James Woodward & Sons are considered by many as building the best guns of all time.
James Woodward started out in the trade apprenticed to Charles Moore around 1827. James Woodward worked his way through the ranks to become the head finisher at Charles Moore. They later became partners c.1844 and the firm moved to new premises at 64 St James’s St, Pall Mall, trading as Moore & Woodward.
“Woodward’s had build an excellent reputation for best guns mostly being sold to the aristocracy.
At some stage Moore dropped out of the business c1851 and James Woodward later became James Woodward & Sons c1872 when James took his two sons James and Charles into partnership at the same address. James the son of the founder ran the business until his death on the 7th July 1900, his brother Charles had already died some five years earlier. The firm was then taken over by the nephew of James, Charles L Woodward. Records show that the firm later moved address in 1937 to 29 Bury St, but then suffered bomb damage in the Second World War and were temporarily accommodated by Grant & Lang at no 7 Bury St, untill no 29 was put back in order..
Woodwards had build an excellent reputation for best guns mostly being sold to the aristocracy, you needed to have deep pockets to be on the order books. Now if you can find a good clean example a side by side will fetch just under £10.000 but the over and under is around the £20.000 mark. These guns are not common and you will have a job to find a good one. There was one story being told by the leading London berrel-filer c1930 that Woodwards would reject any barrels that he had regulated for them unless he was able to get as few as two or three extra pellets into the standard pattern ! Perhaps this is why Woodwards with their original choke boring throw perfect patterns.
It has been said that guns made by James Woodward & Sons have been consistently the best guns ever seen. Better than Purdey, H&H and Boss, but this I guess is down to one’s own taste. The Company concentrated on Shotguns and especially their legendary sidelock side by side game gun with its arcaded fences and signature T Safty. 29 inch barrels were a standard for Woodward as this was seen to be most efficient but other sizes could be ordered. The Prince of Wales stock was also a favourite of Woodward. We also encounter from time to time single triggers and sidelever’s but these were not the standard unless ordered otherwise. Although Woodward had their own single trigger design.
The firm was most well know for its development and production of its over and under design in 1913 by Charles L Woodward. This and the Boss over and under were and still are without doubt the two best designs ever produced, and again its personal preference to which is considered better. In 1948 Charles L Woodward wanted to retire and offered the business to Tom Purdey who acquired it as a going concern.
Once Purdey had acquired James Woodward & Sons they immediately adopted the Woodward over and under design in favour of their own and it is still being made today.
The firm of James Woodward & Sons certainly deserves merit for their contribution to the over & under gun of today. And for those lucky enough to own one of their Classic game guns or the famous over and under, you have a rare treasure indeed !