In 1723, Benjamin Watson, an accomplished gunlock maker, founded his own company of Benjamin Watson on Catherine Street in Birmingham. Over the next 54 years, the Watson family established the business as a successful and well-regarded gunmaker.
By 1777, the firm had become the partnership of Ryan & Watson, 28 Whittall Street, Birmingham (Catherine Street having been renamed). Ryan was a Guardian of the Birmingham Proof House until c.1830, and the company was among the original investors in the sale of the Proof House stock. From 1830 to 1857, the firm was once again Benjamin Watson, now under the watch of the founder's grandson round the corner at the 14 Steelhouse Lane address.
Between 1857 and 1893, the business became Thomas Wild, who was the son-in-law of the last Benjamin Watson. He moved the firm back on to Whittall Street, at the numbers 29 & 35.
After this time, Thomas Wild separated off, though the two gunmakers remained closely connected, and Rowland Watson, Wild's nephew, took over operations of the Watson firm under his own name from 1893 at 17 Whittall Street.
This is where the records for Rowland Watson begin, and can be traced reliably, through successive generations of the family, to 1966, when Rowland Watson's namesake and great-grandson took the reins. It was at this time that the Thomas Wild name was reunited with the Watson firm, and the amalgamated companies continued until Watson retired and passed the business to Barry King, a protégé of Watson's who had apprenticed at the firm and worked there ever since.
In May 1988, the last Rowland Watson passed away, and in 1989, the firm moved to 63 Price Street from the 32 Lower Loveday Street address that it had occupied since 1962, where it remained until the last order was completed in 1997.
The company remained in the custodianship of Mr King during this period of inactivity, until it was acquired in 2011 by Elliot & Son Gunsmiths, who were given the opportunity to revive the company and return it to gunmaking, bringing Rowland Watson & Thomas Wild back into the light as the oldest surviving gunmaker ever out of Birmingham.
We are producing boxlocks under the Thomas Wild banner, and sidelocks as Rowland Watson. Orders are being taken now, with the first guns due for completion in late 2012.
Enquiries for information on guns made under the Rowland Watson and Thomas Wild names can be made by contacting us. Copies of the original manufacture and sale records of second-hand guns can be purchased at a price of £20.
PLEASE NOTE: All cheques must be made payable to Elliot & Son Gunsmiths