), He challenged the pre-eminence of the London gunmakers and his appointment as gunmaker to the Prince Consort in 1840 gave tangible expression to his success. The expansion of the firm in the nineteenth century was based on a continuous stream of technical improvements and innovations. Increasingly, it specialised in two areas: sporting guns, which continue to be the mainstay of the gunmaking part of the business, and the production of military weapons, beginning with the Enfield musket of 1853.

Westley Richards (1814-1897) continued his father's reputation for technical innovation as his partner between 1855 and 1865 and then head of the firm from 1865 to 1872. Finally, he superintended its transition to a limited liability company in 1872, when he became chairman. Westley Richards retired from the active management of the business in the same year, while remaining chairman, and the management increasingly fell under the control of the Deeley family in the late nineteenth century.

By the First World War, the company had lost its more lucrative military contracts to the Royal Ordnance factories. Between the two world wars, it relied heavily on orders for sporting guns from the Indian princes, a feature well-documented in the surviving ledgers for this period. The firm remains one of the three leading British makers of sporting guns, but has now diversified into other forms of precision engineering. It continues to operate from the Bournbrook site, to which manufacturing was transferred from the High Street in Birmingham c1898.

The production records cover most of the guns made by the firm since the early nineteenth century, often with annotations giving details of buyers and later repairs, There is also a good series of ledgers giving details of customers, accounts for the first half of the twentieth century.

In 1913 the company's managing director, LB Taylor, published A brief history of the Westley Richards firm 1812-1913. A short article on the company by John Wood, bringing the account up to the present day, appeared in Midlands Industry and Commerce, July 1988, pp42-43.

The Commission is most grateful to the present chairman, Mr Walter Clode, for permission to examine the surviving records of the firm and to Mr Simon Clode, director, for his assistance in compiling the following list.


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Summary report

All records are kept in Mr Simon Clode's office, except where otherwise specified.

Corporate records
Minute book 1872-99, including liquidator's accounts 1899 [Chairman's office]

Journals (marked J-U) 1946-60 (12 volumes)

Miscellaneous accounts to 1980s (2 cupboards). Not inspected. [Chairman's office]

Sales records
Gun order books (7): 1897-1902, 1903-08, 1908-12, 1912-20, 1920-28, 1928-50, 1950-60

Customers' ledgers 1905-48 (5 volumes): 1905-10, 1914-20, 1920-c1926, 1927-c1936, 1937-48

Indexes to customers' ledgers (5 volumes)

Connaught shotguns sales books [2008-2176] 1979-87

Production records
Gun making cost book 1839

Stock book 1835-39

Stock book: Mauser rifles, carbines and pistols 1898-1933

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Records of guns made
Arranged by the serial number of each weapon. Earlier volumes are often described as 'barrel books'. Those series not designated by letters of the alphabet in the original volumes have been assigned numbers from 1 to 6 in this list for ease of reference. The volumes frequently overlap. Each entry refers to a single volume.

Series [1]

Description   Serial number   Date
Rifles 624-1695 1839-50
Rifles  1695-3584     1850-67
Rifles  3592-5886   1866-86
Double barrelled guns  5887-7000  1882-95
Shotguns 7001-9999 1893-1913
Guns and rifles 7801-10036 1903-45

Series [2]

Includes two parallel sub-series to 1858.

Description   Serial number   Date

and pistols



Rifles 3914-6920 1839-48
Double rifles 3914-5584 1839-44
Shotguns 6921-9999 1848-62
Shotguns and rifles  6917-8798 1848-58
Shotguns 8799-10773 1857-65
Shotguns  10774-13744 1865-83
Shotguns 13745-16000 1883-1907
Shotguns 16001-18702 1900-89

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Series [3]

Description   Serial number   Date
Shotguns and rifles 1-1000  1894-1902
Double barrelled guns 3000-4000 1861-69
4001-5000 1869-75
5001-6000 1875-83
6001-7000 1882-91
7001-8000 1890-99
Shotguns and rifles 8001-9000 1899-1906
Shotguns and rifles 9001-10000 1906-13

  Series [4]

Description   Serial number Date
10000-11000 1862-66
11001-12000 1865-71
12001-13000 1869-76
13001-14000 1876-84
14001-15000 1884-93
15001-16000 1891-1901
Shotguns  16001-17000 1901-09
17001-18000 1908-24, 1937
Rifles 18001-19000 1924-57

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Series [5]

Description   Serial number Date
Pistols 1-323 To 1853
[Pistols 70-623: see series 2]
Pistols 100-847 1839-72

Series [6]

Description   Serial number Date
Rifles 36549-42835 1896-c1914
Rifles 40001-41000  1917-31
Magazine rifles 41001-43020 1921-55

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K series

Description   Serial number Date
K 36-K 1000 1885-99
K 51-K 1078 1886-1903
K 1001-K 1214 1899-c1914, 1939

T series

Description   Serial number Date
Shotguns and rifles T 1001 - T 2000 and G5008-G5106 1902- 03
Shotguns and rifles T 2001 - T 3000 1905-08
Shotguns and rifles T 3001 - T 4000 1908-10
Shotguns and rifles T 4001 - T 5000 1910-12
Shotguns T 5001 - T 7000 1912-23
Shotguns and rifles T 7001 - T 9000 1915-26
Shotguns T 9001 - T 11000 1926-38
Shotguns and rifles T 11001 - T 11787 1935-62

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O and G series

Description  Serial number Date
Shotguns and rifles O.1001 - O.2000 1914-44
Barrel book (repairs) O.2001 - O.2192 1936-52
[G 5008-G 5106: see T series]
Shotguns and rifles G.5200 - O.2030 1903-62

Miscellaneous records

Notebook including technical data, dates of the shooting season, etc late 19th century [Chairman's office]

Framed royal warrants 19th-20th century [Entrance lobby]

Saltmarshe, Yorkshire, estate account book, marked ,expenses on dogs and game' 1821-34.

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