The Shop

The History

Ever since we opened the store, we have been aiming to provide local enthusiasts with the equipment they needed to enjoy the great outdoors. Find out more about the history of our firm:

 

  • 1787: Gun shop thought to be located at 150 High Street, Colchester
  • 1898: Kenith Dudley Radcliffe took over the High Street store and started trading as KD Radcliffe 
  • 1927: Peter Radcliffe started working in the business
  • 1936: KD Radcliffe became a Limited Company
  • 1936: Peter Radcliffe attended the Berlin Olympics to shoot in the European and World Clay Pigeon Championships
  • 1974: Robert Radcliffe became an active member in the company
  • 2013: moved to bigger premises

 

To see a little more about our history and keep up to date on latest information, please see our blog.

A book written and handed down from Mr Peter Radcliffe and now with Mr Robert Radcliffe explains a little behind the History of K D Radcliffe Ltd:

 

Although no relevant records of the times exist, it is likely that gun makers were in business in Colchester at the time of the siege in 1648.  The town was a Royalist stronghold until it was taken by Cromwell's troops and the principal weapon of the day used by the foot-soldiers of both sides was the flint-lock musket.  The services of gun makers would be much in demand for repairs to and, possibly, the manufacture of these weapons. 

 

It is interesting and not improbable to speculate that the thriving business founded nearly 200 years ago and still carried on today by K.D. Radcliffe Ltd of 150 High St, may well be a continuation of a long line of gun makers businesses in Colchester, dating back to Cromwellian times.

 

However, it is not until the end of the 18th century that records begin to appear.  The earliest reference in Piggott’s Directory of 1791 which gives an alphabetical list of traders without any addresses but there is reason to believe that the business now carried on by K.D. Radcliffe Ltd was founded in 1787 by a man named Woodcock and was continued by members of his family until 1835, when Piggott’s Directory of that year records that Richard Howe was trading as a gunsmith at 150 High St.

 

It is interesting to note that in Piggott’s earliest directory of 1791 we find "Lewis Hunt - gunsmith" but of course no address is given and no mention is made of him in any subsequent directories.  Also Piggott gives under dates 1827-1830 "Philip Hast, High St and Richard Howe 16 High St, Gun makers"  It looks as if the numbering of properties was started at about this time.  

 

In 1835 Piggott records Philip Hast of 118 High St and Richard Howe of 150 High St.  It is clear therefore that unless the properties were re-numbered Richard Howe acquired the business carried on in the premises numbered 150 High St from the Woodcock family, sometime between 1830 and 1835.

 

Next we find in White's Gazette of 1848 gun makers G W Bales of 150 High St and Philip Hast still at 118 High St and we know from Kelly's Directory of 1870 that G W Bales was still in business then at 150 High St with a William John Mott as his manager.  In the following year 1871 J S Boreham married Bales daughter and took over the business.  

 

So it continued until in 1893 Kenneth Dudley Radcliffe joined the firm as an apprentice, subject to the handsome arrangement of being paid nothing for the first year, £5 for each of the 2nd and 3rd years and £15 for the 4th year.

 

Then in 1898 K.D. Radcliffe took over the business in partnership eventually with his brother Frank Vipont Radcliffe.

 

Under their management the firm transferred their shooting ground rom Sheepen Rd, where it had been established by J S Boreham, to Turner Rd.

 

The firm experienced hard times during the depressions caused by the Boer War and the first World War of 1914-1918 and in 1920 the shop premises were divided into two parts, one half being let to a firm of Dyers and Cleaners, the remaining half carrying on the gun makers business.

 

Then, in Dec 1927 K D Radcliffe's son, Peter Kenneth Radcliffe joined the firm, serving his apprenticeship to the trade during the next four years or so with Howard Davies, who worked in a cellar under Halladay's gun makers of 63 Cannon St London. 

 

In 1936 the firm became a Limited Liability Company with K D Radcliffe as Managing Director and this responsibility remained his until his death in 1952, when P K Radcliffe was appointed Managing Director in his place.  F V Radcliffe was still active in the business, concentrating his attention mainly on the bookkeeping side and he maintained his connection with the business until he retired in 1961.  He died in 1968.

 

Under P K Radcliffe's direction land was purchased at Abberton and the shooting ground was set up there in 1956, the steel tower being moved there from Turner Rd and rebuilt on its new site.

 

The business had been diversified by the introduction of fishing tackle and sporting wear and continued to thrive so that in 1961 the shop was restored to its original size by taking back the half which had been previously cut off.  In addition the whole of the ground floor and the rear first floor was rebuilt and enlarged.  Further land adjacent to and extending the shooting ground at Abberton was purchased.  

 

In September 1967 Robert Bruce Radcliffe, son of P K Radcliffe was apprenticed to Churchill’s (Gun makers) of Acton, London.  In 1972 after the completion of his apprenticeship he set off on a world tour, returning to this country in 1974.

 

In that year he was made a freeman of the City of London and a Liveryman of the Gunmakers Company by servitude, being the first apprentice to be so distinguished since the 18th Century.

 

He then became an active member of K D Radcliffe Ltd and was made a director in 1975, in which year P K Radcliffe was also distinguished by admission to the Livery of the Gunmakers Company.

 

In 1976 Robert Radcliffe an P Dennis were appointed joint Managing Directors of the Company.

 

It should not go without record that in his active years, K D Radcliffe was a most notable shot, winning many trophies at the meetings and shoots organised by the numerous local gun clubs in the years before the second World War.  His son, P K Radcliffe continued the tradition and became an equally fine shot, though the activities of the East Anglian gun clubs were very much reduced after the war and in a number of instances ceased altogether.  Nevertheless, over the year he won many fine trophies.

 

In 1976 the company restarted making guns again, the first gun produced since 1956 was sold for £1200 +VAT but this showed a loss and the price had to go up to £1800 +VAT about six a year were produced, most of the work being done by R B Radcliffe and some by Pat Dennis.

 

In June 1980 Pat Dennis died of a heart attack, a great loss to the company.  This slowed down production of manufacture as R B Radcliffe had to take over the repair side of the business.

 

In September 1980 N Dennis, son of Pat Dennis completed his apprenticeship with the company and stayed on in our workshop.

 

This is where the written book currently finished but further updates will be made by R B Radcliffe which will include the following:

 

K D Radcliffe Ltd sold 150 High St to Fenwick Limited in 2010, K D Radcliffe remained at 150 High St until it closed its doors on the 21st September 2013 to prepare for its move to new premises.  On Saturday, 5th October 2013 K D Radcliffe opened it's doors at 131 Berechurch Hall Road, Colchester, Essex this was previously a pub named The Maypole.

 

 

Mr Peter Radcliffe