C. V. Clark 2004 (Last Revision June 15th 2016)

After more than twelve years of publishing The Wolverhampton Gunlock Makers website, this is a last update from the author.

Owing to the cessation of webspace provision by the ISP, it now seems fairly certain that this online version of my ongoing research will no longer be accessible from
the 20th of July 2016. Perhaps there will be a future resurrection of the site elsewhere. When this may happen is as yet unknown. For the foreseeable future I can still be contacted on either:
wolverhampton-glms (at) fsmail.net

Or:
cvc1(at)wolverhampton-gunlocks.fslife.co.uk

Research continues - The following names have all played a part in Wolverhampton's gunlock and associated trades:

Solomon Adey,  Charles Allcock,  Thomas Allmark,  Joseph K. Andrews,  Noah Aston,  William Aston,  Reginald W. Atkins,  Charles [St] Aubin,  William H. [St] Aubin,
Joseph Badger,  Thomas Badger,  Joseph Bagley,  James Barnett,  William J. Barnett,  James Barrett,  Thomas Barrett,  Henry Bassett,  Henry T. Bassett,  Sydney Bassett,
Stanley H. Bassett,  Thomas Bassett,  William Bassett,  Joseph Bate,  Alfred Beddows,  William Beddow[e]s,  Richard Bellingham,  James Bennett,  Charles S. Blanton,
Henry E. Blanton,  David Bowen,  William Bolton,  John Booth,  Edward Bowden,  James Bradney,  John Bradney,  Joseph Bradney,  Edward Brassman,  Thomas Bratt,
Benjamin Brazier(1),  Benjamin Brazier(2),  Benjamin Brazier(3),  Charles Brazier,  Donald B. Brazier,  Edwin Brazier,  Eleanor Brazier,  Elizabeth Brazier, 
Frederick Brazier/Brasier,  George Brazier,  Helena Brazier,  James Brazier/Brasier(1),  James Brazier(2),  James Brazier(3),  John Brazier,  Joseph Brazier(1),
Joseph Brazier(2),  Joseph Brazier(3),  Joseph S. Brazier,  Richard Brazier,  Sarah Brazier,  Thomas Brazier(1),  Thomas Brazier(2), Thomas Brazier(3),  William Brazier,
Edwin Brewster,  William Brewster,  John Brier,  John Brindley,  Joseph Bristow,  Bernard Brittain,  James Brittain/Britton,  Samuel Brittain,  Thomas Brittain, 
Charles Broadbent,  Samuel Brotherton,  Thomas Brown,  Thomas Brueton/Bruerton/Brewton,  Edward Bullimore,  James Bullock,  Joseph Bullock,  Leonard Bullock,
George Butler,  John Butler,  Joseph Butler,  Thomas Butler(1),  Thomas Butler(2),  William Butler,  Luke Callaghan,  Thomas Callaghan,  Isaac Cartwright,  Thomas Challinor,
Edwin Chilton,  William B. Chilton,  James Choles,  John Churm,  John Clempson,  Henry Cliff,  Richard Cliff,  Robert Cliff,  Thomas Collins,  George Cook[e],
George Cooper,  James Cooper,  Joseph Cotterhill,  William Cotterhill,  Joseph Cox,  Anthony Cresswell,  Benjamin Cresswell,  James Cresswell,  William Curtis,
William Daly,  William B. Daly,  Frederick R. Daly,  Arthur V. Daly,  Adam Dangerfield,  Edward Dangerfield,  Noah Dangerfield,  John Darlaston,  John Davies,
Jesse Dawes,  William Dawes,  Thomas Devey,  Martin Dewel,  George Dodd,  Henry Dodd,  William H. Dodd,  Joseph Drew,  Joseph Dudley,  Thomas Dudley(1),
Thomas Dudley(2),  Edward Dudwell,  William H. Dudwell,  Duncombe George,  John Edge,  Thomas Edge,  John F. Edwards,  Joseph Edwards,  William Edwards,
William Evans,  Benjamin Faulkner,  Henry Fellows/Fellowes,  Francis Ferrett,  Benjamin Fisher,  Henry Fisher,  John Fisher,  William Fisher,  George Fletcher,  Joseph Fletcher,
William Fletcher,  Peter Fossbrook,  Charles Foster,  Thomas Foster,  William Foster,  John Fox,  Charles Gandy,  Richard German/Jerman,  Edward Gibbons,  James Gill,
Emmanuel Golcher,  James Grainger(1),  James Grainger(2),  John Grainger(1),  John Grainger(2),  Joseph Grainger(1),  Joseph Grainger(2),  Thomas Grainger, 
James G. Gregory,  Richard C. Griffin,  Gideon Griffiths,  Joseph Groom,  Richard Groom,  Edward Grosvenor,  Joseph Groves,  Joseph Guest,  Joseph Gutteridge,
William Hadley,  William F. Hancher,  William Hand,  Benjamin Harnett/Harnitt/Arnitt,  Samuel Harper,  Thomas Harris,  Henry Hawkins,  H[enry]. Hayes,
George Hemmingsley/Hemingsley,  John Hemmingsley/Hemingsley,  Thomas Hickin/Hicken,  Isaac Hill,  Josiah Hill,  Thomas Hill,  George Hipwood,  Charles Hodgkins,
John Holden,  Thomas Holland,  Edward Homer,  Edward C. Homer,  James Homer,  Kemsey Homer,  Richard Homer,  William Homer,  Benjamin Hughes,
Edward Hughes,  Edwin H. Hughes,  George Hughes,  John Hughes(1),  John Hughes(2),  John Hughes(3),  Samuel Hughes,  John Instone/Inston,  Reuben Jackson,
John James,  George Jessup/Jessop,  Allen Jones,  Alfred Jones,  Henry Jones,  John Jones,  Joseph Jones,  Richard Jones,  Roger Jones  Thomas Jones,  William Kingston,
Robert Lambert,  Dennis Landred,  Alfred Law,  John Law(1),  John Law(2),  John Law(3),  Joseph Law,  Peter Law,  Richard Law,  Stephen Law,  Thomas Law(1),
Thomas Law(2),  Richard Lawson,  Patrick Leonard,  Richard Ling(1),  Richard Ling(2),  Robert Littleward,  Edmund Lockley,  Harold Lockley,  William Lockley,
James Luckruck,  James Haycock Mander,  Samuel B. Mansfield,  William Mansfield,  Edward Mantle,  William Marlow,  John Marrian,  James Marrian,  Richard Marshall,
Jonah Marston,  Mark Marston,  Aaron Martin,  John Mason,  Joseph Mason,  Francis B. Matthews,  George F. Matthews,  William M. Matthews,  Charles McLaw/M'Cleur,
Joshua Miles,  Herbert Mills,  Richard Mills,  Edward Mitchel,  John Moore,  John R. Moore,  George Morris,  John Morris,  Thomas Morris,  James Moseley/Mosely/Mosley,
Joseph Moseley/Mosely,   John Moss[e],   Robert Moss[e],   John Mountford,  Joseph Mountford,  Ernest Munn,  George J. Munn,  Joseph Munn,  William Munn,
John Newton,  Thomas Newton(1),  Thomas Newton(2),  Benjamin Parker,  Henry Parker,  Isaac Parker,  James Parker,  John Parker, Joseph Parker,  Richard Parker,
John Parkes(1),  John Parkes(2),  Joseph Parsons,  David Partridge,  Richard Perkins,  George Perry,  Homer Perry,  John Perry(1),  John Perry(2),  Thomas Perry,
William Perry,  Thomas Phillips,  John Pilsbury,  Peter Pinckston,  John Pool[e],  William Pool[e],  Charles Powell,  Thomas Povey,  George Radcliffe,  William E. Rees,
Meshack Richards,  Daniel Rigby(1),  Daniel Rigby(2),  John Rigby,  Thomas Rigby,  Josiah Riley,  James Roberts,  Alfred Robinson,  William Rock,  John Russell,
Thomas Rycroft,  Thomas Savage,  John A. Scotcher,  John Shale,  Thomas Shaw,  William Shaw,  John Short,  Thomas Simkin,  John Skipwood,  Benjamin Slater,
William Slater,  Edward Smith,  Elijah Smith,  Francis Smith,  Frederick O. Smith,  George Smith,  Samuel Smith,  W. T. Charles Smith,  W. Spencer,  John Spink[e],
William Spinke(1),  William Spinke(2),  Bernard Stanton,  Frederick R. H. Stanton,  George Stanton,  John Stanton,  John B. Stanton,  John C. Stanton, Thomas Stanton,
Joseph Steatham,  Frederick Stiles,  Charles Stilliard/Stillyard/Steelyard,  Cornelius Stilliard,  Frederick Stilliard,  George Stilliard,  Martin Stilliard,  John Stokes,
Joseph S. Stokes,  Thomas Stokes,  Edmund Stubbings/Stebbins,  John Stych[e],  Edward Stych[e],  George Taberner,  Robert Tayler/Taylor,  Jeremiah Taylor, 
Thomas Taylor,  William Taylor,  George Terry,  Samuel Terry,  John Thomas,  William Thomas,  William Tibbetts,  Eli Tonks,  John Tonks,  Thomas Tonks,
William Troman,  Joseph Tuckley,  John Turner,  Joseph Turner(1),  Joseph Turner(2),  William Turner,  George Turton,  Richard Underhill,  John Waddams/Wadhams,
William Wadhams,  Frederick Wakeman,  Joseph Wakeman,  John Walker, Robert A. Wallin,  Edwin H. Walls(1),  Edwin H. Walls(2),  Thomas Ward,  William Warren, 
Reginald Watkins,  John Wesley,  John Weston,  Joseph Weston,  Thomas Westwood,  George Whitehouse,  Jesse Whitehouse,  John Whitehouse, 
Joseph Whitehouse, Samuel Whitehouse,  Sarah Whitehouse,  Thomas Whitehouse(1),  Thomas Whitehouse(2),  John Whittingham,  Edwin Wicks,  Daniel Wilkes, 
Edward Wilk[e]s, George Wilkes,  John Wilkes,  Samuel Wilkes,  Thomas Wilk[e]s,  William Wilkes,  John Wilkins,  William Wilkinson,  John Wilson, 
Thomas Wilson,  William Wilson,  Louis Wires,  John Wood,  Edward Wooley,  Edward Wright,  Enoch Wright

While researching the Wolverhampton gunlock trade, it became apparent that there was once a general gun trade in the town. Many of the gunlock makers obviously had the required skills to carry out a range of gun work not limited to gunlocks. Evidence shows some cross-over, where gunlock makers sometimes described themselves as gunmakers or gunsmiths and vice versa. For this reason the author includes those names he has found who were involved or associated with any aspect of the town's gun trade. Without doubt, all the parts required to build complete guns - locks, stocks, barrels and breech-loading actions  - were made in the town by various makers, and complete guns were produced.  However, very few examples of these guns are known to still exist, so it would seem they were only ever produced in small numbers. This assumption could be misleading as guns were made and supplied for other gunmakers to finish and retail elsewhere under their own name (a practice once carried on extensively throughout the British gun trade and which continues these days, albeit to a very much lesser extent). Discovering who has made what for whom within the British gun trade can often be an exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, task. Perhaps understandably, the makers whose names appear on finished guns have always been reluctant to reveal such information. On this point it should be noted that the name or trademark of the gunlock maker will usually only be found, if at all, hidden away from scrutiny on the inside of the lock.

***

Gunlock-Making in Wolverhampton

"Up early, and off to Wolverhampton to see Mr. Brazier, 
  the great [gun]lockmaker of Britain, about the lock 
for my new stanchion [gun]. I had a terrible job to find 
the right man, as the name of 'Brazier' here was like 
'Smith,' too universal to be distinguished. After an 
hour's tramp in mud and filthy streets, I got on the right 
scent, and found him at his little country seat, called 
'The Ashes,' and ascertained that 'Joseph Brazier, Esq.' 
was the precise direction to catch him."   

 Extract of November 16th 1849 from:
'The Diary of Colonel Peter Hawker 1802 - 1853'
(first published 1893 by Longmans, Green and Company)

 

Wolverhampton, now a city within the English West Midlands, has always been involved with metal-working industries. With the coming of the Industrial Revolution and the town's proximity to the extensive coal, iron ore and limestone underground deposits, Wolverhampton saw a considerable increase in artisan trades working in iron and steel. All kinds of tools, implements and fittings were produced for an ever-increasing diversity of markets. A contemporaneous expansion of nearby Birmingham and its burgeoning gun trade led to a need for gun part manufacturers, upon which the skilled metal-workers quickly seized. 

An integral part of any gun is the mechanism by which it is fired, and is referred to as the lock (as in the old saying 'Lock, stock and barrel'). Within a relatively short period and mainly through their growing reputation for quality work, the Wolverhampton gunlock makers (primarily the Brazier family initially) ensured that the prestigious London gunmakers became principal patrons of their trade. By the mid-nineteenth century many London-made guns were being furnished with locks from Wolverhampton.

It is not known who the first gunlock maker was to set up in Wolverhampton; and it is unlikely that they were engaged solely in gunlock-making, the trade not then being as specialised as it would become. Around 1660 John Perry was known as a gunsmith in nearby Bilston, a chapelry of Wolverhampton. Of some significance are the suggested associations between the Perry family and several Wolverhampton families later involved with gunlock-making. 

Gunlocks were produced in Wolverhampton before the beginning of the eighteenth century, although there is very little documented history of the town's small businesses prior to the last quarter of that century. The neighbouring villages of Coseley and Ettingshall had various types of lock-making industry, and in that area an Edward Brassman and a Joseph Bullock were recorded around 1760 as carrying on their trade as gunlock filers. The Church of England and Roman Catholic records for the adjoining township of Sedgley contain the surnames of many of the families who became known as gunlock makers of Wolverhampton: Perry, Newton, Homer, Brazier, Stanton, Law, Grainger. Of those, Thomas Newton was described in the 1780 Birmingham Directory as a gunlock maker of St John's Square, Wolverhampton. To date, he is the earliest recorded gunlock maker to have an address within the town.

The gunlocks produced up until the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century were flintlocks for fowling pieces (shotguns), muskets and pistols. A lucrative source of income was government contract work for military weapons such as the famous 'Brown Bess' musket. A new best quality London double-barrelled flintlock shotgun was then priced in the region of 45, the pair of locks for which costing about 4. Flintlocks, mainly for export, continued in production even after the invention and adoption of the percussion cap during the 1820s.

The gunlock trade was comprised mainly of businesses having just one or two tradesmen. Eventually the larger gunlock businesses had an owner/master gunlock maker, skilled in all aspects of his trade. The employees were generally divided into specific sub-trades: forgers, filers, pin (screw) makers and spring makers. Some were engaged as outworkers in their own small workshops, and a few undertook the manufacture of a variety of gun components such as sights, trigger-guards, butt-plates etcetera. The work was labour-intensive, with the smiths working at forging hearths, benches, vices and foot-treadle lathes. The hammer, chisel and file were his principal hand-tools, with simple dies, jigs and implements made in-house specifically for particular operations. The whole job of the gunlock maker required the considerable skill acquired through an apprenticeship which was typically for a period of seven or more years and ended on the person attaining the age of 21. After apprenticeship, and in common with many other trades, the qualified gunlock maker was then usually classed as a 'journeyman', meaning that he was paid for his work by-the-day ('journeyman' being derived from the French word jour = day). Often a journeyman gunlock maker worked for several employers at their premises, and this sometimes entailed him travelling far and wide in search of work. Nonetheless, the trade continued on the common practice of employing family members; usually a father apprenticing his son either to himself or a relative, with the accepted presumption that the family business would be passed down through successive generations. Occasionally, the widow of the head of a family continued to run the business, either using the deceased's name or their own. Whether or not these widows were involved with the actual practicalities of gunlock-making is not known.

With motive power in the form of steam engines driving overhead take-off shafts and the increasing availability of machine tools, the preliminary 'roughing' procedures became more mechanised, particularly the forging of bar steel into rough components. Progress in the steel-making industry led to improved quality control of materials. Better and more closely controlled grades of steel led to greater reliability in gunlocks through the components being more durable and the tools with which they were made being more efficient. The transition from muzzle-loading to breech-loading guns after 1860 saw the gunlock industry of Wolverhampton take on the production of breech-loading actions and expand accordingly. Then the trade had become as large and specialised as it would ever be, with the companies of Joseph Brazier & Sons, John Stanton & Co and Edwin Chilton & Son recognised as the finest gunlock makers in the world.  

The last decade of the nineteenth century saw the development of new metal-working and engineering industries catering for mass-markets. Bicycle manufacturing and then the automotive trade became the town's large employers. Because wages were better with such companies as Sunbeam and Clyno, many skilled men left the gunlock trade in search of a higher standard of living. From around 1900 until WWI it became increasingly difficult to attract young men into gunlock-making apprenticeships, particularly when the trade began to be regarded as not only underpaid but declining. Although both WWI and WWII saw the remaining gunlock companies involved once again in government contract work, there was to be no long-lasting renaissance for the trade.

The quality of the best gunlocks made throughout the second half of the nineteenth century has been equalled but never surpassed. Sub-contracted production drop-forging and electric motor-driven precision machines running high-speed-steel and tungsten-carbide tooling progressively reduced the time taken for roughing out. But the hand fitting and finishing have always remained essential operations.  

By the late 1950s, although the three most famous Wolverhampton gunlock-making companies were still in existence in the town, the families whose names they bore played no part in them. Within twenty years the trade was reduced to two companies. Another twenty years saw just one company remaining in the Wolverhampton area which could offer a production facility for gunlocks. In 2006 that last company moved elsewhere, bringing to an end the long, distinguished era of gunlock-making in Wolverhampton.

 

TO GUN AND GUN-LOCK MAKERS AND
PURCHASERS

____

It      having     come    to    the    knowledge    of    the    Patentee    that
certain   persons   are   making   and   vending  John  Stanton's "Patent
Improved Self-acting Half-cock Safety Gun-lock" without his license or
authority,  and  thereby  infringing   his  patent,  Notice  is  hereby given
that all such persons  will  be proceeded  against  for such infringement.
Purchasers  of  Gun-locks  are  hereby  cautioned  not  to  buy any Gun-
lock  made  upon  John Stanton's  patented  principle  unless  the  same
bears his  name.  Any  persons vending such  locks not so marked after
this  notice  will  be  held responsible, and be  proceeded against accord
-ingly                                                                                                           
Any  information  as  to  the  making   and  selling  Gun-locks  being  no
infringement  of  the  said  patent  will  be  thankfully   received  by  the
Patentee,  John Stanton,  Clifton Street,  Wolverhampton;  or by Henry
Kitson,  his  Attorney,  Queen Street,  Wolverhampton.                          

A legal notice issued by John Stanton,
as it appeared in British newspapers
June, 1867

The author would like to acknowledge all the help he has received during more than forty years of research from: 

Wolverhampton Central Library
Birmingham Central Library
 
Wolverhampton Archives & Local Studies
 
Wolverhampton City Council (Law & Resources Dept.)
 
Lichfield Joint Records Office
 
Staffordshire County Records Office
 
Dti Companies Registration Office
 
The William Salt Library
 
The Worshipful Company of Gunmakers
 
Dudley Archives & Local History Service
Free UKGEN (FreeBMD, FreeCen, FreeReg)
 

and the individual contributors:

Marion Arnitt 
Maj. D. H. L. Back
Hon. Richard Beaumont (at James Purdey & Sons Ltd.)
E. Dora Billingsley
Barry Brazier
David Brazier (at the Brazier surname website)
Rev. Fr. Francis Brazier
Hugh Brazier
Joseph Brazier
Lilias H. (St Aubin) Brazier
D. J. Brown
Anthony V. Bullock
J. Harlan Buzby
David Chilton (at the Chilton surname website)
Mr. & Mrs. F. R. Daly
Rev. Fr. Peter Dennison
Joanna Donohue
Charles Eaves
Peter Edridge
Christine Ellis
Cyril Gibbons
S. James Gooding
Harry W. Griffiths
Lesley B. Hampton

Chris Henry (The Museum of Naval Firepower)
Kathryn Hill
H. Hodson
June James
Clive Law
Victor Mitchell
Pauline Nicholson
Julia A. Pursehouse
Ian Rooke
Andrew Short
Anthony Smith
John Stanton & the Stanton family
Elsie Van der Star
Michael Swingler

Iris Tudor
David Wakelin
Dr. H. A. S. Walker
Mark Wallin (at York & Wallin Ltd.)
John Wilkinson

W. H. Clark (1933 - 2005) and W. T. C. Smith (1912 - 1987)
 

Adios Amigos!

----------********----------********----------