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Great Croft Street, Darlaston.

Copyright 2010 - Nigel James Wright.

Steatham Research - Occupations

Gun Lock Filer.

A common occupation at Darlaston was a Gun Lock Filer, sometimes shortened to Gun Lock, or GLF.

A GLF is defined as a person who files up forged parts of a gunlock.

This was often done in small workshops attached to people’s homes, and there was no doubt GLF was being performed in Great Croft Street, Darlaston.

It is believed that even the top line gun makers used lock makers outside of their own factory to produce their locks, leaving only hardening as required and decoration to complement their skill.

Some GLFs marked parts of the lock with their name, and I have had emails from owners of guns that have the Steatham name on the lock.

Gunlock makers in the County of Staffordshire, in particular the Wolverhampton, Willenhall, Darlaston and Wednesbury areas, provided a large percentage of the locks required by the Western World.

This included the military locks required in Britain by the Ordnance and the gun makers in Belgium, the trade gun locks required for North America and Africa, and the sportsmen's locks required in America.

The following Steathams are listed as being Gun lock Filers:-

Statham, Thomas Darlaston GL Maker, 1854-1856.
Statham, Joseph Wednesbury GL Maker, 1854-1880.
Statham, Moses Darlaston GL Maker, 1878-1879.


There are still guns in existence which have stamped on the lock STEATHAM, these were obviously made by one of our Steathams.


Rifle with lock marked STEATHAM.
I noticed on the internet recently a gun for sale described as a "PLAINS KENTUCKY RIFLE STEATHAM", in the Muzzleloading Pre-1899 Rifles (perc) category.

It was described as a,

Excellent condition Plains/Kentucky rifle of .50 cal., with a 7/8" octagonal barrel of 33" long. Metal is a smooth grey, not pitted. Very good rifled bore, and has rear sight, with a blade front sight.Lock has stamped: STEATHAM, no other marks or proofs. Excellent tiger maple stock, no repairs, or breaks, with brass trigger guard, and buttplate, and pewter nose cap, and escutcheon plates. Overall a very fine rifle from about 1840 to 1850.


Rifle with lock marked STEATHAM.
To see a Gun Lock that has the Steatham name stamped on it, you will need to go the "The North Carolina Museum of History".

They have in their collection a Flintlock rifle, fullstock, with the lockplate marked as "Steatham", dimensions stated as 5ft, by 1 13/16 inches.

The Musuem has been contacted by Neil Steatham, who is a 4th Great Grandson of Robert Steatham, and they have kindly sent us the photographs.

Neil's link to Robert Steatham is through his son Moses Steatham I would to thank Neil Steatham for sending us the photographs.


Rifle with lock marked STEATHAM.
The full description is as follows:-

FLINTLOCK RIFLE, FULLSTOCK. LOCKPLATE MARKED "STEATHAM". SOME FINE ENGRAVING ON LOCK PLATE, CRUDER ENGRAVING ON HAMMER. LIGHT COLORED FLINT IN JAWS WITH LEATHER PAD. DOUBLE SET TRIGGERS WITH ADJUSTING SCREW. IRON TRIGGER GUARD. DEEPLY CURVED IRON BUTTPLATE SECURED BY TWO SCREWS, ONE AT COMB, ONE NEAR TOE. BRASS TOEPLATE, LONG, WITH THREE RECTANGULAR CUTS AND SECURED BY FOUR SCREWS. REAR "V" SIGHT AND FRONT BLADE SIGHT DOVETAILED INTO BARREL FLAT. BARREL OCTAGONAL, RIFLED, 117 CM LONG, APPROXIMATELY .36-.40 CALIBER. LONG TWO-SCREW TAPERED TANG AT BREECH PLUG. STOCK OF LIGHT COLORED WOOD WITH NO SIGNIFICANT FIGURE, PERHAPS MAPLE OR BIRCH. WOODEN RAMROD, PERHAPS HICKORY. THREE BRASS RAMROD FERRULES. BRASS ENDCAP. ENGRAVED LINE IN STOCK ENDS IN CURLYCUE PATTERN NEAR REAR SIGHT. DECORATIVE BRASS SIDEPLATE WITH TWO SCREWS ON LEFT SIDE OF STOCK. STAPLE REPAIR TO LEFT SIDE OF STOCK, SOME WOOD DAMAGE NEAR MUZZLE. CARVED DESIGN FOLLOWS THE LINE OF THE BUTTPLATE. TWO SMALL LOOPS ON RAISED AREA AT LEFT SIDE OF BUTTSTOCK TO ACCEPT VENT PICK, PICK NOT PRESENT. CARVED "DIMINISHING V" PATTERN BELOW THE VENT PICK FERRULES. LOCK PLATE MAY HAVE BEEN MADE BY ROBERT STEATHAM OF DARLASTON, COUNTY OF STAFFORD, UK OR ONE OF HIS RELATIVES. HIS WILL IDENTIFIES HIM AS A "GUNLOCK FILER".





Rifle with lock marked STEATHAM.
The description above mentions Robert Steatham, and his Will, I presume they got that from this website, as it only place it has ever been published.

It was most certainly made by one of our Steathams, or someone in their employ.

If we knew the approximate date for the manufacturer of the rifle it may be possible to have guessed at which Steatham made it.


Rifle with lock marked STEATHAM.
Here we have a lock marked STEATHAM!


To visit their website, Click here

The North Carolina Museum of History


To visit their web page that mentions the Flintlock, Click here

Steatham Gun Lock











The book "The Gun and its Development - W. W. Greener - 1897".

[Quote]
The great point in all this kind of work (action, lock and furniture filing) is to file flat and square ; proficiency in this art is only acquired after many years' practice, and by those who have been apprenticed to the work while young.

It is well known that the Birmingham gun filers are unexcelled by any in their skilful use of the file, and it is certainly extraordinary to see the beautiful shapes and close fitting turned out by them, and it is not too much to say that their work cannot be excelled, if equalled, by any artisan employed in any country at any trade.

The above remarks are equally applicable to the gun-lock filers of the Black Country : Darlaston, Wednesbury, and neighbourhood of Wolverhampton, have long been famous for the excellent quality of their locks, and as good locks may still be obtained from there as any the world can produce.
[Unquote]


It was said the Gun Lock Filers was a well paid occupation, and a GLF could make enough in 3 days to have the rest of the week off.

Which I suppose they then spent in the nearest Public House.

If this was true, then may be this how Robert Steatham became wealthy, by working hard, and having no days off!

It has also been recounted to me that travellers through Darlaston, remarked that workers homes were empy of even basic furniture, but they ate really well; being able to afford meat in the week.


In "Warman's Antiques and Their Prices" by Harry L. Rinker, published by Gage Learning Coporation, 1990, 768 pages.

On page 179 it says:-

...FELT" (Nicholas Shennenfelt, working in PA between 1823 and 1871), engraved percussian lock stamped "J. STEATHAM", elaborate brass furniture including trigger guard and butt plate, engraved open work patchbox, engraved toe plate and rib along the comb, openwork sideplate and foreend...

The J. STEATHAM mentioned can only be Steatham, Joseph

I wonder if the book has a photograph of the gun?





Photo of Prince of Wales Public House, Darlaston.

Prince of Wales Public House, Darlaston.

Copyright 2010 - Nigel James Wright.




Licensed Victualler.

Robert Steatham's youngest surviving son Samuel Steatham (1815-1884) was the publican of the Prince of Wales, in Walsall Road, formally Bullcroft Street.

It was said that Samuel Steatham also sold groceries and was a Gun Lock Manufacturer and that he brewed his own very good beer.

[quote]
On the 20th May 1884. The Will of Samuel Steatham late of King's Hill in the Parish of Wednesbury in the County of Stafford Gunlock Manufacturer and Retail Brewer who died 5th May 1884 at King's Hill was proved at Lichfield by Joseph Steatham of King's Hill, Fitter the sole surviving Executor. Personal Estate £519 4s 8d.
[endquote]

When he died he it went to his son Joseph Steatham (1844-1901).

The Public House still stands, although the surrounding houses, where many Steathams lived, have long been demolished.


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