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A fine Scottish Scroll Butt Pistol by Thomas Caddell of Doune circa 1740

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Price: £15,000

Ref: 010.20

Item Description

A fine Scottish, all-steel, flintlock scroll, or “rams horn”, butt pistol by Thomas Caddell of Doune, dating to the decade prior to the last Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. The pistol is of elegant proportions and well-crafted in the best traditions of the Doune gun makers.

The first Thomas Caddell established the gun making trade in Doune in the 17th century. Doune is situated near to the Highland line and its gun makers supplied pistols to the Highland Clans plus Lowland gentry and serviced some government contracts. After the failure of the ’45 Rebellion, and the prohibitions that followed, Doune pistols were popular with officers in the growing number of Highland regiments on service abroad, particularly in North America.

The Caddells became one the the leading gunsmith families in Doune and were established there for over a century. There were four generations of Caddell called “Thomas” working during this period, and one maker called Robert, who was active in the mid-18th century. As Doune developed as a gun-making centre the Caddell reputation grew throughout Scotland.

The Caddells were Jacobite sympathisers in the ’45 and the “List of Persons Concerned in the Rebellion 1745-46” shows that three Caddell gunsmiths, two called Thomas and Robert, were active supporters of Charles Stuart. Robert was imprisoned in Stirling Castle for his part in 1746 and later released under general pardon in 1747. The List notes that evidence was given against the Caddells by Alexander Campbell, another respected gunmaker working in Doune, and a member of the neighbouring Campbell dynasty of gunsmiths. 

Some 18th century Scottish pistols made by the Campbells and other Doune makers (Christie, Michie, Murdoch et al) seem to be of a style which post-dates the ’45 Rebellion period as fashions changed. It is curious that very few, if any, pistols signed by the Caddells can confidently be described to post-date the ’45 in style. Later Doune parish records still record the Caddells as “gunmakers” and some anecdotal evidence indicates Robert may have moved to Edinburgh to work. It is possible that as a punishment for their support for the Stuart cause the Caddells were forced to cease gun making in their own name but may have worked for other gun makers.      

This is a fully formed and substantial pistol in fine original condition and in tight crisp working order. It is probably by the third Thomas Caddell recorded in Parish records as seemingly baptized in 1687, still active in 1739 and deceased in 1767. The lock is of typical “Highland” form with a horizontal sear extending through the lock plate which holds the cock in the half cock position, and a vertical sear is present extending from the top of the trigger plate through a small oblong aperture in the centre of the upper part of the butt. The lock plate is clearly signed Thos Caddell.  

The cock, and the area behind the cock on the lock plate, is engraved with scrolling foliage. The cock is mounted with an engraved and pierced comb which is typical of some Doune pistols made in the first half of the 18th century.  The spine of the butt, the fore end and underside are extensively engraved with scrolls, acanthus leaves and Celtic ropework. The pricker and trigger are of brass. A silver escutcheon is present either side of the butt and engraved with a thistle which may connect the owner with the Order of the Thistle which had Jacobite sympathisers within its ranks. The belt hook is attached with a double roundel which is engraved and pierced with designs similar to those present on high quality Scottish basket hilts of the time. The four stage 24 bore barrel has a fluted section near the butt and a flared muzzle with octagonal sides boldly engraved with detailed scrolls. The middle sections of the barrel are rounded and engraved with foliage.

Although the proscription of weapons in the Highlands after the failure of the ’45 reduced demand for Doune pistols from the Highland clans, Doune experienced a hiatus in the period after the ’45. Supplying the wider gentry, government contracts and commissions for army officers. Ultimately, Doune could not compete with the other gun making centres in England to supply government contracts and cheap imports from abroad. By circa 1770 Doune was in decline as a gun making centre.        

The overall length of the pistol extremity to extremity is 12 inches (30.5 cm) and the barrel is just under 7.75 inches (19.75 cm).

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