William Wellington Greener was the second son of the well known Gunmaker, William Greener. Having grown up in his father’s business, he saw that the new breech loading guns were the future and realised that he would have to start his own business if he wished to develop them, as his father did not favour their design. He set up his business in Birmingham around 1855 and traded initially under the name W Greener Jnr but later changed his trading name to WW Greener and operated from 61-62 Loveday St from 1864 until 1869.
After his father’s death in 1869, William Wellington Greener took over his father’s business and continued to make high quality sporting and military guns. Like his father, he was also an inventor and many of his inventions helped to shape the breech-loader, which by that time was developing into the modern sporting gun we know today.
Prior to taking over his father’s business he had already invented the top cross bolt in 1865, one of the main components of Greener’s treble wedge-fast action. Based on the newly invented Anson & Deeley style of action, William continued to develop and improve the breech loading gun. Although not entirely correct, he claimed to be the inventor of choke boring but nevertheless he is considered to be one of the leading improvers of that aspect of breech loading guns. His ‘Facile Princeps’ actioned guns were his most famous with the side safety, which was so often found on Greeners.
Following in his father’s footsteps he was also a very talented writer. In 1871 he wrote The Modern Breech Loader followed by Choke Bore Guns in 1876. He wrote his greatest work in 1881, The Gun and Its Development, which has had many editions and reprints since. He continued to write and published in 1888 Modern Shotguns, and in 1892, The Breech Loader and how to use it and several other books on rifle shooting.
The business opened its own branch in 1878 in London and remained there until July 1914 after which the company moved to Pall Mall and became known as WW Greener Ltd in 1920. During this time another branch was opened in Hull and operated until 1912 when it appeared to close down, possibly due to the onset of the First World War.
WW Greener Ltd is perhaps most well known for the development and production of miniature rifles for target shooting. The firm supplied rifles for the Australian Commonwealth cadets and for the National Rifle Association.
With the onset of the First World War in 1914, the gunmaking side of the business was temporarily discontinued since the production of munitions became a priority. In order to cater for the demands of the Minister of Munitions and of Allied Governments a three acre site was acquired in 1916 for the creation of an extensive factory for the manufacture of various items such as machine gun parts, rifles, bayonets, aeroplane and bomb dropping components and even naval gun barrels. By this time, however, William had already retired and he later died on 25th July 1921.
William Wellington Greener had two sons, Harry Leyton and Charles E Greener who carried on the family business. WW Greener Ltd today builds fine shotguns and rifles. Over the years of the Greener business, a large collection of firearms was amassed known as The Greener Collection much of which has now been sold to collectors all around the world.