Lieutenant Robert John Hudson 7th Yorkshire, West Riding, Rifle Volunteers Corps known as the Leeds Rifles, and his inscribed, deluxe brass-bound cased and factory engraved British-proofed Colt Model 1851 Navy Percussion Revolver serial number 91995/. Case inscribed: ‘Robert John Hudson Esqre. Roundhay, near Leeds’.
This thought-provoking motto of ‘Pax In Bello’ ‘Peace In War’ which is the title of my exhibit, echoes to me, how this beautiful piece of art, modelled from an iconic firearm of its time, would help to keep the peace in such a turbulent period of Victorian history.
This is the story of one of the “jewels in the crown” of rarities in the world of collecting Colt firearms and the gentleman, soldier, magistrate and business man from Leeds in Yorkshire, England who acquired this magnificent cased set circa 1860.
The set in question is a deluxe brass bound mahogany case inscribed on the lid ‘Robert John Hudson Esqre. Roundhay, near Leeds’ showing the family shield and crest. The case contains a factory engraved British-proofed, Colt Model 1851 Navy percussion revolver serial number 91995/. manufactured circa 1859 and inscribed ‘R.J. Hudson Esqre / Leeds’ on the silverplated iron back-strap. Cased en suite with this fabulous revolver and accessories is its original silver-plated & engraved matching attachable third model canteen shoulderstock numbered to the gun. The carbine stock bears the double inscription of ‘Pax In Bello’ which translates from Latin into English as ‘Peace In War’
The story of the owner, Robert John Hudson and his magnificent cased pistolcarbine relates as follows.
The Hudson family were a very prominent business family in the Leeds area of Yorkshire, throughout the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century in Great Britain. They owned businesses employing hundreds of workers. In 1815 Robert John’s grand-father Edward, purchased Leeds Mill for £32,000 and in 1822 he is listed as owning his own company named Edward Hudson & Co. which was described as ‘Corn factors, Oil Millers and Malsters’ at Kingsmill near Leeds.
Robert John Hudson was born in Burley near Leeds in 1838. He was the second son born to Robert Hudson (Justice of the Peace) and his wife Elizabeth of Rounday near Leeds. Robert John was one of five sons and a daughter. They included Edward born in 1834, Robert John in 1838, Albert in 1841, Charles Herbert in 1846 and the youngest son, Ernest who was born in 1858. His sister, Fanny Elizabeth was the eldest child born in 1828
By 1841 grandfather Edward and Robert John’s father, also named Robert (born in 1805) along with his wife Elizabeth (born in 1811) and their families had moved their homes to Roundhay near Leeds. In 1843 grandfather Edward formed a new company in the name of Gadeson and Hudson to take over collieries in Stanley near Wakefield. They also owned lime and coke kilns in that area. By 1853 the business was called ‘Edward & Robert Hudson, Oil Merchants’.
1859 was a very turbulent year in British history following the Crimea War and the Indian Mutiny. There was still much unrest in Europe with wars in Italy and Austria at war with France over the Kingdom of Sardinia. Germany was worried that France might attack the Rhineland and the British were worried that France might invade Britain. With all this unrest, hundreds of volunteer corps were formed throughout the country to combat the perceived threat including the 7th Yorkshire, West Riding, (Leeds) Rifle Volunteers Corps known as the Leeds Rifles which were formed on the 17th November 1859.
Robert John Hudson joined the following year on 3rd September as a twenty-two year old young man. In those days it was the eldest son who was most likely to run the family business with the siblings (he was the second in line) joining the army or taking up religious studies. Many of the militia companies were raised by prominent local business’s and the Hudson factories probably formed their own company from their workforce.
Hudson enlisted as an ensign which is the lowest rank of a commissioned officer.
Within days of enlisting he was promoted to Lieutenant. In the Leeds Mercury newspaper on Tuesday the 18th September 1860 it stated the following: “Yorkshire Volunteer Commissions – Last Friday night The London Gazette contains the following commission – 7th West Riding of Yorkshire Rifle Volunteers (Leeds) – Ensign Robert John Hudson to be Lieutenant”. With their barracks next to the Town Hall the unit grew quickly, soon reaching one thousand recruits. It produced an elite volunteer infantry unit which also played a central part in the social life of the city of Leed
During the following six weeks to the end of October 1860 the Leeds Mercury gave a good account of the 7th Rifles. These included shooting competitions for prizes that included a challenge cup, medals, Enfield rifles and Colt revolvers. It was
reported within that period that Lieutenant R. J. Hudson took part in the competitions at least on two occasions and also that he presented some of the prizes, which included a silver cup valued at £10 and a medal for the winner of the Challenge Cup. On the 11th October 1860 the Leeds Mercury wrote ‘A silver cup, value £10 and medal was presented by Lieutenant Hudson for the winner of the challenge cup’. The same was reported in the newspaper the following week. In the report of the 18th October 1860 R. J. Hudson took part in a competition for a Colt revolver and rifle.
Unfortunately he scored zero points out of ten. In a competition for the ‘Mr Wilkinson’s Cup’ he scored only four points out of ten. With all his military experience he does not appear to have been a great marksman. It was also reported that ‘The shooting concluded with a sweepstakes for Lieutenant Hudson’s revolver, for which there were thirty competitors.
The distance was 100 yards, two rounds, the winner being Sergeant
Little, Captain Robinson being second’.
As the threat of war with France rapidly abated the type of Corps that Hudson was in became gentlemen’s shooting clubs and for one reason or another and probably because of family business Hudson resigned his commission during the late Spring of 1861. On Thursday 27th June 1861 the Leeds Mercury reported:- “Her Majesty has been graciously pleased to accept the resignation of the commissions held by the following officers
Merchant & Malster of Swinegate’ in Yorkshire. In the census of that year Robert John’s father at the age of 56 is described as a ‘Justice of the Peace and a Seed Crusher’ employing seventy seven men. He also owned a colliery that employed four hundred and nineteen men. This totalled four hundred and ninety six workers employed by the Hudson family. By this time, Robert John Hudson at the age of 22 was married to a Miss Jane Hall, aged 23 and they were living at Barwick In Elmet near Roundhay. By 1881, Robert John Hudson had become a Justice of the Peace for the West Riding Magistrates, living at Oulton. He was also secretary to the family’s Limited Company.
Robert John Hudson’s colliery venture failed in 1882 and by 1889 he and his partner sold the colliery to the Victoria Coal & Coke Company Ltd. In 1891 Hudson had become a magistrate living at Granville Square in Harrowgate. By 1901 at the age of sixty two he had retired to the seaside at Royal Avenue, Scarborough in Yorkshire, returning to Leeds with his wife Jane sometime before 1911. He died at his home at Cleveland House, York Place, Harrowgate in Yorkshire on the 1st December, 1913 from cerebral thrombosis aged seventy four.
His wife died only thirty five days after him on the 5th January, 1914. They had been married for more than fifty years without producing any offspring.
It can only be speculated how Robert John Hudson came to own his cased engraved and inscribed canteen shoulder stocked Colt Model 1851 Navy percussion revolver. Maybe it was presented to him by the officers and men of the 7th West Riding of Yorkshire Rifle Volunteers on him receiving his commission or from the Hudson family on his twenty-first birthday in 1859.
Maybe he bought it himself. A clue might be the double inscription of ‘Pax In Bello’ ‘Peace in War’ on the shoulder-stock which also features on the altar wall of St. John’s Church at Roundhay in Leeds where Hudson’s father and grandfather are buried. On the altar wall it states ‘Pax in Bello in memory of Robert Hudson Esq. of Roundhay ……’. My best guess is that the cased set was a present from the Hudson family on his coming of age.
The adoption of ‘Pax in Bello’ by the Hudson family was in fact in deference to the Dukes of Leeds whose motto it was at that time.
This magnificent set can be traced from its manufacture and embellishment at the Hartford factory, Connecticut in 1859 to being shipped to the Colt Agency at 14.
14, Pall Mall, London and Hudson circa 1860. It remained in the Hudson family until it was bought out of the family in the 1960’s by Ron Dean, the well-known Colt collector and dealer who formerly lived in the Channel Islands and now resides in Phoenix, Arizona. I bought this wonderful set from Ron in 1998 and it has been the prize piece in my collection since then.
Let’s get technical
An in-depth description of this magnificent set would be as follows: Inscribed, deluxe brass-bound cased and factory engraved British- proofed 4th Model Colt Belt Model 1851 Navy percussion revolver
serial numbered 91995/. manufactured circa 1859 with matching silver-plated engraved & inscribed attachable third model canteen shoulder-stock numbered en suite to the gun.
All serial numbers are matching throughout the set with the dot suffix after the number denoting special finish and engraving.
The revolver is in .36 navy calibre with a 7½ inch, octagonal barrel roll-engraved: -ADDRESS COL. COLT LONDON – . The blued barrel, with the late style bevelled cut-out on the right side has the
rare dovetail target foresight often seen on shoulder-stocked examples. The British proof marks on the barrel are not stamped in the usual place as on most London revolvers but sit in tandem in a sensible position on the barrel flat just above the loading lever in such a way that they do not obscure the beautiful barrel engraving. The roll engraved cylinder shows Ormsby’s Naval battle scene with the British proofmarks stamped on the shoulders of the cylinder between the nipple recesses. The revolver has the rare four-screw frame with two of the screws extended along with the recoil shield notched on the underside to accept the shoulder-stock. The backstrap is also grooved at the heel to accept the blued iron catch which is tightened by the thumb screw to secure the stock tightly to the revolver.
The frame, barrel, loading lever, wedge and grip-straps are all intricately engraved in the Gustave Young deluxe coverage of intertwined foliate style in what has been described as unusual arabesque patterns against a granular punch dot back-ground. Both sides of the hammer are engraved with the characteristic wolf’s head motif. There is a large dogs head beautifully engraved into one of the scrolls on the left side of the barrel lug above the loading lever retaining screw and ‘COLT’S / PATENT’ is hand engraved within a kidney shape on the left side of the frame.
The barrel and cylinder are blued with the loading lever, frame and hammer casehardened. The engraved iron back-strap and iron trigger-guard are silver-plated and the fancy deluxe one-piece grips are of select burl wood. The grip-strap is inscribed ‘R.J. Hudson Esqre/ Leeds’. The matching silver-plated & engraved walnut third model canteen shoulder or carbinestock is profusely decorated with intricate scrolls to the yoke and butt-plate and serial numbered en suite to the revolver. The screws, swivel, iron catch and thumb nut are all fire-blued.
Canteen stocks are ultra-rare and only a few were manufactured this way with a metal receptacle to hold water or stronger liquids contained inside the stock. The stock bears an inscription in Latin “Pax In Bello” on the top of the scroll engraved brass yoke between the hammer cut-out and the pewter stopper and also the same inscription is inscribed underneath the yoke between the sling swivel and the serial number.
The revolver, stock and accessories are fitted in a deluxe London-style mahogany case with twelve compartments. The brassbound cornered lid of the case has a central circular brass plaque bearing a shield of Gules on a fess or between three boar’s heads argent three lions rampant sable. The shield has an accompanying crest on top of a lion rampant holding between the forepaws a boar’s head. It is surrounded by a sunken circular carrying ring inscribed: ‘Robert John Hudson Esqre. Roundhay near Leeds’.
The interior is lined in green baize with the makers label for ‘DIRECTIONS FOR LOADING COLT’S PISTOLS’ in the lid. Accessories in the case include a Dixon bag type flask marked ‘COLTS NAVY FLASK’, a .36 blued steel bullet mould
marked ‘COLTS / PATENT’, a nipple key and screwdriver combination tool, two 500 count Eley Bros. cap tins, one of which is unopened, a deluxe KYNOCH & Co small cap tin, pewter oil bottle stamped ‘Dixon & Sons / Sheffield, a ivory turned screw topped container with many spare nipples marked ‘COLTS’ on one side and ‘PATENT’ on the reverse. Wooden cleaning rod with ebony tipped circular knob and brass pull- through screw-on tool plus two additional screw-on accessory cleaning tools. Also a spare new blued main-spring compliments the set. This magnificent
cased set and accessories is in excellent plus condition and retains overall 90% plus of its original finish.
The collecting and monetary value of any antique firearm, or any antique in general is determined on three specific counts and this magnificent set encompasses all three.
1) Condition:- Overall excellent plus condition with more than 90% plus original finish to case, revolver, carbine-stock and accessories.
2) Rarity:- One of only a few specimens known to have the before mentioned features and possibly unique. See enclosed table on rarity.
3) Provenance:- Interesting story of the owner who was a British army officer, an industrialist, a magistrate and a gentleman living through the Industrial Revolution of 19th century Victorian Britain. The full provenance of the set stretches one hundred and fifty years from its date of manufacture in 1859 through until today in 2009.
Pictured in ‘COLONEL COLT, LONDON’ by Joseph Rosa on page 175.
Pictured in ‘Colt and its Collectors’ on page 91.
Photography and production: David Watson, Graphic Solutions, UK.
Mr Keith Miller Head of Department, Weapons, Equipment & Vehicles, National Army Museum, UK.
Brian Wallis (genealogist), Ossett, West Yorkshire, UK.
Michael Pickard (genealogist) Yorkshire, UK.
Ron Dean, Phoenix, Arizona, USA.
Phil Boulton, Southampton, UK.
Paul Wilcock, Arms and Armour Research Group, University of Huddersfield, UK