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Rare pistols return to Dunster

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Classic Arms & Militaria

Posted on 27 Jan 2012

A pair of rare early flintlock pistols
A pair of rare early flintlock pistols
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A pair of rare early flintlock pistols has been bought at auction by the National Trust for £30,000.

The pistols were part of the former Luttrell Armoury at Dunster Castle, Somerset, and were acquired by the late Dr Robert Rabett when he purchased the bulk of the Armoury in the early 1970s. The pistols remained in Dr Rabett’s possession until his recent death, when they were sold at Bonham’s, London.

Dating from the period 1660-1670, the pistols are almost certainly among the arms and armour obtained by Colonel Francis Luttrell (1659-1690) when he formed an Armoury and his own Militia regiment at the Castle in the late 1670s.

In 1685, Luttrell’s regiment joined the Somerset militia and helped repel the rebellious forces of the Duke of Monmouth. In 1688 he joined the ‘Glorious Revolution’, when the Prince of Orange landed at Tor Bay. Francis Luttrell managed to raise a regiment in three days, partly due to his own organisational abilities and partly because of the presence of a substantial armoury at Dunster.

English military pistols from this period are extremely rare and few have survived, particularly in such remarkably good condition. The pistols are plain, long-barrelled military holster pistols, over 21 inches (54cm) in length and are fitted with a peculiar form of 17th century flintlock known today as an ‘English Lock’. The mechanisms incorporate large hook-shaped safety catches. Although unsigned, both pistols have an, as yet, unidentified makers mark, a crowned S, on the barrels.

The Armoury at Dunster remained intact until the early 1970s, just prior to acquisition by the National Trust, when the bulk of the Armoury, mainly muskets from the same period, were sold by the Castle’s owner, Lieutenant Colonel Walter Luttrell, MC (1919-2007).

The National Trust’s firearms adviser, Brian Godwin, said, ‘I am absolutely delighted that the Trust has obtained these rare and important pistols for Dunster Castle. It is a great achievement for them’. The pistols will be on display at the Castle next year.


Find this news story and more in the February/March 2012 issue of Classic Arms & Militaria

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