Lot 405 in Holts’ 19th March auction is a blunderbuss by Edward North, London built around 1770. It is a straightforward blunderbuss, but not if you look at the butt. The butt is badly damaged, not due to mishandling or neglect, it has been damaged by a furious sword with a couple of deep cuts, one so severe it has even distorted the brass butt plate.

Blunderbuss were built in their hundreds of thousands during the 18th century for self-protection. There was no national police force until 1829 and self-defence of property and person was part and parcel of life.

The blunderbuss has always gone down in the annals of history as the mail coach guard’s weapon of choice but in reality the majority were purchased by property and business owners to protect their interests. This accounts for the very large number of blunderbuss extant today.

I have encountered  slashes before on antique guns probably due to boys playing in the past but nothing like the deep cuts in this blunderbuss. The vendor of lot 405 explained that the original owner had been involved in a violent fracas with customs officials and after discharging his blunderbuss had then attempted to protect himself with the blunderbuss. The customs officials continued their attack with the resulting large slashes from their swords on the blunderbuss. Unfortunately although the blunderbuss survived the altercation, he didn’t.

Lot 405 is estimated at £1200 – £1600

Donald Dallas

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