Bang Up To The Mark

AP-avatarCara/Andrea here,

Duel-1I was musing the other day on how, despite the gilded splendor of Mayfair balls and the civilized rituals of Polite Society, Regency life was really fraught with danger at Small-double-barrelevery turn. Footpads, highwaymen, unscrupulous villains of every sort—not to speak of Napoleon’s armies marching through all of Europe . . . was it any wonder that most every gentleman’s basic necessities included not only breeches and boots but also aa pistol. Or probably two, as most bucks of the ton would want to have his own matched pair of dueling weapons, just in case.
Manton-pistols-1
Double-barrelled-gunNow, it’s not that I was in a murderous mood, mind you. But it did get me to thinking about Regency firearms . . . and one name immediately flashed to mind. Manton. Now, how many times have you read that one of our storybook heroes—or heroines—saves the day with a deadly accurate shot from weapon crafted by Joseph Manton?  Like Almack’s, Gunter’s and Astley’s, Manton is an iconic name in Regency-set books. So I decided to peer beneath the puffs of black powder smoke and take a closer look at this Prince of Precision—for his firearms were considered the best that money could buy.

JMantonBorn in 1766, Joseph Manton was apparently an ardent sportsman in his youth, and like most of his contemporaries spent countless hours walking the English countryside banging away at birds and game. The firearms of the day weren’t all that accurate, a fact that must have sparked Manton’s creativity because he began to experiment with new ways to add rifling to a gun barrel. (Rifling is a spiraled grooving cut into the inside of the barrel which imparts spin—and thus far greater accuracy—to a bullet. Thus rifled weapons, as opposed to smoothbore weapons, are far more deadly.)

Pocket-pistolManton’s sporting guns gained a reputation for quality and accuracy, and he went into gunsmithing business with his brother John, who was also interested in shot and powder. The partnership didn’t last long and John broke away to form his own business crafting firearms. For the rest of their lives they would be rivals, and while John Manton’s weapons are also considered fine firearms, it was Joe Manton whose name became synonymous with the best pistols and rifles that money could buy.

Mantons-2Manton was soon making weapons for more than just sport. A technical wizard, he was constantly tinkering with gun design, and throughout his professional life developed many new innovations which changed the way weapons were made.  One of his early inventions was a wooden cup, or sabot, for bullets that improved loading time and accuracy. (Don’t ask me to explain the scientific reasons, but it is considered the precursor to modern shell casings.)

Duelling-pistols-joseph-manton-1815-2He also noticed that most people tended to aim low when firing a weapon, so the front sights of his guns were made to compensate for this. In addition, he noted that in dueling, the recoil of a pistol often kicked the barrel up, throwing off the aim. So he added extra weight to the barrel, which made his pistols steadier, and thus they aimed truer. (Ummm, if I were heading out to a dawn Wellington's-rifle-2 Wellington's-riflemeeting on Houndslow Heath, I certainly know whose pistol I would want to be packing in my pocket!) Needless to say, his expertise earned him a loyal following, including the Duke of Wellington (see left for the Duke’s rifle and shipping label affixed to the gunbox.)

Manton-pistols-1Manton’s firearms possess a lethal beauty. They are not only precision instruments of death and destruction but are also, quite simply, works of art. The craftsmanship is superb and the decorative touches are exquisite. The stocks—lovely burled walnut and other rich woods—are etched with intricate patterns to ensure a good grip, while the engraved embellishments have a sublime delicacy that belies their practical purpose.

OfficersThis artistry didn’t come cheap. One of the sources I read said that a Manton single-barreled fowler sold for 25 guineas, and a "London Best" double sold for 55 guineas—princely sums for the era. (Manton weapons still command a pretty penny today. They are highly prized collector’s items and go for very high prices at auction.) It’s also no surprise that a number of his apprentices went on to become some of the most legendary gunmakers of the 19th century, including James Purdey, Joseph Lang and Charles Lancaster.

I came across a rather humorous story that recounts how Manton’s coach was once stopped by a highwayman who ordered him to “Stand and deliver.” Recognizing the weapon as one of his own, Manton supposedly sputtered, “Damn it, you rascal, I’m Joe Manton and that’s one of my pistols you’ve got! How dare you try to rob me!” To which the highwayman responded, “You charged me ten guineas for this pistol, which was a damned swindle— though I admit it’s a damned good barker.” The thief then Manton-double-barrel-coach-pistolscompromised and agreed to rob gunmaker of only ten guineas. Despite the deal, Manton was said to be so incised by the robbery that he promptly went back to his workshop and designed a double barreled carriage pistol. (See right. No doubt the story is apocryphal, but it’s amusing nonetheless. And the truth is, Manton was fascinated by double barreled weapons and created a number of them, including fowling guns and rifles like the one owned by Wellington.)

Duel-2A lesser known aspect of Manton’s lillustrious career was the fact that he also worked with the British government on cannon design, and pioneered many innovations that presaged developments in modern ballistics. Sadly, he ended up in a prolonged and expensive legal battle with the Board of Ordnance over patents and payments. He ended up losing his fortune and was declared bankrupt in 1826.

I love learning these little tidbits of history, and feel they add to my appreciation of the era, whether I’m reading novels or non-fiction. What about you? Do you find it fun? And are there any iconic Regency people or places that you would like to know more about?

90 thoughts on “Bang Up To The Mark”

  1. Loved this post, Cara/Andrea. I’d researched various types of guns and pistols for some of my books, particularly the loading and shooting and cleaning of them, and I’ve probably referred to Mantons, because, as you say, it was the place to go for duelling pistols, and such, but I’d never looked up the man himself.
    Thank you. most interesting.
    As for iconic places/people — I’d like to see the interior of Hatchards.

    Reply
  2. Loved this post, Cara/Andrea. I’d researched various types of guns and pistols for some of my books, particularly the loading and shooting and cleaning of them, and I’ve probably referred to Mantons, because, as you say, it was the place to go for duelling pistols, and such, but I’d never looked up the man himself.
    Thank you. most interesting.
    As for iconic places/people — I’d like to see the interior of Hatchards.

    Reply
  3. Loved this post, Cara/Andrea. I’d researched various types of guns and pistols for some of my books, particularly the loading and shooting and cleaning of them, and I’ve probably referred to Mantons, because, as you say, it was the place to go for duelling pistols, and such, but I’d never looked up the man himself.
    Thank you. most interesting.
    As for iconic places/people — I’d like to see the interior of Hatchards.

    Reply
  4. Loved this post, Cara/Andrea. I’d researched various types of guns and pistols for some of my books, particularly the loading and shooting and cleaning of them, and I’ve probably referred to Mantons, because, as you say, it was the place to go for duelling pistols, and such, but I’d never looked up the man himself.
    Thank you. most interesting.
    As for iconic places/people — I’d like to see the interior of Hatchards.

    Reply
  5. Loved this post, Cara/Andrea. I’d researched various types of guns and pistols for some of my books, particularly the loading and shooting and cleaning of them, and I’ve probably referred to Mantons, because, as you say, it was the place to go for duelling pistols, and such, but I’d never looked up the man himself.
    Thank you. most interesting.
    As for iconic places/people — I’d like to see the interior of Hatchards.

    Reply
  6. Wonderful post, Andrea/Cara! How many times have I references Manton dueling pistols in my books — always a pair and kept in some sort of deliciously ornate baize-lined wooden box — and yet had almost no idea how the weapon truly functioned!?! In a word, thanks!

    Reply
  7. Wonderful post, Andrea/Cara! How many times have I references Manton dueling pistols in my books — always a pair and kept in some sort of deliciously ornate baize-lined wooden box — and yet had almost no idea how the weapon truly functioned!?! In a word, thanks!

    Reply
  8. Wonderful post, Andrea/Cara! How many times have I references Manton dueling pistols in my books — always a pair and kept in some sort of deliciously ornate baize-lined wooden box — and yet had almost no idea how the weapon truly functioned!?! In a word, thanks!

    Reply
  9. Wonderful post, Andrea/Cara! How many times have I references Manton dueling pistols in my books — always a pair and kept in some sort of deliciously ornate baize-lined wooden box — and yet had almost no idea how the weapon truly functioned!?! In a word, thanks!

    Reply
  10. Wonderful post, Andrea/Cara! How many times have I references Manton dueling pistols in my books — always a pair and kept in some sort of deliciously ornate baize-lined wooden box — and yet had almost no idea how the weapon truly functioned!?! In a word, thanks!

    Reply
  11. Cara, what an interesting post! I have to say, I thought you were going to say that John and Joe ended up in a duel over who designed the best guns, and one or both lost their life at the hands of the brother.
    Personally, I always like to know who the artists and writers are, of a particular era, and to incorporate them into stories as minor characters. The artists who are most interesting are the ones who may have been shunned by polite society, but because of the favor of a particular noble, has full access to that society. These characters add plenty of flavor to the story. They are also reflections on the character of the noble who has chosen them as favorites.
    Janet Pepsin

    Reply
  12. Cara, what an interesting post! I have to say, I thought you were going to say that John and Joe ended up in a duel over who designed the best guns, and one or both lost their life at the hands of the brother.
    Personally, I always like to know who the artists and writers are, of a particular era, and to incorporate them into stories as minor characters. The artists who are most interesting are the ones who may have been shunned by polite society, but because of the favor of a particular noble, has full access to that society. These characters add plenty of flavor to the story. They are also reflections on the character of the noble who has chosen them as favorites.
    Janet Pepsin

    Reply
  13. Cara, what an interesting post! I have to say, I thought you were going to say that John and Joe ended up in a duel over who designed the best guns, and one or both lost their life at the hands of the brother.
    Personally, I always like to know who the artists and writers are, of a particular era, and to incorporate them into stories as minor characters. The artists who are most interesting are the ones who may have been shunned by polite society, but because of the favor of a particular noble, has full access to that society. These characters add plenty of flavor to the story. They are also reflections on the character of the noble who has chosen them as favorites.
    Janet Pepsin

    Reply
  14. Cara, what an interesting post! I have to say, I thought you were going to say that John and Joe ended up in a duel over who designed the best guns, and one or both lost their life at the hands of the brother.
    Personally, I always like to know who the artists and writers are, of a particular era, and to incorporate them into stories as minor characters. The artists who are most interesting are the ones who may have been shunned by polite society, but because of the favor of a particular noble, has full access to that society. These characters add plenty of flavor to the story. They are also reflections on the character of the noble who has chosen them as favorites.
    Janet Pepsin

    Reply
  15. Cara, what an interesting post! I have to say, I thought you were going to say that John and Joe ended up in a duel over who designed the best guns, and one or both lost their life at the hands of the brother.
    Personally, I always like to know who the artists and writers are, of a particular era, and to incorporate them into stories as minor characters. The artists who are most interesting are the ones who may have been shunned by polite society, but because of the favor of a particular noble, has full access to that society. These characters add plenty of flavor to the story. They are also reflections on the character of the noble who has chosen them as favorites.
    Janet Pepsin

    Reply
  16. LOL on the duel, Janet. That would have been something straight out of a novel. (Hmm , maybe one of us has to write the scene—both bullets go astray, the brothers reconcile . . .)
    I so agree with you about artists of an era. They are so interesting, I think, because they are such keen observers of what goes on around them. They see details and nuances of emotion, which makes themgreat characters to write.

    Reply
  17. LOL on the duel, Janet. That would have been something straight out of a novel. (Hmm , maybe one of us has to write the scene—both bullets go astray, the brothers reconcile . . .)
    I so agree with you about artists of an era. They are so interesting, I think, because they are such keen observers of what goes on around them. They see details and nuances of emotion, which makes themgreat characters to write.

    Reply
  18. LOL on the duel, Janet. That would have been something straight out of a novel. (Hmm , maybe one of us has to write the scene—both bullets go astray, the brothers reconcile . . .)
    I so agree with you about artists of an era. They are so interesting, I think, because they are such keen observers of what goes on around them. They see details and nuances of emotion, which makes themgreat characters to write.

    Reply
  19. LOL on the duel, Janet. That would have been something straight out of a novel. (Hmm , maybe one of us has to write the scene—both bullets go astray, the brothers reconcile . . .)
    I so agree with you about artists of an era. They are so interesting, I think, because they are such keen observers of what goes on around them. They see details and nuances of emotion, which makes themgreat characters to write.

    Reply
  20. LOL on the duel, Janet. That would have been something straight out of a novel. (Hmm , maybe one of us has to write the scene—both bullets go astray, the brothers reconcile . . .)
    I so agree with you about artists of an era. They are so interesting, I think, because they are such keen observers of what goes on around them. They see details and nuances of emotion, which makes themgreat characters to write.

    Reply
  21. It is fun to learn about the people behind the names: guns by Manton, clothes by Weston, boots by Hobey, horses from Tattersall’s.
    As for Hatchard’s, I make a point of visiting when I am in London, so I know what it looks like today. I’d be interested in knowing what it looked like in the Regency, however. When I was there a few years ago Michael Caine came in to pick up some books he had ordered. He looks and sounds just like in the movies, and it was a point in his favor to know that he’s a regular there (got to love a man who loves books).

    Reply
  22. It is fun to learn about the people behind the names: guns by Manton, clothes by Weston, boots by Hobey, horses from Tattersall’s.
    As for Hatchard’s, I make a point of visiting when I am in London, so I know what it looks like today. I’d be interested in knowing what it looked like in the Regency, however. When I was there a few years ago Michael Caine came in to pick up some books he had ordered. He looks and sounds just like in the movies, and it was a point in his favor to know that he’s a regular there (got to love a man who loves books).

    Reply
  23. It is fun to learn about the people behind the names: guns by Manton, clothes by Weston, boots by Hobey, horses from Tattersall’s.
    As for Hatchard’s, I make a point of visiting when I am in London, so I know what it looks like today. I’d be interested in knowing what it looked like in the Regency, however. When I was there a few years ago Michael Caine came in to pick up some books he had ordered. He looks and sounds just like in the movies, and it was a point in his favor to know that he’s a regular there (got to love a man who loves books).

    Reply
  24. It is fun to learn about the people behind the names: guns by Manton, clothes by Weston, boots by Hobey, horses from Tattersall’s.
    As for Hatchard’s, I make a point of visiting when I am in London, so I know what it looks like today. I’d be interested in knowing what it looked like in the Regency, however. When I was there a few years ago Michael Caine came in to pick up some books he had ordered. He looks and sounds just like in the movies, and it was a point in his favor to know that he’s a regular there (got to love a man who loves books).

    Reply
  25. It is fun to learn about the people behind the names: guns by Manton, clothes by Weston, boots by Hobey, horses from Tattersall’s.
    As for Hatchard’s, I make a point of visiting when I am in London, so I know what it looks like today. I’d be interested in knowing what it looked like in the Regency, however. When I was there a few years ago Michael Caine came in to pick up some books he had ordered. He looks and sounds just like in the movies, and it was a point in his favor to know that he’s a regular there (got to love a man who loves books).

    Reply
  26. Great story about Michael Caine, Susan/DC. I so agree—a man who loves books already has a lot going for him! I wonder about the insides in Regecny times, too. I did try to ask the clerks, but they didn’t know too much about that (though they were extremely knowledgable about books.)

    Reply
  27. Great story about Michael Caine, Susan/DC. I so agree—a man who loves books already has a lot going for him! I wonder about the insides in Regecny times, too. I did try to ask the clerks, but they didn’t know too much about that (though they were extremely knowledgable about books.)

    Reply
  28. Great story about Michael Caine, Susan/DC. I so agree—a man who loves books already has a lot going for him! I wonder about the insides in Regecny times, too. I did try to ask the clerks, but they didn’t know too much about that (though they were extremely knowledgable about books.)

    Reply
  29. Great story about Michael Caine, Susan/DC. I so agree—a man who loves books already has a lot going for him! I wonder about the insides in Regecny times, too. I did try to ask the clerks, but they didn’t know too much about that (though they were extremely knowledgable about books.)

    Reply
  30. Great story about Michael Caine, Susan/DC. I so agree—a man who loves books already has a lot going for him! I wonder about the insides in Regecny times, too. I did try to ask the clerks, but they didn’t know too much about that (though they were extremely knowledgable about books.)

    Reply
  31. Dig up some Gunter’s, too, ‘kay? Thanks so much for this post. Very informative. Wonder if there’s anywhere we could go to shoot a reproduction of one of these “damned good barkers?” Oh, and where can I pick up the kind of personality will argue with a loaded pistol when I myself know how accurate the thing is?

    Reply
  32. Dig up some Gunter’s, too, ‘kay? Thanks so much for this post. Very informative. Wonder if there’s anywhere we could go to shoot a reproduction of one of these “damned good barkers?” Oh, and where can I pick up the kind of personality will argue with a loaded pistol when I myself know how accurate the thing is?

    Reply
  33. Dig up some Gunter’s, too, ‘kay? Thanks so much for this post. Very informative. Wonder if there’s anywhere we could go to shoot a reproduction of one of these “damned good barkers?” Oh, and where can I pick up the kind of personality will argue with a loaded pistol when I myself know how accurate the thing is?

    Reply
  34. Dig up some Gunter’s, too, ‘kay? Thanks so much for this post. Very informative. Wonder if there’s anywhere we could go to shoot a reproduction of one of these “damned good barkers?” Oh, and where can I pick up the kind of personality will argue with a loaded pistol when I myself know how accurate the thing is?

    Reply
  35. Dig up some Gunter’s, too, ‘kay? Thanks so much for this post. Very informative. Wonder if there’s anywhere we could go to shoot a reproduction of one of these “damned good barkers?” Oh, and where can I pick up the kind of personality will argue with a loaded pistol when I myself know how accurate the thing is?

    Reply

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