Listed alphabetically from Avery

Brandon and Thetford makers

Books Consulted

Bury St Edmunds Gunmakers

Through the Ages

Introduction to Suffolk Gunmakers

The earliest known makers from the St Edmundsbury area are summarised here briefly.

Robert Avery, Bury St Edmunds, 1840

Robert Avery worked in Risbygate Street, Bury. (Risbury St - Johnson)

William Bilson, Bury St Edmunds, 1839-1846

William Bilson worked at 10 Abbeygate Street, Bury from 1839 to 1844. From 1844 to 1846 the Directories found him at 90 Whiting Street.

William Brewster, Bury, 1885

William Brewster was recorded at 88 Guildhall Street, Bury St Edmunds, in 1885.

Robert Burrows

Robert Burrows was recorded as a gunsmith at Bury St Edmunds in 1840.

Hodgson's Cartridges sold only by Claytons

Robert Clayton, Bury St Edmunds, 1953-1990s (Also see Scotcher)

In the early years of the 20th century the gun sellers business at number 17, The Traverse, was owned by Henry R P Hodgson, whose daughter married H D Bennett in 1913. He ran it from 1916 until 1953. Robert and Violet Clayton took over from 1953 until 1976. They had also opened a branch in Ipswich. In 1976 the business passed to their son Robert Clayton. In 1984 his son Jeremy Clayton joined as a partner.

According to the legend upon this empty box of cartridges, Claytons had once referred to their business in Bury as the "Town Hall Gun Works". This name made sense only up until late 1966, when Bury St Edmunds Borough Council Town Hall was located immediately in front of the premises in the Traverse. After December, 1966 the Council moved its council meetings into the Borough Offices extension just completed on Lower Baxter Street, and gave up using the old Town Hall. Nowadays the old Town hall has reverted to being called the Market Cross, and contains commercial premises and the Art Gallery.

The Traverse lost its gunshop when Clayton's moved out to 37 Abbeygate Street and began trading as Javelin in the 1990s.

J Furlong, Bury St Edmunds, 1790

J Furlong was recorded as a gunsmith in Churchyard Street, Bury St Edmunds in 1790.

William Golding, Bury St Edmunds, 1770-1823

William Golding was recorded as a gunsmith in London (?) Street, Bury St Edmunds in 1770, and at the same place until 1820. In 1823 he was recorded at Abbeygate Street in Bury.

H Harcourt, Sudbury, 1850

H Harcourt was recorded as a gunsmith in Friar Street, Sudbury in 1850

Box of Hodgson's Cartridges

Henry R P Hodgson, Bury St Edmunds, 1912-1953 (Also see Scotcher)

Henry Hodgson took over the business of John Adam Scotcher, Gunmaker, at 17 Meat Market, which was near the Corn Exchange in Bury St Edmunds. He traded here from 1912 until 1953.Today we know this address as being at 17 the Traverse. This address had been a gunmakers for many years before.

Henry R P Hodgson had a daughter who married H D Bennett in 1913. Bennett ran the business from 1916 until 1953. The shop continued to trade as Scotchers for some years, but used the name Hodgsons on their range of gun cartridges. It is not clear when the shop became known as Hodgson's instead of Scotcher's.

Robert and Violet Clayton took over in 1953, but the shop still traded as Hodgsons into the 1960s. At present it is unclear to me when the business became called Clayton's. The cartridge range known as Hodgsons continued under that name, sold exclusively in Claytons' shops in Bury and Ipswich.

William Last, Walsham le Willows, 1854-1869

William Last was recorded as a gunmaker, rather than a gunsmith, in Walsham le Willows from 1854 to 1869.

Peter Manning, Lavenham, 1823-1839

Peter Manning was recorded as a "general gunsmith", in Lavenham from 1823 to 1839.

Revolver by Norfolk

Thomas Norfolk, Bury St Edmunds, 1844-1855

Thomas Norfolk was recorded as a gunsmith in 26 Angel Hill, Bury St Edmunds in 1844, and at the Buttermarket in the same year. In 1855 he was recorded at 9 Meat Market in Bury.

This revolver was made by him in about 1840, and can be seen in the Moyse's Hall Museum, in Bury St Edmunds. It is .43 calibre, and has a spring bayonet attached, which can be flicked into the ready position when needed. The hammer hits a percussion cap to fire the weapon, and represents a transition between the flintlock and the cartridge with a percussion cap built into it.

Henry Palmer, Bury St Edmunds, 1840

Henry Palmer was recorded as a gunsmith in Bury St Edmunds in 1840.

Benjamin Parker 1783

Derek Johnson recorded a Benjamin Parker, Gunmaker at 30 Churchgate Street, in 1783.

Waistcoat pistols by Parker

Benjamin Parker b1795, fl1823 - 1855

Benjamin Parker's family came from Burgate and had property at Wortham. Benjamin was born on 10th October, 1795, but not baptised until 7th May, 1796 at St Mary's church, in Bury St Edmunds.

Derek Johnson recorded a Benjamin Parker, Gunmaker, at 9 Chalk Lane from 1823 to 1839. Benjamin Parker was recorded as a gunsmith in the directories for 1839, 1844 and 1855. His shop was at 30 Churchgate Street in 1839. There are a pair of Parker's pistols on display in Moyse's Hall Museum.

Benjamin Parker made a variety of precision objects in addition to his guns. One recorded was a stone-bow, a type of crossbow designed to throw stones or metal shot at game. This would have the advantage of silence, and there were no spent arrows or 'quarrels' to retrieve.

Parker even tried his hand at clockmaking, perhaps inspired by John Pace's success with skeleton clocks. Haggar and Miller's 1979 Supplement to the Clockmakers of Suffolk, records two 400 day skeleton clocks in his name, and an example of a Parker skeleton clock was sold by Bonhams in September 2005. It was signed on the brass base 'B. Parker, Bury No 132'.
If Parker had produced 132 of these clocks, then many are missing from knowledge. Perhaps his numbering system covered both guns and clocks.

Charles Parker 1823-1839

Charles Parker was at 18 Abbeygate Street, Bury St Edmunds in Pigot's Directory of 1839.

T Parker, Bury St Edmunds 1784

Derek Johnson recorded a T Parker, Gunmaker in Churchgate Street, in 1784.

Thomas Pearsall, Bury St Edmunds, 1770 - 1782

Derek Johnson recorded a Thomas Pearsall, Gunmaker in Cook Row, in 1784.

William Rignall, Hargrave, 1850

William Rignall, described as a Gunsmith and Bell Hanger was located at Market Place, Hargrave, by Derek Johnson.

Scotcher's powder by Laurence

Scotcher's shop c1919

John A Scotcher, Bury St Edmunds, 1865-1912

John Adam Scotcher, Gunmaker, had his shop at 17 Meat Market, which was near the Corn Exchange in Bury St Edmunds, from 1865 to 1912. Nowadays we know this address as being in the Traverse. Apparently this address had been a gunmakers for many years before Scotcher took it over.

Kelly's Directory of Suffolk for 1900 contained a reference to "Scotcher and Son, gun, pistol and rifle manufacturer, inventor of the 'invincible cartridge' 4 the Traverse."

By 1912 the business was owned by Henry R P Hodgson, whose daughter married H D Bennett in 1913. He ran it from 1916 until 1953.

Robert and Violet Clayton took over in 1953 until 1976, when it passed to their son Robert Clayton. In 1984 his son Jeremy Clayton joined as a partner. Within living memory the shop was re-named Clayton's Sports Shop, and it still sold a few guns until the 1980s. The Traverse lost a gunshop when Claytons moved out to 37 Abbeygate Street and began trading as Javelin.

J A Scotcher, 1870
This a two barrel underlever 12 bore by Scotcher of Bury St Edmunds.

J A Scotcher, 1880
This gun by J A Scotcher of Bury St Edmunds, was made about 1880. It has two barrels, and is 28 bore. It uses a hammer to strike the charge.

J A Scotcher, 1895
This gun by Scotcher of Bury is a double-barrelled hammerless sidelock. It is a non-ejector 16 bore type, with a patent gas check breech face. It is signed "Scotcher, Bury St Edmunds, no.2463."

By 1895, the modern sporting shotgun was almost fully formed.

John Tickell, Bury St Edmunds, 1775-1793

John Tickell, Gunmaker, was at Bury St Edmunds, from 1775 to 1793.

William Thompson, Hargrave, 1853

William Thompson, described as a Gunsmith was located at Bridge Street, Hargrave, in 1853, by Derek Johnson.

Robert Toope, Bury St Edmunds, 1776

Robert Toope, Gunsmith, was at Bury St Edmunds, in 1776.

William Young, BSE, 1800

William Young (1), Bury St Edmunds, 1823-1855

William Young, Gunsmith, was either one of two men with this name, or he had two shops, overlapping in time at Bury St Edmunds. William Young (1) was located at 17 Meat Market, from 1823 to 1855.

William Young (2) was located at 85 Risbygate Street, from 1839 to 1855.

Young was a prolific name in Bury gunmaking, with several examples from these shops now to be found in the Moyse's Hall Museum in Bury St Edmunds.

This first illustration is of a double barrelled flintlock 12 bore shotgun by William Young of Bury St Edmunds. The flintlock was the earliest type of sporting gun. However, it continued to be produced after newer forms of percussion were invented, because some customers preferred the traditional style over more new-fangled ideas. Moyse's Hall Museum dates this sample to c1800.

Pocket flintlock pistol
Young, Bury St Edmunds 1800
This pocket flintlock pistol was made by Young of Bury St Edmunds c1800. It has a half inch barrel, a folding trigger and a hinged pan cover.

Pocket flintlock pistols
Young, Bury St Edmunds 1820
This pair of pocket flintlock pistols was made by Young of Bury St Edmunds c1820.

Young, c1825
These 'tophat' pistols were so called because of the shape of the hammer mechanism employed. The trigger did not drop down into firing position until the hammer was cocked.

Percussion pistols
William Young, 1840
Colson, Stowmarket, 1850
These pistols are by Colson of Stowmarket and Young of Bury. The Young pistol is c1840.

The Colson is a calibre .620 boxlock pistol.

Boxlock pistol
William Young, Bury St Edmunds 1850
This boxlock pistol was made by William Young of Bury St Edmunds c1850. It used a percussion cap, and was intended as a coat-pocket piece.

Powder Horn


In the days when guns were loaded by a separate charge and ball, it was customary to carry the black powder in a powder horn. This horn was made by Nathaniel Drayle of Brandon in 1764. It is on display in Moyse's hall Museum in Bury St Edmunds.

Other essential accessories in the days of the flintlock gun, were the flints themselves. Brandon was a centre of flintmaking. Derek Johnson identified a number of 19th century gunflint manufacturers in Thetford Road, Brandon, as follows:

  • Robert Curson
  • Samuel Dorling
  • William Edwards
  • Ambrose Field
  • James Field
  • Arthur Snare
  • Robert John Snare
He found the following at Town Street, Brandon:
  • Henry Curson
At Thetford he identified the following:
  • Walter Curson and Co.

Books Consulted

"Victorian Shooting Days, East Anglia 1810 to 1910", by Derek Johnson, 1981

Information prepared by David Addy, 29th October 2007

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