There were a number of families named Webley (and Davis) living in the gun-making area of Birmingham in the early 1800s. James Webley was born in 1807, and his brother, Philip Webley, was almost certainly born in 1813. The doubt about Philip Webley's exact birth date arises because in the 1841 census his age was stated as 25 when in fact he was 28.
The 1841 census records Philip Webley as a bullet mould maker living in Weaman Street (number unknown). His birth date was given as 1816 rather than 1813. His wife, Caroline, was recorded as having been born in 1821, but she was later recorded as being born in 1818. The census records them as living with Hannah (b.1776, either Philip's or, more likely, Caroline's mother) and Thomas (b.1838), Emma (b.1839), Philip (b.1841) and Sarah Davis (b.1825, probably Hannah's daughter). As will be seen below, Philip, Caroline and Thomas are listed in the 1851 census living together, and Emma is listed living with James Webley. The coincidence of these names and correct ages of the children would indicates that this was the famous Philip Webley although how or why his and Caroline's age were incorrectly stated is not known.
Philip Webley was apprenticed in 1827 to Benjamin Watson. Almost certainly, James Webley was apprenticed but there is no record.
In 1834 James and Philip established their own business as percussioners, lock filers and gun makers at 7 Weaman Street.
On 5 January 1838 Philip Webley married Caroline Davis (b.1818), the daughter of William Davis and his wife, Sarah. William Davis had established his business as a mould and implement maker in 1790 at 84 Weaman Street; he died in 1831 but Sarah and Caroline continued the business at that address until 1838 when the partnership between James and Philip appears to have ended and Philip took over the business renaming the firm after himself and describing himself as a gun lock maker. At the same time, James described himself as a gun and pistol maker at 7 Weaman Street, he went on to build a substantial firm in St Mary's Row (see James Webley).
In 1838 Philip and Caroline had a son, Thomas William Webley.
From 1841, Philip described himself as a mould and implement maker, some of the moulds he used were marked W. D. (for William Davis). In later years the firm was to claim an establishment date of 1790 but clearly, this date referred to the establishment of William Davis's business.
In 1842 a second son was born, this was Philip Webley who probably joined the firm as an apprentice in 1856. Another son, James, was born in 1843, he may have worked for the firm for a short time, but by 1861 his occupation was "merchant's clerk" which implies he was not in the business. The youngest son, G (George?) Henry Webley (known as Henry) was born in 1846, he was probably apprenticed to the firm in 1860.
In 1859 Thomas William Webley appears to have become a partner in the firm, which changed its name to P Webley & Son and described itself as "Gun and Pistol Makers and Patent Revolving Pistol Makers", probably exploiting Philip Webley's patent No. 305 of 4 February 1853 for a revolver frame and lock, and its improvement under patent No. 2127 of 14 September 1853. Thomas later managed the shotgun side of the business.
In the 1861 census the family was recorded living at 386 Bristol Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham. Philip, Thomas, and Philip Jnr were described as gun, pistol and implement makers.
From about 1863 up to the First World War, the firm made rook rifles for Holland & Holland. From the 1890s they supplied magazine rifles.
In 1863 and 1864 the firm's address was given as 83-84 Weaman Street, but from late 1864 to 1875 their address was 84 Weaman Street; it is not likely that they left 83 Weaman Street.
In about 1867 Henry Webley joined the business, but exactly when the name changed to P Webley & Sons is not known. Henry later managed the revolver manufacturing side of the business (he had four patents to his name) and remained with the company as a director until 1897, retiring because of ill-health (he rejoined the board of the company company during the First World War).
On 7 May 1864 a design was registered for a lever rod for extracting cartridge cases from repeating arms (No. 4364). In 1865 T W Webley was granted a provisional patent for a conversion of a pinfire gun to centrefire, and on 17 November 1866 he patented a rotary underlever for a pinfire gun (No. 3022).
In 1869 T W Webley became a guardian of the Birmingham Proof House.
On 21 May 1870 T W Webley patented a laterally sliding barrel action (No. 1474).
In 1875 the firm expanded into 82-84 and 88-89 Weaman Street.
In 1877 the firm bought the business of Tipping & Lawden at Constitution Hill, Birmingham. They had a London shop at 17 Woodstock Street which may have stayed open up to 1888. Plain quality guns were sold under the Tipping & Lawden name for several years.
On 9 January 1879 a patent was registered for a cartridge loading machine (No. 6123).
In 1880 T W Webley patented intercepting sears for a drop-down barrel trigger plate action (No. 1860), and in 1881 T W and H Webley patented a revolver extractor with a spring loaded retractor and an extractor for a a drop-down action (No. 5143).
In the 1881 census, Philip Webley (aged 68) was recorded as still living at 386 Bristol Road with Caroline, only James (aged 38) was living with them. Henry Webley (aged 34) was recorded as a widower living on his own at 6 Vicarage Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, his first wife was Julia Harriss whose brother was J Harriss of Trulock & Harriss of Dublin). Thomas William Webley (aged 43) was recorded living at Selly Park, Edgbaston, with his wife Emma (aged 41).
In 1882 patent No. 1511 by T W Webley covered a drop-down barrel action, and later in that year T W Webley and T Brain patented their opening cocking drop-down action with top fastening and screw grip (No. 3053).
On 1 February 1883 H Webley registered patent No 542 for an improvement to W E Gadge's patent No. 3313 of 29 July 1881. On 31 March 1885 H Webley and J Carter patented a sidelever barrel latch for a revolver(No. 4070).
In 1886 the firm opened additional premises in Slaney Street.
In 1888 T W Webley patented a drop-down barrel action (No. 2294), and barrels (No. 15894). Also in that year, a showroom was opened in London at 60 Queen Victoria Street, and Philip Webley died.
The London showroom at 60 Queen Victoria Street was managed by W J Jeffery. It seems he may have taken advantage of Philip Webley's poor health and leased the property in his own name. Whatever the terms of the employment agreement between Jeffery and the firm, T W Webley immediately terminated it and left W J Jeffery to occupy the premises.
In 1893/4 a new showroom was opened at 78 Shaftesbury Avenue. It seems the firm had no London Offices or showroom between 1888 and 1893/4.
In 1893 Henry Webley bought the business of Joseph Lang & Son. Lang had been buying P Webley & Son guns for some time and were unable to pay their invoices on time. H J Harriss was installed as manager of the buiness.
In 1895 Henry Webley married Flora McDonald.
In 1897 T W and H Webley patented a falling block action (No. 5388), but the most significant date in 1897 was 21 October when the firm took over W & C Scott & Son. Prior to this take-over, P Webley & Son had bought the firm of Richard Ellis & Son. The businesses combined under the name on of Webley & Scott Revolver & Arms Co Ltd (Webley had been Birmingham's largest manufacturers of revolvers for some time and Scott had been the biggest manufacturers of sporting guns). After the take-over, guns were produced under both the Webley and the Scott names. The P Webley & Son name was used up to 1920 (cheaper guns being sold under the names "Charles Webley" and "Thomas Parker"). One gun (Serial No. 68041) has been seen engraved Webley & Scott Arms Co Ltd but this was probably an engraver's mistake as no other record of this firm is known.
T W Webley was appointed managing director of the new company, Lord Ebury was chairman. A mentioned above, Henry Webley formally retired at this time due to ill health. Frank T Murray was company secretary.
It seems the company expanded to occupy 81-91 Weaman Street, there are conflicting reports about when the Slaney Street premises were given up, in 1897 or 1900, and one report states that up to 1900 the company still occupied 13 St Mary's Row.
In 1898 Henry Webley put Lang & Hussey Ltd (who had taken over from Joseph Lang & Son Ltd) into liquidation and registered another company in the same name. The shareholders were Henry and T W Webley.
In 1899 the former Scott showroom at 10 Great Castle Street, Regent Circus (Oxford Circus) London was closed and Webley's premises at 78 Shaftesbury Avenue were used.
In 1900, T W Webley (?) and W J Whiting (joint managing director) registered patent No 18225 for a modification to the Fosbery automatic revolver.
On 13 Februry 1904 Thomas William Webley died at The Uplands, Selley Hii, Selly Oak, Birmingham, Frank T Murray became managing director.
In 1906 the company was renamed Webley & Scott Ltd.
In 1909 Webley revolvers and automatic pistols became standard issue for the armed forces and the manufacture of all shotguns and rifles was moved to the former Scott factory at The Premier Gun Works, 123 Lancaster Street; the enlarged former Webley factory only produced pistols and revolvers and other small items. Production of sporting guns at the Premier Works amounted to about 2,500 per annum in the period 1897-1909, and 2,000 in the period 1910-1913.
Prior to the merger with W & C Scott & Son, P Webley & Son had produced rifles using Martini, Mauser, Mannlicher and Springfield actions, they also produced a "W & RC" rifle in various calibres. They produced sidelock shotguns in 5 grades that they called the "W & R" models. These used the Webley & Brain patent and the Rogers patent. John Thomas Rogers and John Rogers were action filers at 78 Lower Tower Street, they registered patent No. 397 covering a cocking mechanism widely used by Webley. They also produced "Rogers" and "London Pattern" models, and boxlocks that they called the "A & W" (51, 52, 54, 2nd Special and 1st Special grades), these used the Anson & Deeley action and Webley & Brain top fastener; these were produced up to 1940. They also produced a "K" model boxlock shotgun in three grades up to 1921.
In 1904 a Webley employee, J Carter registered a patent for a single trigger. This became known as the Webley Duplex Single trigger as one could use the front trigger to fire the right and then the left barrel, or the rear trigger to fire the left and then the right barrel. The complication was that a slide had to be operated to switch the trigger from either "Ordinary" double trigger operation to "Combination".
In 1910 the firm made it's "Proprietary Hammerless Boxlock", this used the Webley top extension Screw Grip patented in 1882. It was later named the Model 400 and and became available for a time in three grades, production continued until 1946. This model with it's top extension was the first to take advantage of improvements in accurate machining of metal parts so that guns could be made on what was called the "interchangeable principle".
In about 1912/1914 the company made a trap-shooting shotgun with a raised ventilated rib, a mid-sight, Monte Carlo stock with pistol grip, and a beavertail fore-end.
In 1914 the company introduced their Model 100 single barrel semi-hammerless shotgun production of which continued until about 1975. This was based on William Baker's patent No. 6223 of 1910 but in 1922 and 1924 improvements were patented by D V Johnstone and John William Fearn. From 1914 to 1929 they made a single-barrel trap gun.
The start of the First World War in 1914 heralded big changes for the company which was heavily involved in the war effort in particular, in making the Mark IV .455 calibre revolvers and Verey Pistols. Henry Webley rejoined the board in 1915 for the duration; at this time he was also Chairman of Joseph Lang & Sons, he died in 1920. William J Whiting was appointed joint managing director in 1915, he was formerly works manager, he resigned in 1920 (his son worked for Webley & Scott Ltd and at some time was also appointed works manager).
Production of sporting guns fell dramatically in the early years of the war and ceased from August 1917 to March 1919.
In 1920 the making of guns under the name of P Webley & Son ceased, and the Premier Gun Works at 123 Lancaster Street closed (the Weaman Street premises acquiring the name Premier Gun Works). The lack of demand in the gun trade meant that the company sought other engineering work, in particular from the fast developing automotive industry.
In 1921 the London showroom was moved from Shaftesbury Avenue to smaller premises at 55 Victoria Street.
In 1922 Douglas Vaughan Johnstone became Managing Director. In this year the Model 300 was introduced (discontinued in 1939 when the model 300A commenced it's 7 year life). This, like the model 400 had a top extension but it used a Greener type cross-bolt. At this time the production of guns was running at about 1,000 per annum (2,000 in 1920 and 1924). Production of Scott's designs dropped substantially and over the next 5 years only about 150 were made. In the following 10 years only about 50 Scott guns were produced and manufacture of them stopped in 1935.
In the years from 1923 to 1929 patents were taken out by D V Johnstone, J W Fearn and F Clarke which resulted in the production of the famous Webley air pistol. How many were made in one form or another is not known.
Between 1925 and 1946 the lightweight game model 500 (grade 2) shotgun (also called "Proprietary" probably because it had the Webley top extension and Screw Grip fitted to the model 400) was produced. The model 600, a basic non-ejector, was introduced in 1927 and produced until 1946. Various versions, 601 (1937), 602 (1937), 603 (1938) and 604 (1939) were made some of which had top extensions.
In 1925 a few experimental Over/Under shotguns were produced but they never went into full production. The experiment was repeated in 1930 but again, probably due partly to the depression, it never saw the light of day.
In 1928 T W Horton was chairman. In that year the 55 Victoria Street premises were closed and the company operated only from Birmingham.
In 1929 production dropped to 400 guns; in 1932 it was 100 guns but then it rose gradually to about 400 guns in 1938.
In 1932 A C Griffiths was chairman.
In 1934 H W Smallwood was appointed general manager.
The production of W & C Scott sporting guns ceased in 1939 (apart from one gun made in 1949 and a consignment of 48 boxlock shotguns made for Abercrombie & Fitch in New York in 1964). The production of Webley & Scott sporting guns continued until June 1940 when the company increased the manufacture of Mark IV .38 calibre revolvers and flare pistols. Precisely what other war work the company engaged in is not known. It seems the company acquired two addional factories during the Second World War but their precise addresses are not known; it is likely that they were not in Birmingham as the company was classified as a strategic industry and the danger from bombing was too great.
In December 1945 the production of boxlock shotguns started again, but rifles were no longer made by the company and sidelock shotgun production temporarily ceased. "Standard" and "Special" models of shotgun were made, but these were replaced in 1947 by the model 700 in 12 and 16 bore. By 1949 production had reached 1,000 guns per annum.
During the 1950s and 1960s the company made their bolt action shotgun in .410, .22 and .360 (9mm) calibres.
In the 1950s they also made boxlock and falling-block guns for Holland & Holland. W C Scott & Son had been a major supplier of guns to Holland & Holland from the mid-1800s; from about 1919 these boxlocks were usually sold with "Shot and Regulated by Holland & Holland" engraved on the barrel or rib.
In 1952 Eric G Bewley became general manager, he had been company secretary since 1930 and was appointed a director of the firm in 1957. He was a guardian of the Birmingham Proof House from about 1930 until about 1967, and chairman from 1949 to 1957. He was chairman of the Gunmakers Association in 1950 and Chairman of the Long Sufferers Association in 1965.
In 1957 two extra models were introduced, these were the 701 and 702 which had more engraving and better wood. The 702 was the top of the range, not the 701 as some reports state; this oft-repeated mistake arose due to a researcher obtaining prices for the 701 and 702 at different times and between rises in prices. Variations including 20 bore and 28 bore models, were made for export to the USA. The number of guns produced by the firm at this time and during the 1960's and early 1970's was about 1000 per annum of which more than half were exported to the USA.
In 1958 Webley & Scott Ltd were taken over by R H Windsor Ltd and, when the Weaman Street factory was demolished to make way for the Birmingham Inner City Ring Road, they moved to Park Lane, Handsworth, Birmingham.
In 1960 Arusha Industries Ltd took over R H Windsor Ltd and the enlarged company was named General & Engineering Industries Ltd.
In 1965 Webley & Scott Ltd bought W W Greener Ltd. From 1965 to 1967 the company made 275 guns under the Greener name, mostly "Empire de Luxe" and "Empire" models with aluminium alloy actions. Most of the remainder were "DH40" and "Blue Rock" boxlocks. The Greener GP single barrel shotgun was produced from 1965 to 1979.
In 1966 a small number (27) of "Conquest" or "Model 1100" guns were made, these were based on the Rogers bar-action sidelock.
From 1970 to 1978 the company imported Over/Under shotguns from Beretta in Italy. These guns were finished by Webley & Scott and named either "Model 900" (1346 in number)or "Model 901" (11 in number), the latter having better wood and engraving.
In 1973 the Harris & Sheldon Group bought Webley & Scott Ltd but within a short time sales and production started to fall, declining to about 350 guns per annum by 1979.
In 1978 and 1979 the company imported a few Kromson and Arkrom Over/Under shotguns.
In 1979 Webley & Scott ceased shotgun production but continued to make air rifles and air pistols at Park Lane. Harris & Sheldon invested ï¿½250,000 in a new company, W & C Scott (Gunmakers) Ltd which was established at the Premier Works, Tame Road, Witton, Birmingham. The cessation of shotgun production was mainly due to the high costs of gunmaking in the UK compared with Spain, Italy and Japan; the intention of the new company was to produce medium and top quality double barrelled shotguns, supply the trade with barrels and actions, and repair all makes of shotgun.
Patrick G Whatley was the managing director of the new company, his staff numbered 32 people a majority of whom were former Webley & Scott employees. Out of about 500 shotguns per annum produced by all UK makers in the following 12 months, about 100 guns were produced by the new company. The basic models were the "Bowood", the "Chatsworth" (sideplates) and the "Kinmount". Derivations of these were made for the US market these being the "Texan" (Bowood) and the "Crown" (Kinmount). In 1983 a sidelock was produced in standard (discontinued in 1984) and de luxe qualities, this was named the "Blenheim". The company also produced guns for the Orvis company (the Orvis KHP).
The main problem experienced by W & C Scott (Gunmakers) Ltd during the ensuing years was the relatively high price of their products compared with imported guns, and lack of a significant export market. In 1985 W & C Scott (Gunmakers) Ltd and Webley & Scott Ltd were sold to Holland & Holland who had a long held reputation for very high quality guns, an established export market, and a desire to manufacture boxlock guns for which they required additional manufacturing capacity. Webley & Scott appears to have ceased operations but W & C Scott (Gunmakers) Ltd appears to have continued operating under that name making the "Cavalier" model shotgun.
In 1991 Holland & Holland decided to centralise all their manufacturing at their Harrow Road factory in London and the Birmingham factory was closed.
In 1993 the company was bought by Scalemead Arms, a distribution company owned by David Pickering. Airgun manufacture was resumed and the company moved to Frankley Industrial Park, Tay Road, Rednal, Birmingham, West Midlands B45 0PA.
In November 2005 Webley & Scott Ltd appointed administrators to manage the company and find a buyer for the business. A company named Webley International Ltd continues to operate as a supplier of airgun accessories, imported airguns, blank firing guns and other gun accessories, see Webley International Ltd under "Gun Suppliers". Whether or not this is still operating is not known, in 2006 a buyer was found, Airgunsport Ltd bought the business but details are not known.
The shotgun archives of Webley and Scott were sold to Gallyon & Sons at auction in London on 5 December 2002. Further information is available from Gallyon & Sons.