Object Title

Flintlock sporting gun - By William Mills

Flintlock sporting gun - By William Mills

Date

1721

Object Number

XII.1789

Provenance

Acquired 1967 from the collection of Viscount Hereford.

Physical Description

The barrel has two moulded silver bands placed 175 mm and 250 mm from the breech, a silver foresight in the form of a grotesque mask, two silver ramrod pipes and a silver ramp below the muzzle to secure the ramrod. the breech section is inlaid in gold with an earl's coronet and with the inscription:
"I in the Tower became a gun, In Seventeen hundred Twenty one / EARL CONINGSBY Prisoner there, Bespoke and took me to his care / And fit I am for Loyal Lords, Made of the Blades of Rebels Swords / Fit for ye noble EARL whose Crime, Was Speaking truth in South Sea time / Traytors beware Wn we are enlarg’d, When He or I shall be Discharg’d / For this my first and true Report, Pray use me well at HAMPTON COURT."
The proofmarks of the Lonndon Gunmaker's Company are stamped at the breech together with the mark of the barrel maker, G under a crown. The barrel hooks into a false breech and is secured to the fore-end by a screw.
The lock has a plain convex lockplate and cock; the pan has a raised edge and a water drain in the fence while the frizzen screw has a bridle, a newish inovation in the early eighteenth century. The lockplate is engraved W. MILLS.
The stock has a short fore-end and is fitted with silver mounts, the screwplate is in the form of a dragon. The escutchion plate is engraved with Lord Connigsby's arms with supporters, surmounted by a coronet and the motto beneath. There are no silver marks. The ramrod is a restoration.

Techniques

Forged, Carved

Materials

Dimensions

BarrelLength38.5inches
BarrelLength978mm
OverallLength54.12inches
OverallLength1375mm
OverallWeight3.32kg

Firearms/Artillery

Serial Number none

Calibre

11 bore

Inscriptions and Marks

Inscription
I in the Tower became a gun, In Seventeen hundred Twenty one EARL CONINGSBY Prisoner there, Bespoke and took me to his care And fit I am for Loyal Lords, Made of the Blades of Rebels Swords Fit for ye noble EARL whose Crime, Was Speaking truth in South Sea time Traytors beware Wn we are enlarg’d, When He or I shall be Discharg’d
breech
inlay
proofmarks
London Gunmaker's proofmarks
breech
stamp
coat of arms
Lord Connigsby's arms with supporters, surmounted by a coronet and the motto beneath
escutchion
engraving

Associations

Notes

This gun was made in the Tower of London and is one of the few good quality sporting guns of the early eighteenth century. It was made for Thomas Coningsby, 1st Earl Coningsby (1656–1729) while he was imprisoned in the Tower between 27 February and 29 July 1721 for libelling the Lord Chancellor, the Earl of Macclesfield.

The gun has a plain lock but one of an advanced design that includes a water drain, and is engraved with the makers name W MILLS. The stock is fitted with silver mounts, including an escutcheon with the Coningsby arms, and the barrel is browned and inlaid in gold with the following long inscription:

I in the Tower became a gun, In Seventeen hundred Twenty one
EARL CONINGSBY Prisoner there, Bespoke and took me to his care
And fit I am for Loyal Lords, Made of the Blades of Rebels Swords
Fit for ye noble EARL whose Crime, Was Speaking truth in South Sea time
Traytors beware Wn we are enlarg’d, When He or I shall be Discharg’d
For this my first and true Report, Pray use me well at HAMPTON COURT.

These lines whic hare hardly great poatry, were possibly composed by the owner and show the reasons for his incarceration in a slightly better light than was actually the case. Coningsby, MP for Leominster, had been imprisoned in the Tower by order of the House of Lords for libelling the Lord Chancellor, Thomas Parker 1st Earl of Macclesfield, over the allegedly illegal appointment of Sir George Caswell, Cashier of the South Sea Company, as a Justice of the Peace. Six months later the Lords released Coningsby and instead they imprisoned both Macclesfield and Caswell. Hampton Court, near Leominster, Herefordshire, remained the seat of the Coningsby family until the early 19th century when it was purchased by Richard Arkwright, son of the famous inventor.

The ‘Rebels Swords’ from which the barrel is supposed to have been made are thought to have been the blades of swords taken from the Scottish rebels of the Jacobite insurrection of 1715.It is recorded in early Tower guides that weapons captured from the Jacobites were on show, therefore it was possible that sword blades in store were re-purposed as metal for barrels.

William Mills was an employee of the Board of Ordnance, a ‘Barrel Forger and Frobisher within the Tower’. Though he was regarded as one of the twenty best qualified of the Board’s gunmakers, receiving a special annual grant of 1 guinea over his salary, he was not above the law, and was in 1718 dismissed from his job for illegally receiving six barrels out of the View Room, but was reinstated twenty-three days later.