Hidden collection of 30 English pistols emerges at Bonhams

Antique Arms and Armour
18 Apr 2012
London, Knightsbridge

A fantastic collection of 30 English silver duelling pistols put together by a very private English antique arms collector over many years, has come to light at Bonhams latest sale of Antique Arms and Armour which takes place on April 18th at Knightsbridge.

The group of pistols is part of a larger collection drawn together by the discreet but distinguished collector of antique arms and armour, Norman H. Dixon (1920-2011). He was born in Halesowen, West Midlands and left school aged 14 to study Mechanical Engineering at Birmingham Technical College. He joined the Austin Motor Company and during the war designed tools for the production of aeroplanes. He trained as a temporary sub-lieutenant in the Royal Navy Volunteer Sea Cadet Corps and ended his working career as General Manager of the silverware company Charles S. Green & Co.

His passion for collecting culminated in the publication of the book: 'Georgian Pistols, The Art and Craft of the Flintlock Pistol, 1715-1840', which was published in 1971. The 30 pistols in his collection range in price from£1,000 to £60,000. Two of the most valuable pairs are lots 317 and 318.

Lot 317 is a very fine pair of 26-bore silver-mounted flintlock duelling pistols
by John Manton, London, London Britannia Standard Silver Hallmarks for 1789, estimated to sell for £25,000-35,000.

The pistols are believed to have belonged to General Sir James Hope Grant (1808-1875). General Grant GCB began his military career in 1826 and served with distinction during the first Opium War, later seeing action in the First Anglo-Sikh War and Punjab campaign. He played a leading role in the suppression of the Indian Mutiny, rising to the rank of Major General by the end of the campaign. On his return to England in 1865 he took up the post of Quartermaster-General to the Forces and was promoted to General in 1872

Lot 318 is an exceptional pair of 18-bore silver-mounted flintlock holster pistols with silver barrels and lock-plates by Heylin, Cornhill, London, London Silver Hallmarks For 1768, Maker's Mark Of John King. They are estimated to sell for £40,000-60,000.

They are thought by the late owner to have been presented to Sir John Rushout on his retirement from the House of Commons in 1768. Sir John Rushout, 4th Baronet of Milast (1685-1775) was educated at Eton before going on to serve as a captain in the Horse Guards between 1710 and 1712. In 1713 he was elected to the House of Commons as a member for Malmesbury, a seat he held until 1722 when he was returned for both Malmesbury and Evesham, choosing to sit for the latter and serving until his retirement in 1768.

During his time in Parliament he served as Treasurer of the Navy from 1743 to 1744, when he was made a Privy Counsellor. In 1746 he nearly became Leader of the House of Commons under the Earl of Bath, but the ministry collapsed and he was never offered the position. He became Father of the House in 1762, retiring at the dissolution of Parliament in 1768, the year these pistols were made, having served for fifty-five years. The pistols were passed down by family descent until sold in the house sale at Burford House, near Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire, in March 1951.


Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com

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