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A nice quality English blunderbuss by Henry Hadley of London. The lightweight sleek proportions show that it was made with maneuverability in mind for the owner, when used in the confined space of a coach cabin among other passengers for protection against highwaymen. It was most likely a personal purchase by a gentleman for use when travelling rather than a provision by a coaching company for its employees.
The blunderbuss is mounted with a three section brass barrel of rounded form with a ribbed bell mouth . Near the breech it is clearly stamped with the London Gun Company’s Proof and View marks on the off lock side. Nearby, the top is stamped “LONDON”. The barrel is crossed by raised moulded bands at the stage intervals.
The stepped lock has a bevelled border-lined edge, as does the cock and frizzen, plain tapered tail, bridled rain-proofed pan and safety catch. The maker’s name “HADLEY” is inscribed at the bottom of the lock plate underneath the pan. The lock is secured to the stock by two iron dome-headed screws visible on the reverse side, fixed into either end of a brass, domed “S” shaped flanged side plate. The trigger guard is of brass, neatly secured from the inside, in which the trigger terminates in a backward terminal curl.
The stock is of walnut mounted with a brass butt plate secured by two flush broad headed screws. The tapered ramrod has a brass cap at the wide end and fits into a groove and tube in which it is secured by a ribbed brass ramrod pipe and tail pipe.
Hadley is recorded at various addresses in the City of London from 1734 until his death in 1773. He was threatened with prosecution in 1735 by the London Gunmakers’ Company for practicing as a gunmaker but not having serving a proper apprenticeship with his father. Both parties seem to have come to a settlement because in 1742 he was employing his own apprentices as a member of the Gunmakers’ Company and is recorded as a contractor to the Ordnance in 1756. Hadley made mainly brass barrel blunderbusses and pistols (holster, over & under double barrel) and is most noted for his silver mounted pistols with Spanish barrels. Two pairs of these are in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle (reference numbers 475 and 494), and another is in the Royal Armouries (XII 1645/6).
These flamboyant pistols contrast with the usual Ordnance standards that guided his contract work. Later in his career, in line with contemporary trends, more minimalist styles influenced his work. A double barrel flintlock shotgun in the Royal Armouries (XII.1753) dated by the RA to circa 1770 is an example of this. Similarly, our blunderbuss, with its sleek outline reflects this trend and dates it to the later period of Hadley’s career to circa 1770. Its plain features somewhat understate the high quality of the workmanship.
Condition: Fine overall as can be seen in the photos apart from a fine stress fracture line in the stock which commences at the moulded rib in front of the lock plate and extends for circa 2.5 inches (6 cm) along the stock. A small amount of filler has been applied to the rib.
Measurements: The barrel is 14.25 inches (36.25 cm) long overall the blunderbuss is 30 inches (76.25 cm) long