A Pair of Silver-mounted Turn-off Pistols signed Haywood, c. 1730-40

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Item ref: 3848

  • England
  • Iron, steel, walnut, silver
  • length of each pistol: 32.5 cm / 12.7 in


Private Collection, Germany

While these pistols may appear similar to many English turn-off pistols of the Georgian period their mechanisms are of a form not often encountered. They have side-mounted separate locks rather than the more commonly encountered integral lock mechanism, and these extend forward under the pan but are slightly shorter than a usual side-lock to avoid overlapping the screw joint between the fixed breech and the barrel. For this reason the inverted V-shape frizzen spring is placed between the breast of the cock and the rear of the pan, the forward operating end of the spring lying beneath the pan to engage with the frizzen. Unlike those of more conventional pistols of this type the stocks extend to the forward end of the locks, where they end quite abruptly just before the joint between the breech and the barrel. The rather blunt forward end of each stock is protected by a substantial vertical iron plate which is formed as a continuation of what would normally be the forward tang of the trigger guard. The trigger guard is a separate component mounted onto the robust trigger plate.
The locks are of relatively conventional form, each retained by a single sidenail. The lockplates are slightly convex in section and these and the rounded swan-necked cocks, including their top jaws, have engraved wavy line and dot borders. Each lockplate is engraved in its tail with a simple leafy scroll while below the pan is the name HAYWOOD. The rearmost end of the frizzen spring has a small but neatly formed leaf-like terminal. The absence of frizzen bridles on the pans suggests a date for this pistol relatively early in the 18th century.

The well-curled walnut butts have shallow carved mouldings surrounding the lock and side-flat areas, while around each barrel tang is a carved panel terminating at the rear with an asymmetrical rococo shell motif. The rear portion of the silver side-plates is of a design not infrequently encountered on Georgian pistols; a military trophy of banners and cannon adjacent to a curved architectural structure, but the central part of the design is an asymmetrical cartouche within a rather stiffly rendered border of rococo form, while the forward component of the design is an rectangular panel decorated with a trellis design, arranged diamond-fashion, with a dot placed at the centre of each lozenge. This panel has a short tongue which engages in a notch in the side of the iron plate protecting the forward end of the stock. The edges of the trigger plate are engraved with a wavy line and dot border, while the centre of the trigger guard’s bow is engraved with an oval shell-like motif. A silver escutcheon with a central cartouche is placed on the rear edge of each butt, and the silver butt-caps are cast in the form of the face of a grimacing lion.

The tapered circular-section iron ‘cannon’ barrels have a raised moulding around the muzzle and another approximately one third of the way forward of the screw joint with the breech, the upper surface of which is engraved BOUGHTON. On its left side it is struck with the crowned V and crowned P marks usually regarded as those used by private proof houses in Birmingham.

A single turn-off pistol of this type, by Heylin, is discussed by Norman Dixon on his definitive work Georgian Pistols: The Art and Craft of the Flintlock Pistol, 1715-1840 (Arms & Armour Press, London, 1971, pp.119-121).
The identity of the maker of these pistols cannot be positively identified. The presence of BOUGHTON on their breeches and the Birmingham proof marks indicate that the pistols were not made in London, indeed the standard work on London gunmakers lists only one of this name recorded working there at the right period, although it is possible he subsequently moved to a provincial location*.

When consulted on the name Haywood the standard published work on the English provincial gun trade offers just four; James, Peter, Thomas and William, but of these only Thomas is listed working during the 18th century, from 1783 to 1792**. A current map of Great Britain records three towns called Boughton; in Northamptonshire, Norfolk and Nottinghamshire, but when consulting the work on provincial gunmakers the entry for Boughton directs one not to any of these but to Chester, in Cheshire, which is where the four gunmakers called Haywood mentioned above are recorded as having worked. Since there is no town called Boughton in the county of Cheshire the reason for this redirection by the authors of the work in unclear. One cannot therefore be sure of Haywood’s first name or in which of the three possible counties these pistols might have been made.