William Lee 12-bore SxS boxlock non-ejector shotgun Barrel length: 27 3/4"; Chambers: 2 1/2"; Chokes: R27, L11; Material: steel; Rib: swamped; Locks: boxlock; Operating lever: top-lever; Stock length: 14"; Grip type: semi-pistol; Weight: 5lb 12oz. SN 2914.
Converted from ejector. This lightweight boxlock ejector of fine quality was, in all likelihood, made as a grouse gun around 1890. The steel barrels are choked tightly in the right barrel and more open in the left, enabling the first shot, using the front trigger, to take a bird well out in front and the second shot at closer range, as the speeding covey broke over the butts. The gun was originally fitted with Deeley patent ejectors but these have at some point been removed and a single extractor fitted to replace the original split legs.
The stock is well-figured with a semi-pistol grip and horn butt-plate, checkered side-panels (called 'church windows' in the trade) and drop points. The matching forend has a shouldered profile, fine checkering and a horn finial. The catch is of the Deeley and Edge pattern. The stock is fitted with a gold oval bearing the initials 'C.R.H'.
The scoop-back Anson & Deeley type action is fully engraved 'Wm Lee' with scrolls and beaded borders, which extend onto the shaped fences, bottom plate, furniture and top-strap. The top-lever operates a treble grip of the Greener type and is inlaid in gold with the word 'EJECTOR'. The safety slide is mounted on the top strap, with the words 'SAFE' inlaid in gold. The double triggers are set for a right-handed shooter.
The 28" steel barrels have a swamped rib (engraved 'William Lee, 28 Lancaster Street, Birmingham and Kimberley') with brass bead at the muzzles, top extension to accept the Greener cross-bolt and is nitro-proofed with 2 1/2" chambers. Chokes are 3/4, left and 1/2, right.
This gun has been stripped, cleaned and serviced by a London-trained (ex-Purdey) gunmaker.
Other Notes: Established in 1860 in Fleet Street, William Lee moved in 1861 to 9 Lancaster Street. In 1872 the firm moved to 21 Weaman Row, taking over the premises formerly occupied by Caleb Lee who may have been William's brother. In 1875 the firm moved to 28 Lench Street and at about this time the firm took out a patent, which may have been for an under-lever action.
In about 1875 a member of the family (possibly E J Lee) appears to have sought his fortune in the 'Big Hole' at Kimberley, South Africa, where a gun dealing business in the name of Wm Lee was opened. Rifles and shotguns engraved 'William Lee, Birmingham & Kimberley' show the association.
In 1900, William Lee moved to 28 Lancaster Street in Birmingham.
Soon after 1900 in South Africa, the name of the firm changed to E J Lee and this firm appears to have closed in 1908 at the same time as the Birmingham firm closed.