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W. Richards Is Not Westley Richards

It is a commonly experienced moment of excitement. Perusing the stock in a provincial auction, yard sale or shop, a century old shotgun appears, so far unrecognised, an undiscovered gem hidden amongst junk. Upon closer inspection of the rib or the action, the name ‘Richards' appears, W. Richards!

‘W’ must stand for ‘Westley’, surely! The bargain hunter has found his pot of gold, a Westley Richards so far undiscovered. In a heartbeat he buys the gun for a modest sum, careful not to let slip what he knows, lest the vendor ups the price or withdraws it from sale at the last moment.

Upon getting the gun home, research begins; when was it made, for whom, where has it been, what action has it seen? Sooner or later the contact details of the maker are tracked down and an excited e-mail or call follows. Unfortunately, it ends in disappointment.

You see, the ‘W’ does not stand for ‘Westley’. We are not entirely sure for what it does stand, possibly William. What we do know, is that there neither was, nor is, any connection between the two companies.

W. Richards had a shop in Preston, initially at 44 Fishergate, beginning in 1820, moving in 1850 to 6a Lune Street and remaining there until 1965. W. Richards later took over the business of Williams & Powell, then trading from 25 South Castle Street, Liverpool, in 1870. (Willams & Powell are not to be confused with William Powell of Birmingham). The firm continued to trade in Liverpool until 1996, moving numerous times.

The name and goodwill of W. Richards was bought in 2000 by Mr. Chris Cairns and now trades as W.Richards (Gunmaker) from Sherwood House, 4 Main Street, Bishop Wilton, Yorkshire. The records for both Preston and Liverpool premises survive in ten ledgers, the earliest dating from 1877 and the latest ending in 1968.

There was no familial connection between W. Richards and Westley Richards and it is not known for sure if the firms had any business links, though, like many gunmakers, it is possible that W. Richards bought either barrelled actions or completed guns from Westley Richards during the late 19th century. However, Westley Richards has no record of such a relationship.

Unfortunately for American enthusiasts, the name ‘W. Richards’ appears to have been used unscrupulously by retailers there during the 19th century and it appears on the locks of many, very poor quality, Belgian ‘export’ guns, sold fraudulently. These regularly appear and owners are often mistakenly under the impression they have an English gun, which they do not.

It is a shame that so many poor quality Belgian fakes exist with the W. Richards name on them, for it gives the false impression that the company made only low quality guns, which is not the case. W. Richards made and sold a range of guns, from medium to high grade and some are very good indeed, especially boxlocks made between the 1930s and the 1950s.

Readers with guns marked ‘W. Richards’ should address their enquiries to the current owner of the company and not to Westley Richards. Good luck with your research and may your gun, regardless of make, bring you years of joy.


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