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WESTLEY RICHARDS PATENT ROOK & RABBIT RIFLES

About 13years ago the BBC contacted me and asked to do a film on our premises for a series called Clarissa and the Country Man. The show was hosted by one of the '2 Fat Lady' cooks, Clarissa Dickson Wright and her friend Sir Johnny Scott and the purpose of this segment was to show their viewers inside a working sporting gun factory. Clarissa and Johnny discussed the episode with me and asked if they could bring one of Johnny's guns along as he had a Westley Richards. They would arrive like customers show me the gun and discuss repairs or something and then have a tour of the factory with the cameras rolling.

Rook-&-Rabbit-Rifles

I remember the day of filming well for two reasons firstly when Clarissa arrived she proceeded to do her wardrobe out of the back of her car in the car park which involved practically stripping off below a row of gunmakers windows which had heads looking out in amazement, remember I said 2 Fat Lady's! The wolf whistles were shrill. Secondly I recall Johnny carrying this small case into the showroom and popping it on the table to "I would like you to have a look at this". I had been expecting an old shotgun that had been handed down for generations and was nearing the end of its life, not an absolutely original little .250 rook and rabbit rifle as was presented. The little rifle had spectacular wood and my whole attention was focused not on the filming but rather how I could buy the rifle!

Westley Richards 250 Rook

On the day I was unsuccessful at getting Johnny to part with the rifle, I think my eyes must have lighted up before I took control. I did however let him leave with the knowledge that if he ever wanted to sell or swop it for something more useful I would be a willing customer!

About three or four years later I had a call from Johnny and he wanted to exchange the rifle for a shotgun for his sons 21st birthday, something I willingly did. His son was given a fine detachable lock 12g gun with which to shoot and I ended up with what I consider a very rare example of our patent rook and rabbit rifles, one which had been made to the very highest standards, full traditional WR engraving and superb wood for the period on such a gun.

I never did watch the episode on TV.

Westley Richards 250Photo by Terry Allen for "In Pursuit of the Best Gun"

 

17 Comments

  • RICHARD COUSINS on November 8, 2013 at 10:01 am

    Great condition little rifle. I think all things come to him who waits. I have one almost the same but sleeved to .22 hornet. It is the most fun rifle to take to africa. Quite possibly have shot more things with the little hornet than with the big boys.

  • Peter Buckley. on November 19, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Dear Sir,
    The rifle shown is indeed a beautiful work of art made at your famous workshop, and cased to perfection.
    I remember the TV series, never missed an episode, particularly the scene in your shop.
    I met a lovely lady one day locally whilst walking my dog, she too had a dog of similar breeding, in conversation she asked if I would be going to a local Game Fair, we did, and we met up once again. On meeting she invited me into the hospitallity tent at the BASC stand, to my surprise Sir Johnny Scott was sitting alone and we got talking about different topics including the above Rook rifle.
    He told me that he had exchanged it for a gun for his son's birthday, he asked why I was interested, I told him that I have one I thought was exactly the same as his, but not cased, how wonderful to see the rifle once again on your website.
    My rifle has been Parkerifled in .22 Long Rifle, it has an Aldis scope mounted with Parker Hale mounts, it is all in still beautiful condition, shoots tight groups and is my pride and joy, the serial no is 6395.
    Its stange after years of remembering that conversation, that it should all be resurected by chance on finding your wonderful website.

    Best Regards Pete.

    • Simon Clode on November 19, 2013 at 5:10 pm

      Dear Peter,

      What a nice addition to the story that is! Thank you for posting that and of course the same deal applies to your rifle as did Sir Johnny's! I have room in the safe for another little one!

      Kind Regards,

      Simon

  • Peter Buckley. on November 20, 2013 at 7:25 am

    Dear Simon,

    Thank you so very much for your reply, I didn't expect you to reply so soon, if at all.
    It has made me retreive the rifle from its slumber in the cabinet to compare it face to face with Sir Johnny's, there are small differences between the two of them, let me firstly say that I havn't the same vocabulary in gunsmithing terms that you posess, but I can still appreciate fantastic workmanship.
    Looking at your rifle there appears to be three cross pins along the lower edge of the action, mine only has the rear two, on mine beyond the back of the action, in the timber directly above the trigger is an engraved screw ( bolt )? that passes through the stock and is captured by an engraved inletted keeper, what is this screw, bolt, for?, it does seem to have been there from when the rifle was built.
    Next question, have you in your extensive stock a case that perhaps would accomodate my rifle and scope?.
    Thank you once again,

    Kind Regards Pete.

    • Simon Clode on November 20, 2013 at 2:49 pm

      I think your rifle sound like an non ejector rather than ejector rifle. The pin through the stock is most probably a repair where the head of the stock is held together with a decorative bolt, for want of a better description. If done by the factory it would have been hidden in a manner to make it look like it was supposed to be there.

      Simon

  • Peter Buckley. on November 21, 2013 at 8:11 am

    Simon,

    I had to have another look at the rifle when you said it could be a non ejector, it is an ejector rifle.
    Now I remember when I first shot it, I found to my surprise that it ejected as well.
    Whilst checking to see if it ejected, I looked with a very critical eye again at the stock around the area of this "pin", top strap, trigger guard, I could see no evidence of damage or reason why it should be there, maybe one day if I come into Birmingham
    I should call in and let you see it for yourself.

    Kind Regards Pete.

    • Simon Clode on November 21, 2013 at 12:51 pm

      You would of course be welcome and I am sure we can see exactly what you mean when you show it to us!

      Simon

  • Peter Buckley. on November 24, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Simon,

    I have emailed the HBSA. (Historical Breechloading Smallarms Association) to try and stimulate some interest. I know there are lots of their members very interested in
    Rook & Rabbit rifles, not only to shoot in competition but research into their Historical background and manufacture, maybe quite soon others will be lining up to add comments, information, and to donate their Westley Richards rifles.

    Pete.

  • Allan Kirk on November 26, 2013 at 3:59 am

    Hello to Peter and Simon

    I came up to Birmingham earlier this year to kill several birds with one stone. I brought my father's pair of Westley Richards' Officers pistols (cased) which were made in the 1840's and never used. I also brought along a copy of Wal Winfer's book on Rook rifles, and also bought myself the Bicentenial WR book.

    Simon and Trigger and I discussed in theory the idea of recreating a 'modern' rook rifle, an elegant top lever single shot chambered for perhaps the .32-20 cartridge. With WR's modern CNC technology a limited run could be possible - all we need are one or two keen clients.

    I have been running the HBSA Rook Rifle competition for 14 years now and have yet to see a Westley Richards rifle on the firing point. Twelve guineas for their best gun (without scope) was a high price when a famous London maker retailed their Webley-made rifle for 5 guineas... For comparison, a bottle of Scotch cost 3/6, or 17.5 current pence, in 1914 - you do the math as our cousins say!

    • Simon on November 26, 2013 at 5:54 am

      I will have to send the lad who regulates our rifles to your event with my Rook!!

      • Allan Kirk on November 26, 2013 at 11:30 am

        That's fine by me - we are a friendly crowd. We also have another event in Stourport-upon-Severn, which is closer for you. I'll send details after Christmas.

  • Peter Buckley. on November 26, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    Allan and Simon

    Firstly I am pleased others are interested in these wonderful rifles, and indeed shooting them in whatever context, game or competition.

    The idea of a modern Westley Richards Rook Rifle built to perfection fills me with great interest, if this idea were to get off the ground I don't think there would be any lack of interest when the word got around.

    Please let me know if I need to remorgage ?

    PS, at least then you would aquire the correct fitting case!

    Pete.

  • Derek Stimpson on November 27, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Dear Simon,

    This delightful correspondence was referred to me by our HBSA forum moderator and I could not but add my two pennyworth!

    I have a Westley Richards top lever break action Rook Rifle in .300. It is a non selective ejector with Metford rifling, S/N 1963.

    I also have a Martini Sherwood takedown in .300 Sherwood.

    Both are featured in the Wal Winfer/Tom Rowe book which is vol 8 (hammerless) in their British Single Shot Rifles series (vol 7 is ML, hammer etc). See pages 12 and 282.

    These little rifles generally shoot extremely well with the right loads and the HBSA shoots organised by Allan Kirk and Paul Smith are increasingly well attended. Standard of shooting is high.

    I do owe you a visit and won't fail to call and organise that in the New Year.

    with kind regards

    Derek Stimpson

  • Peter Buckley. on November 28, 2013 at 1:47 pm

    Simon

    I see other enthusiasts have now added their comments to the blog,"got to be good".

    I am very interested in how many of the "12 guinea" rifles were built, over what period
    of time, were the serial numbers consecutive or random, would this enquiry be possible, would it stimulate more interest.

    Pete

  • Ian towell on October 14, 2015 at 11:22 am

    I to own a westley richards side lever rook rifle number 7982 on the barrel also 210.5 on the gun . I am lead to beleave this is a victorian rifle any info greatly recieved Ian

  • John Garnett on June 22, 2016 at 3:53 am

    I have a Holland & Holland rook rifle 295 converted to 410, some issues have arisen can anyone advise a gunsmith who may be able to correct it. I winder if its worth converting back to a rifle if this is possible? Issues are to me the spring, the first gunsmith said it has the most complex mechanism he has ever seen, ps it the hammerless version. thanks john

    • Simon Clode on June 22, 2016 at 12:18 pm

      I have sent you an email on this also. Simon

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