Yesterday we succesfully bid at auction on a pair of of pistols dating from the late seventeenth century and with a provenance from Dunster Castle, Somerset. They were coming up in the Bonhams arms and armour sale at their Knightsbridge auction rooms in London.
The sale was well attended, with some strong prices, and we had to bid quite a bit above the top estimate in order to secure the pistols at £24,000 hammer price.
We are very grateful to the V&A Purchase Grant Fund for offering a grant towards this acquisition, and to our firearms adviser Brian Godwin for assessing the importance of the pistols.
The pistols had been sold from Dunster in the early 1970s (before the National Trust acquired the castle), but up till that time they had been there continuously since the 1680s.
In 1688 Francis Luttrell, a local squire and owner of Dunster, joined the Glorious Revolution when William of Orange landed at Torbay. Luttrell managed to raise a regiment in a mere three days, partly due to his local connections, but also because there was a well-stocked armoury at Dunster, which this pair of pistols was probably part of.
Apart from playing a minor role in this momentous event in British history, Francis Luttrell also repaired and refurbished Dunster Castle, which had been damaged and neglected during the Civil War.
His heiress wife Mary Tregonwell provided the funds for some very fine plasterwork ceilings and a beautifully carved staircase. The carving on the latter is probably by the sculptor Edward Pearce the younger. Interestingly, the staircase was originally painted grey.
We hope soon to be able to display the pistols at Dunster, to enhance the story of this ancient castle at the time of the Glorious Revolution.