“W & J Rigby” Dublin: Finest Quality Duck Gun
“W & J Rigby” Dublin: Finest Quality Duck Gun of Gigantic Proportions , made in 1838 for “H Drummond”, 42nd Regiment, costing £13.13.0, FINEST 5 BORE DAMASK BARREL 54 INCHES LONG, weighing 18lb 8 oz. This is a truly wondrous gun in perfect original condition.
John Rigby & Company (or John Rigby & Co. (Gunmakers) Ltd) is a gunmaking firm founded by John Rigby in 1775 in Dublin. The company was established by the first John Rigby in Dublin, Ireland, apparently in 1775; his grandson, also John, opened a London branch in 1865; and Dublin operations had ceased by February 1897.
Some documents suggest the firm was established in 1735. However, since the first John Rigby was born in 1758 in Dublin and entered the gunmaking trade there in 1775, Rigby today claims that as its founding date. (If John Rigby took over another gunmaking house, he would have inherited its founding date, in which case 1735 could be valid.) The surviving business ledgers date from 1781 and show that by then John Rigby was making, under his own name, shotguns, rifles, muskets, spring guns, carbines, blunderbusses and pistols to clients’ specifications and a wide range of prices.
Rigby was nearly bankrupted during the Irish Rebellion of 1798 when the government seized the arms on his premises – those belonging to the firm and to its clients – presumably to keep them out of the reach of rebels. However, by 1810 (if not sooner) John Rigby had rebuilt his business and, in addition to sporting guns, was making, updating and repairing thousands of guns for Ireland’s police, military, postal and customs services.
After the founding John Rigby’s death, in 1818, his sons William and John Jason Rigby operated the business as W. & J. Rigby from circa 1820 to 1865, a period that spanned flintlock, percussion, pinfire and needlefire ignition and marked the start of the modern metallic cartridge era. Rigby was a leader in barrel-making and rifling technology and, at the time, it was also recognised for its high grade duelling pistols. (Irish gentlemen especially had a fondness for calling each other out over perceived slights to their honour.)
The third John Rigby, born in 1829 in Dublin and educated in science at Trinity College, took over in 1858 when William, his father, died. It was this John Rigby who brought the firm to international prominence. In 1865, capitalising on the awards his family’s guns had earned at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851 and at the Paris Exhibition of 1855, in 1865 John Rigby opened a store at 72 St James’s Street in London’s West End. Sometime in the 1890s, Rigby sold his Dublin operations to Trulock & Harriss (keeping, however, his customers in Ireland) and became a bona fide member of the small circle of elite gunmakers who catered for London society.