When the founders of Lockyer of England, all country enthusiasts, saw a pile of 100 year-old guns that were beyond economic repair, they couldn’t bear the thought of their heritage, history and craftsmanship being lost and they vowed to try to find a way to rescue them. This month, after months of planning, the company, with bases in Dorchester, Dorset, and Bexhill in East Sussex, was officially launched to restore, decommission and transform the guns into unique pieces of ”Art”
Managing director George said,
“We saw beautiful old British side-by-side guns destined to have no further future in the field; it bothered me how under-appreciated they were. I saw these guns as works of art, as well as pieces of engineering, and we realised that was the way that we could save them. “We are rescuing them and uncovering their history. We want people to appreciate each gun for its craftsmanship and its artistic value – these guns are part of our sporting history!”
George was particularly struck by the beauty of some of the intricate engravings – many made in the mid to late 1800s and each concealing an interesting story. Once a vintage gun has been discovered by Lockyer, it is painstakingly restored – a highly-skilled process taking many weeks. It is completely decommissioned and certificated by the Proof house to that effect, no gun license is needed and obviously it can no longer be fired. Incredibly, none of this destroys the external appearance or patina; this process is called ‘deactivation’ making a Lockyer gun legal to own and display at home for all to admire.
A team of experts carry out any repairs, and restore and enhance the ‘Lock and action’ which often features delicate hand crafted engraving. The barrel is taken back to its original steel form and then given a corrosive resistant finish of either clear, graphite black, burnt bronze, silver or matt gold and are then reduced in length to 24” – that of an original coach gun. Every ‘Lockyer Gun’ is then fitted into its presentation wooden case that contains its proof certificate and provenance.
The rescued guns are discovered worldwide, as well as people inheriting them. Lockyer has already started receiving private commissions to turn bequeathed guns into works of art.
“The guns come from lots of different sources and finding the guns has become something of an obsession! It’s exciting when we find a rare or particularly beautiful example. It’s amazing to think where that gun has been and what it’s ‘seen’ during its lifetime. “It’s great to think we are literally saving the beauty and revealing the history of these guns for future generations to enjoy. There’s a real desire for upcycling, so finding a new life for these pieces of history is also meeting a growing demand to reduce waste and to restore.“Each gun would have been painstakingly hand-made by a team of master craftsmen, sometimes taking over a year to make just one gun. The gun maker and engravers’ artistic style is reflected in each one, so turning them into a historical piece of art for people to appreciate seems a very fitting tribute.”
The Art of Lockyer’ Facts:
- The first gun Lockyer bought was an original coach gun belonging to Wells Fargo and would have been used to protect their coaches on dangerous journeys through the American Wild West.
- Talented British gun inventors like Charles Boswell, William Greener and William Wellington Greener were instrumental in shaping the history and models of not only guns, but also other engineering developments. Frederick Beesley was known as ‘The Inventor’ to the London gun trade, such was his impressive ability. However he never harnessed his talent in a business sense and is not recognised as well as some of the other London makers.
- As well as one of the finest creators of sporting shotguns, William Greener invented an improved miners’ lamp, a self-righting lifeboat and level crossing gates. His son, William Wellington Greener, became an accomplished writer and developed miniature rifles for target shooting. Charles Boswell is renowned for his contribution to sporting and military guns.
- The most beautiful part of a heritage gun is the hand-engraved steel Sidelock plate that houses the original “lock mechanism” called the lock-plate. Working more than a hundred years ago, these little-known craftsmen engraved beautiful images of sporting dogs, game birds, and decorative scrolls.
- Skilled engineers, machinists, engravers, stockers and actioners spent hundreds of hours in workshops perhaps producing no more than 20 or 30 of these characterful British guns in their whole working lives.