RETRO: One of the finest gunmakers is Sheffield born and bred

One of the finest gunmakers ever known, whose shotguns are still sought after throughout the world, was a Sheffield lad born and bred.

Friday, 25th August 2017, 09:46 am
Updated Friday, 2nd February 2018, 10:20 am

In the picture above you can see the finely carved flower which is on the wall of what was the home of said gunmaker, Mr Charles Henry Maleham, at 48 Westbourne Road.

It seems Charles’s father, Henry, started out as a chemist and druggist at 4 West Bar in 1833, by 1845 his brother George was installed at 5 West Bar and is listed as - ironmonger, gas fitter, and dealer in gunpowder, shot, flasks, shot belts, and caps.

At this time Henry had moved into larger premises at 7 West Bar.

According to Boothroyds Revised Dictionary of British Gun Makers, Charles Henry Maleham took over the business from his uncle George in 1860 and from that day he was destined to stamp his name along with the quality gunsmiths of the time.

His uncle George was also a member of the London gun trade listed at 20 Regent Street, the premises are still there but is now the London Safe Deposit Co Ltd.

Charles also took up membership of the London gun trade, I think that Charles had guns made at the Regent Street address simply because of the London name.

A newspaper item stated that Charles Henry Maleham, of Sheffield, in the county of York, gunmaker, and Thomas Mirfin, of the same place, manager, had invented “improvements in breech loading 4 snap action firearms” - dated March 14 1873.

By 1910 Charles retired and the trading style changed to ‘Maleham & Company’ in the early 1900s and was sold to Arthur Turner shortly after the First World War and ceased operating under it the name Maleham & Company. In addition to sporting guns and rifles, a variety of Eley made shotgun cartridges has been reported, brand names included “The Clay Bird“, “The Double Wing“, “The Regent“, “The Steeltown” and “The Wing“.

A trademark was also popular, comprising six shot-holes around a central seventh, with a heraldic pinion or ‘wing’ extending from each side.

Charles Henry Maleham enjoyed his retirement with his family until he died on June 11 1934.

Thanks to the Charles Henry Maleham Bequest, paintings by artists ranging from Sir Peter Lely to Augustus John, and including two Turners, have been purchased for public display, 24 of them in the city’s art galleries and two David Jagger’s portraits of the Duke of Edinburgh, and its preliminary sketch on loan to the Cutlers’ Company.

A shotgun, also known as a scattergun, or historically as a fowling piece, is a firearm that is usually designed to be fired from the shoulder, which uses the energy of a fixed shell to fire a number of small spherical pellets called shot, or a solid projectile called a slug.

Shotguns come in a wide variety of sizes, ranging from 5.5 mm (.22 inch) bore up to 5 cm (2.0 in) bore, and in a range of firearm operating mechanisms, including breech loading, single-barrelled, double or combination gun, pump-action, bolt and lever-action, semi-automatic, and even fully automatic variants.

A shotgun is generally a smoothbore firearm, which means that the inside of the barrel is not rifled.

Preceding smoothbore firearms, such as the musket, were widely used by armies in the 18th century. The direct ancestor to the shotgun, the blunderbuss, was also used in a similar variety of roles from self-defence to riot control.

It was often used by cavalry troops because of its generally shorter length and ease of use, as well as by coachmen for its substantial power.

In the 19th century, however, these weapons were largely replaced on the battlefield with breech loading rifled firearms, which were more accurate over longer ranges. The military value of shotguns was rediscovered in the First World War, when American forces used 12-gauge pump action shotguns in close-quarters trench fighting to great effect. Since then, it has been used in a variety of roles in civilian, law enforcement, and military applications. The shot pellets from a shotgun spread upon leaving the barrel, and the power of the burning charge is divided among the pellets, which means that the energy of any one ball of shot is fairly low. In a hunting context, this makes shotguns useful primarily for hunting birds and other small game.

However, in a military or law enforcement context, the large number of projectiles makes the shotgun useful as a close quarters combat weapon or a defensive weapon.

Militants or insurgents may use shotguns in asymmetric engagements, as shotguns are commonly owned civilian weapons in many countries.

Shotguns are also used for target shooting sports such as skeet, trap, and sporting clays.

One of the men most responsible for the modern development of the shotgun was prolific gun designer John Browning.

While working for Winchester Firearms, Browning revolutionized shotgun design.

In 1887, Browning introduced the Model 1887 Lever Action Repeating Shotgun, which loaded a fresh cartridge from its internal magazine by the operation of the action lever.

Before this time most shotguns were the ‘break open’ type. This development was greatly overshadowed by two further innovations he introduced at the end of the 19th century.

In 1893, Browning produced the Model 1893 Pump Action Shotgun, introducing the now familiar pump action to the market.

And in 1900, he patented the Browning Auto-5, the world’s first semi-automatic shotgun.

My two avid hunting friends Mr Dawson and Mr Sorsby related this event while they were out hunting, “we were out hunting when George saw a rabbit”. “Quick,” said John, “shoot it.” “I can’t,” said George, “My gun isn’t loaded.” “Well,” said John, “you know that, and I know that, but the rabbit doesn’t know it.”