Hidden treasures at Holt’s
Donald Dallas takes a deeper look at some unusual auction lots.
It’s an addiction this collecting business. There are so many accoutrements to accompany guns and rifles and I know, that for one, seem to have amassed a large collection of such items bought for no particular reason.
The Holt’s Sealed Bid sale in July was full of such items at very reasonable prices. Most of us in the collecting world can turn our hand to a bit of restoration and one item I particularly liked was a 19th century gunmaker’s leg vice in Lot 4363, which sold for £61. Such a vice would be ideal for the workshop.
How can you resist Lot 2237? Three jam jars of muzzle-loading spares. Just the description is enough to make you reach for your bid paddle, certainly evoking childhood memories of tadpoles and marbles. However, the spares were very practical, a large collection of flints, a collection of powder flask springs and a collection of mainsprings. Sold for £126 they were a snip when you think how much a mainspring would cost to replace.
If we have a gun in a case with vacant compartments, then we all want to fill the case with the correct accessories as a gun or rifle complete not only looks the part, it adds value in addition. They must be the correct period accessories though and Lot 4359, consisting of six leather cleaning pouches, which sold for £125, seemed a wise buy. Leather cleaning pouches containing a pull through were in use from the late 19th century right through the 20th century and hence any one of these cleaning pouches would be appropriate in a case spanning this period as the design did not change.
A useful purchase was a brand new large gold stock oval measuring some two inches by one inch. When buying a new gun or coming into possession of an old gun, many people want their own initials engraved on such an oval. This can be pricey due to the value of gold but in Lot 4405 the estimate was just £25-£35 and it sold for £45.
As far as the guns in the main sale were concerned, anything that is completely original will command a lot of interest and high premium. Such an item was Lot 620, a .22 barrel cocking Webley & Scott “Pre War Mk.1” air pistol c.1935. Not only did the pistol retain most of its original finish, it was contained in its original dark blue carton with instructions in the lid, a blue card sample pellet carton, cleaning brush etc. Such originality is quite hard to find. It was sold for £260.
There is always a good selection of unusual guns and rifles in the sale. One unusual sidelock that caught my eye was a Joseph Lang nonejector wildfowling gun. Lang is in the top flight of makers and this border engraved sidelock was very handsome. It even sported a single trigger. It had 3” chambers and 34” barrels and weighed 7lbs 8oz. It was estimated at £500-£700 but sold for £1,600.
The gun I found the most interesting in the sale was lot 1510. This was a top quality 16 bore Charles Lancaster hammer gun with extra 20 bore barrels described in the catalogue as “an unusual gun”. It certainly was unusual as it had a left hand side lever, short 25” barrels, a diminutive fore-end, a pistol grip and was of light weight. As I read through the description it mentioned at the end it was built in 1874 for a Lt. Col. Warrand.
Then the penny dropped. I knew exactly who this was and why the gun was so unusual. William Warrand was an officer in the Royal Engineers and in the Indian Mutiny at the capture of Delhi in 1857 he lost his arm. He was a keen shooting man and did not let his disability curtail his sport. Consequently he had various guns built for him designed for onearmed use and this is one of them. The fore-end was unnecessary hence its small size, the pistol grip essential for a firm hand and the barrels of small bore and short to cope with one-armed use.
The gun itself is a best quality Lancaster with typical Lancaster hare’s ears hammers and profusely engraved with rose and scroll. Sold for £800, this was a gun with a interesting provenance and would certainly prove to be a talking point in any collection.
A Webley & Scott .22 air pistol c. 1935 in very original condition in its original carton. The estimate was £150-£250 and it sold for £260.