Lot 1390 in the March 25th Firearms, Militaria, and Sporting auction was a lovely example of a W. J. Jeffrey & Co side by side shotgun. The barrel bears the inscription “W. J. Jeffrey & Co. Ltd., 13 King St., St. James, London”
W. J. Jeffrey and Co was founded in London in 1891 by William Jackman Jeffrey. Jeffrey started his career in the gun trade six years earlier when he was hired as a shop worker at Cogswell & Harrison. After two years in the industry, Philip Webley hired Jeffrey to manage P. Webley & Sons London showroom. Webley closed their London operation a few years later, leading Jeffrey to partner with a man by the name of Davies. The two men sold firearms out of the former Webley building for a short period of time before going their separate ways.
In 1891 Jeffrey began W. J. Jeffrey & Co., still operating out of the old Webley location on Queen Victoria Street. Jeffrey manufactured new firearms as well as traded in second hand guns, quickly building the business now that he was on his own. The firm operated out of the Queen Victoria Street location for 8 years before opening a second shop on King Street, in the Saint James district of London. By the turn of the century the company had opened a third location at 1 Rose and Crown Yard, near the King Street shop.
William Jeffrey passed away in 1909, passing the business on to his brother Charles Jeffrey. The King Street location was closed in 1914, replaced by a smaller shop on Bury Street, St James. Shortly after, the Rose and Crown Yard shop was closed. During WWI the company had some work thanks to military contracts, but they experienced a notable decline in civilian sales post-war. Charles died in 1920 and the business was taken over by his cousin. The next year they closed the original Queen Victoria Street shop, and a few years later moved the business to Westminster, where they continued on for several years. WWII failed to generate many contracts, and post-war sales fell even further. The company was moved back to London in 1955, and the following year was sold to Malcolm Lyell, then owner of the famed Westley Richard firearms company. Lyell became managing director and chief executive of Holland & Holland in 1959, and W. J. Jeffrey & Co was made a subsidiary of the world renowned Holland & Holland.
The shotgun that crossed the auction block on March 26th, with its King Street inscription, was produced in the early days of W. J. Jeffrey & Co., likely while the company was still being operated and grown by its founder, William Jackman Jeffrey.
By: John Burdumy