russell hillsdon royal counties

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richard churton 431
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Joined: Thu Oct 24, 2019 1:57 pm

russell hillsdon royal counties

Post by richard churton 431 » Thu Oct 24, 2019 2:41 pm

Hello,

I am new to this site, just stumbled across it this afternoon, but I have already found some really interesting information regarding one of my shotguns!

I recently bought at auction a Russell Hillsdon 'Royal Counties' side by side 12b ejector, in lovely condition overall, but with a particularly pretty walnut stock of the kind I have only seen before on 'best' English guns.

The markings are 'Russell Hillsdon' on the right hand barrel top, 'Royal Counties' on the rib, and 'Chichester Worthing &
Horsham' on the left barrel top. It is also marked 'Russell Hillsdon' on the sides of the boxlock action. The action and barrel flats have markings showing original Birmingham proof and Nitro reproofing, but no date stamps that I can decipher.

Interestingly, the inclusion of Worthing and Horsham on the barrel markings would, after reading this site's historical database regarding the firm of C E Hillsdon, later Russel Hillsdon, indicate a possible date of 1932-34, when those shops were in operation.

The gun's serial number is 2088, I wonder if there is any way of determining the exact date of manufacture, and/or the gun builder?

Any help any forum members are able to offer would be greatly appreciated,

Many thanks,

Richard C

John 39
Posts: 239
Joined: Mon May 22, 2017 5:30 pm

Re: russell hillsdon royal counties

Post by John 39 » Fri Oct 25, 2019 5:58 pm

I think you are absolutely correct. Such records as exist are not much help, they are simply a compilation of numbers from guns seen for sale in recent years, they are not from any written records. The earliest number recorded is 2154 and this was dated by proof marks as being c.1925-1930. The highest number in this string is 3132. The numbers then jump to 3523 and are dated 1934/5. There is no explanation of the missing years 1931 to 1933 ! Your gun's serial number predates the earliest number known but not by much.

The Worthing and Horsham shops opened in 1932 but appear to have closed by 1936.

I would guess your gun was made by Webley & Scott in 1932. The lovely wood work is a little unusual, maybe it was made for the Webley shop in London but actually bought by Russell Hillsdon.

richard churton 431
Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Oct 24, 2019 1:57 pm

Re: russell hillsdon royal counties

Post by richard churton 431 » Sun Oct 27, 2019 8:47 am

Thank you John for that information, and apologies for the late reply, work gets in the way of so much these days...

I'm afraid I don't really understand how serial numbers work in the gun trade, they sometimes appear to start and stop at random at the whim of the manufacturers. The missing years in the serial number records is a bit of a mystery though, perhaps just lost records?

However, if the earliest known number was 2154, could it be that 2088 was built and proofed in the 1925-30 window, but for one reason or another not passed to the retail trade until after the Russell Hillsdon shops opened at Worthing and Horsham in 1932?

Also, could I ask why you are suggesting Webly & Scott as the possible builders? Are you linking the serial number to Webly & Scott's recorded numbers? I would be very pleased if they are indeed the builders, their reputation for quality goes before them.

Many thanks again for your help,

Richard C

John 39
Posts: 239
Joined: Mon May 22, 2017 5:30 pm

Re: russell hillsdon royal counties

Post by John 39 » Wed Oct 30, 2019 11:07 am

Hi Richard,

Most gun makers started their numbering systems at 100 or more to give the impression that they sold more guns than they actually did, then after a few years they'd up the numbers by 1000 or more. Some added prefixes or letters after the number for several reasons and often to record the actual manufacturer of the gun. Number were sometimes the date of manufacture and sometimes the date of sale. Guns were built and proved, not always to order but often for stock. They might sit on the shelf for several years. One or two gun makers ascribed numbers to repair jobs as well as new guns. There were no accepted rules. Most records were lost when a firm closed down - nobody left who was interested!

Scott was the biggest trade maker before 1898 and Webley & Scott were the biggest trade maker after 1898. W & S definitely supplied Hillsdons. therefore they seem to be most likely to have been the maker. As far as we know Hillsdon didn't start buying from other trade makers until after 1947.

However, we cannot say definitely that Webley was the maker. Your number is definitely a Hillsdon number. The number of your gun has no relationship to Webley's numbers which by 1900 were in the tens of thousands. However, Webley guns were numbered at the time of manufacture which raises the possibility that Webley was not the manufacturer.

A smaller trade maker would have engraved the number Hillsdon asked them to engrave, and it may be that they stocked it with good wood in order to impress Hillsdon.

The gun could have been made in the 1925-1930 window, trade was slow at the time and it could have been left sitting on the shelf. the good wood suggests it was a special

richard churton 431
Posts: 3
Joined: Thu Oct 24, 2019 1:57 pm

Re: russell hillsdon royal counties

Post by richard churton 431 » Wed Oct 30, 2019 6:39 pm

Thank you again John, for your mine of information!

I guess we've exhausted the trails, and got about as close to the date and manufacturer as we will be able to.

I'll be very pleased to be able to tell the other Guns at my Syndicate on Saturday that the gun is a Russell Hillsdon 'Royal Counties', probably built by Webley & Scott between 1925 and 1930, possibly for their own shop in London, hence the 'best wood', but eventually passed to Russell Hillsdon between 1932 and 1934, when their Worthing and Horsham shops were open.

I am very grateful for your help, it's all been very interesting and informative.

Many thanks,

Richard.

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