Side-by-side double-trigger guns can be unexciting but a “minor classic” sparked Lewis Potter’s interest
George Newnham is listed as setting up in the gun trade in 1866 and by 1905 the name, as on this gun, had changed to Newnham Limited, though still at 29 Commercial Road, Landport, Portsmouth. The company survived until around the start of World War II, with another change of name to Newnham & Co circa 1924. There is little doubt that this shotgun was made in the Birmingham trade for Newnham — a not unusual arrangement for many provincial businesses advertising as gunmakers.
Nonetheless, it is an interesting piece of work and not at all your average “run of the mill” trade gun. The indications are that it was a special order, rather than a standard gun with the name and address of a retailer added.
The basic gun
This Newnham is based on the familiar and well-proven Anson & Deeley boxlock with Anson push-rod fore-end catch and is a double-trigger non-ejector gun. The steel barrels are 32in long, both sporting almost full choke, while the standing breech has side clips. This last feature of projections that overlap the breech ends of the barrels is a simple form of strengthening. In addition, as a sort of extra security, there is an extension on the barrel that engages with a hidden cross-bolt.
The action body is wider and heavier than that of a typical game gun, and it has an unusually large diamater cross-pin (pivot or hinge-pin). Everything about this gun suggests strength and that is borne out by the overall weight being just a smidgen over 8lb unloaded on my scales. Proofed for 1½oz (42.5g) of shot, the proof marks are pre-1925 and this is consistent with the period of the name and address on the barrels.
Attractive scroll engraving
Side-by-side 12-bores with this sort of heavyweight strong action with side clips are not that unusual.
Some were competition or live pigeon guns (the forerunner of clayshooting), others for export where heavier loaded cartridges were often favoured. However, it seems likely that, as this gun was built near the end of legal live pigeon shooting in the UK and given Newnham’s coastal locations, it could well have seen service as a wildfowling gun.
The attractive scroll engraving is not a feature one would often associate with a dedicated wildfowling gun but, of course, we do not know what the original purchaser had in mind when placing the order with Newnham; with 1¼oz (36g) shot loads it could have served as a live pigeon gun, with 1½oz (42.5g) loads it would make a handy fowling piece, the flat raised rib being acceptable for either sport. The stock dimensions are more akin to a game gun than a live pigeon gun, but we do not know the build of the first owner and it could have been altered. Nowadays, a decorated, long-barrelled 12-bore capable of handling some of the larger loads would qualify as a high-bird game gun.
Usually there are obvious clues as to a gun’s intended use, sometimes not. Where it is just that bit different or out of period to spark off a series of questions that remain in limbo, the answer is lost in the mists of time.
This Newnham is a gun of better-than-average quality and it is interesting because it is that bit different from the usual trade Birmingham boxlock game gun. Today, side-by-side double-trigger non-ejector guns rarely feature on shooters’ wish lists and, to be fair, some are sound but rather “grey porridge” and unexciting. Yet this Newnham is the kind of gun to spark a bit of interest and it really is a classic, albeit in a minor way.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Barrels: Clean bores free from pits, dents or bulges
Action: Tight on the face with no play with the fore-end removed
Weight: 8lb 2oz
Value: Auction prices are at present very depressed for non-ejector double-trigger boxlocks without a famous name. in good condition it should be worth around £ 400 to £ 500 but realistically probably nearer £120 to £150.
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