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A rare flintlock musket of “Short Land” type made for the Blues of York Regiment by Robert Watkin in 1745. The musket is associated with the 1745 Rebellion and the advance of the Jacobite army into northern England from Scotland after its success in defeating Hanoverian forces at the Battle of Prestonpans on 21st September that year. This success left Prince Charles Edward Stuart in control of most of Scotland and his way into England was wide open. Most of the rest of George the II’s army was committed against the French in Europe and little stood between Bonnie Prince Charlie and London.
In the wave of panic that swept across the northern English counties, the major cities made their own preparations for defence. Preparations in York included the formation of a small regiment known as The Blues of York, taking their name from their blue cockades. Robert Watkin received a contract from the City to supply 100 muskets for the Regiment. This is one of those muskets. By mid-January 1746 the Young Pretender had returned to Scotland with his army. As the Rebellion finally collapsed at the Battle of Culloden in April that year “The Blues” were gradually stood down.
The musket is a rare object from the 1745 Rebellion period from the “non-Jacobite” side of the fence and represents that time of fear and uncertainty faced by the northern English population, defenceless and vulnerable in the absence of effective government forces in the region, facing an enemy fresh from victory on the march towards them. Rumours would have been rife about the savagery of the slaughter at Prestonpans carried out by this army consisting largely of supposedly barbarous alien-tongued Highlanders.
The musket is sold with papers assimilated by the previous owner which include copies of records of meetings held in the Guildhall and Castle of York from the 24th of September onwards. These give a vivid impression of the concerned citizens in late 1745, worried about the city being pillaged by the Highland army and the lengths they are going to in repairing walls, raising the Regiment etc to secure the city “from being plundered by those who are now in open Rebellion” and, perhaps indicative of the depth of either actual or suspected support for the Jacobite cause in their midst, this particular comment continues “or by other wicked persons, Whether Strangers or living within this City….” This level of civil concern and suspicion was most certainly replicated across northern England.
The musket is mounted with a 42.75 inch barrel. The top is engraved “No 108” and the breech marked with three stamps – view and proof marks under a crown and the initials of the maker “RW”. The intact polished walnut stock is of “early” form with a heavy butt with a handrail wrist, swollen forend and forend terminal without a protective nosecap. The butt is stamped “Y.C/5”, the property marks of York City and the gun armoury number. The wrist escutcheon is of contemporary “Long Land” pattern. The lock is of early Ordnance pattern made without a bridle. The maker’s name R WATKIN is incised in capital letters on the face of the lockplate.
The musket is in very good condition with a nice patina and grey lightly speckled iron / steel parts and nice colour to the brass furniture. The top jaw and screw to the cock are replaced. The ramrod is of wood.