The gun, invented by the engineer James Wilson and made by the London armaments manufacturer Henry Nock, was trialled by the Royal Navy in 1779 and – following an order for 500 units at £13 each – first used in ship-to-ship fighting by Admiral Howe’s fleet at the Battle of Gibraltar in 1782.
Although instantly recognisable (the seven-barrel volley gun is a must for any televisual recreation of the Napoleonic era), in service they were not a great success.
Theoretically, the simultaneous discharge of seven barrels would have devastating effect on the tightly packed groups of enemy sailors.
In practice the gun was too cumbersome to reload in the field, the recoil was enough to break a shoulder while the tactic of raining fire from the crow’s nest risked setting alight the sails of your own ship.
Following the delivery of the first batch of 500, only 100 of the lighter second model guns were ordered for sea service by the Naval Depot at Chatham in October 1787.
It was a second model Nock volley gun that loomed large in the catalogue of Fine Modern & Antique Guns offered by Holts (25% buyer’s premium) in Wolferton on the fringes of the Sandringham Estate on November 21-22.
Condition was an issue: this gun had two repairs where the butt joins the breech, a weak spot on the weapon that caused damage to many specimens. However, these are hugely popular guns and they don’t come for sale too often.
Estimated at £8000-10,000, it sold at £12,000 via thesaleroom.com – the same sum taken by another at Bonhams in 2018.
Also at Holts, a cased .55 percussion double-barrelled travelling pistol by Blake, c.1840, no visible serial number, with 5½in browned barrels, took £9000 (guide £1200-1800), also selling online.
The lid of the case bears an original trade label for I. A. BLAKE & CO / GUN MAKERS &C / 253 WAPPING / LONDON.