Robert Chaplain of Birmingham

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John 39
Posts: 452
Joined: Mon May 22, 2017 5:30 pm

Robert Chaplain of Birmingham

Post by John 39 »

Hi John,

I don't need your historic data as often as I used to, but a chance to research barrelmaker and apparently gunmaker Robert Chaplain of Birmingham is the current query. I very recently acquired a nice muzzle loader with two double barrels by him, 16 bore shotgun barrels and .577 rifled barrels. The latter are 1:60 twist and the gun with those barrels plus ramrod weighs 8.1 pounds -- so it is made for round balls or short conicals. Barrels are neatly stamped R Chaplain underneath plus the initials R C are on each barrel hook, so he is at least the barrelmaker. R Chaplain is also engraved on the locks, but only London on the top ribs.
John 39
Posts: 452
Joined: Mon May 22, 2017 5:30 pm

Re: Robert Chaplain of Birmingham

Post by John 39 »

Hi Kai'miloa,

I have searched for Robert Chaplin but can't find him anywhere, and this includes Stockel.
John 39
Posts: 452
Joined: Mon May 22, 2017 5:30 pm

Re: Robert Chaplain of Birmingham

Post by John 39 »

Thanks, John. I signed up for a year's membership just an hour ago or so. I particularly want to support the IGC, after all your work for so many years.
The first thing I did was to search for Robert Chaplain, noting that you had searched for Robert Chaplin. Immediately I got the information -- more thorough, of course -- about him that confirmed what I had found by searching my own sources previously (I don't have Stokel, tho). It's interesting that the case label in the case, which very much fits the gun and its two barrels-sets precisely, reads "Robert Champlain", yet has the correct 30 Steelhouse Lane, Birmingham, address -- along with "Gun and Rifle Maker", but also adds the larger words "And LONDON". The case does not appear to have been re-lined, yet the case label is relatively small and may well be a modern "aged" label with incorrect last name. I have found nothing about a Robert Champlain in my own sources or the IGC report.
> Perhaps your UK sources may have a photo or description of an authentic Robert Chaplain trade label?
> Of note, the barrels have simply 'London" engraved on rear of the top rib. But on each barrel bottom, near the proof marks, is a small, very precise stamp reading R Chaplain, and the hooks bear the stamps RC, as I said. Since British barrel makers put their initials, or occasionally their name (ROSES, for example) on the bottom of the barrels, and this gun/rifle set has R. Chaplain engraved on the locks as well as stamped on the barrel undersides, but simply "London" on the top rib, all this makes me think he was making barrels, as well as completed guns or rifles, for the trade, yet in this case he made up this fine set to sell himself. Hence where another "maker's" name might have been engraved on the top rib or even the locks, we see only the ubiquitous "London" visible atop the barrels, plus his name on the lock plates.
John 39
Posts: 452
Joined: Mon May 22, 2017 5:30 pm

Re: Robert Chaplain of Birmingham

Post by John 39 »

Hi Kai'miloa,

My mistake ! Spelling (generally) in England only became "standardised" in about 1820-1830, and spelling of names kept changing until about 1870. Robert may well have changed the spelling of his name soon after he started in business at 30 Steelhouse Lane which was a prestigious address not usually of any barrel maker - who needed to be nearer a canal. I doubt if Robert was the barrrel maker, initials may denote the finisher.

I would think that think this is an original trade label some of which were very small! We don't have any photos of Chaplain trade labels

There are no Champlains in Stockel.
John 39
Posts: 452
Joined: Mon May 22, 2017 5:30 pm

Re: Robert Chaplain of Birmingham

Post by John 39 »

Hi John,
Your input is once again hugely valuable, John. I knew about the changing of spelled names, but did not know it continued so long.Now I need to take a photo of the trade label and get it to you. The "smudging" on it looks rather suspicious to me, but there is no sign of some former, larger, trade label having been on the inside case lid, and the fact that it is small points to "original" too, it seems to me from what you have related.
John 39
Posts: 452
Joined: Mon May 22, 2017 5:30 pm

Re: Robert Chaplain of Birmingham

Post by John 39 »

Hi Kai'miloa,

Most of the basic info in any gunmaker history comes from the various trade directoriesfrom. There is no doubt that Robert Chaplain traded from 1857 to 1875 as a gun, rifle and pistol maker. From 1875 he was at 25 Steelhouse Lane. I've amended his closing date to 1886 because that is when he registered his patent - so he was more than likely in business at that date.

I would think your label is genuine, it may be small because it was intended for a pistol case. What I can't explain is why your label bears the name Champlain but the firm was recorded as Chaplain from 1857 to 1886 and a few years more !

It is also a little strange that the only address is London with no mention of Birmingham. However, a lot of Birmingham firms, and firms trading elsewhere in the world such as India, claimed London as their home because of the exceptional reputation of London as a gin making centre. But at this time firms operating abroad usually had an agent in London for financial guarantee (import / export) reasons as well as sales reasons.
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