three centuries of history.
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). William Ryan was a Guardian of the Birmingham Proof House until c.1830, and both Ryan and Benjamin Watson II were 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.
Thomas Wild died in 1893, and Rowland Watson, grandson of Benjamin Watson II and nephew of Thomas Wild, took over operations of the firm under his own name from 1893 at 17 Whittall Street, although guns bearing the Thomas Wild name continued to be produced long after this time.
Detailed records of the company begin around this time. Rowland Watson was succeeded by Gilbert Watson in 1941, and in 1946 Rowland Watson II took the reins. He continued in his forebear’s footsteps until retiring in 1987, passing leadership to Barry King, 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 became dormant, until it was acquired in 2011 by Elliot & Son Gunsmiths, who were given the opportunity to revive the historic company and return it to gunmaking, bringing Rowland Watson & Thomas Wild back into the light as the oldest surviving gunmaker ever out of Birmingham.
Enquiries into the history of your Rowland Watson or Thomas Wild gun can be made by contacting us. Depending on availability of records, you can purchase a document package including a specification & sale certificate, a copy of the original book entry, & any supporting catalogue information.