The Westley Richards scalloped boxlock action was particularly handsome.
If you were an American millionaire, a belted earl, or an Indian maharajah, you’d go to London and buy sidelock best guns from the likes of Olympian gunmakers like Purdy, Boss, Churchill, or Woodward. The ordinary American or English gentleman of limited means would buy excellently well-made, but far less expensive, boxlocks produced by the workshops of down-to-earth makers like Greener or W.C. Scott in Birmingham.
The Birmingham gun trade armed the British Army for the victory at Waterloo. It produced the Brown Bess and the Baker, Snider, and Enfield rifles that won the Empire, and the Martini-Henry that stopped the Zulu charges at Rorke’s Drift. It armed the Confederate Army in the War for Southern Independence. It produced the rifles, pistols, bayonets, machine guns, and artillery that determined the fate of Europe in two world wars.
The Gun Quarter of Birmingham; like Gardone, Italy; Oberndorf, Germany; Tula, Russia; or Springfield, Massachusetts; is one of the world’s great historic arms-making centers, boasting a leading role in gun manufacture for more than three centuries.
But a pusillanimous group of British politicians has recently announced that Birmingham’s historic Gun Quarter is going to be renamed, specifically in order to renounce its association with the arms trade.
The Birmingham Post reports:
Itâ€™s been a symbol of Birminghamâ€™s manufacturing excellence for 250 years, but the cityâ€™s Gun Quarter has lost its biggest battle of all.
One of Britainâ€™s oldest industrial areas has been renamed after council leaders claimed local people no longer wanted to be associated with the weapons of war.
The streets where highly skilled tradesmen produced two million muskets to fight Napoleon are to be known in future as St George and St Chad in recognition of a church and Birminghamâ€™s Roman Catholic cathedral.
Opponents of the name change say the Gun Quarter has been sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.
St. George, a soldier saint renowned for killing a dragon, would probably have no personal aversion to the arms trade. St. Chad (who turns out to be completely personally unconnected to the 2000 Presidential Election in Florida) was an abbot and bishop of Mercia, the patron saint of medicinal springs, and must have had a personal interest in agriculture, as traditionally his feast day (March 2) is particularly propitious for the planting of broad beans. His views on weapons are unknown.
Of Birmingham today, a city willing to spurn the memory and achievements of Westley Richards, William Powell, Greener, Webley, and W. C. Scott, one can inclined to say with John Betjeman:
“Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
It isn’t fit for humans now”
From the equally outraged Steve Bodio.