WILLIAM WESTLEY RICHARDS (1789 – 1865)
“To be the maker of as good a gun as can be made”
In 1849 the visit of Prince Albert to the Exhibition of Manufactures at Bingley House in Birmingham was covered extensively by the press; the exhibition preceded the famous Great Exhibition of 1851 in London and helped inspire it. Prince Albert, catching a train in London, reached Birmingham in only two hours then took a carriage to the exhibition. He was escorted by Mr. William Westley Richards who was both chairman of the exhibition, and, since 1840, the possessor of a Royal Warrant as gunmaker to Prince Albert. The press marvelled that Prince Albert showed so much knowledge of manufacturing, and it was noted that he spent a long time at the stall of the Westley Richards firm.
Richards had reached this position of eminence by building on the experience of his father Theophilus Richards, who was both a gun manufacturer and the owner of a toyshop on Birmingham High Street. William Westley Richards (who seems mostly to have called himself Westley Richards) was the youngest son and opened his own business making guns. He proved to be the epitome of a Victorian entrepreneur, transforming how guns worked and building up a world-famous firm which was further expanded by his son. He lived long enough to have photographs taken of him, and to be sufficiently famous to inspire a positive obituary in the Times. The obituary stated that he had a kindly nature and was caring towards his employees, some of whom worked for him for fifty years.
As the son of Theophilus Richards he followed his father’s public spirit, being a leading light for most of his life of the George Fentham charity for the support of Bluecoat School, taking on some of the pupils as apprentices. He was a Street Commissioner and High Bailiff in Birmingham, a Justice of the Peace, a Warden of the Birmingham Assay Office, a member of the Musical Festival Committee, and a Juror at the 1851 Hyde Park exhibition. We also know that he played a part in encouraging the establishment of the Royal Society of Arts in Birmingham, at one point holding a special event in St. Philip’s to raise funds. In a private capacity he supported shooting competitions and country sports, and was interested in horses.
His memorial, made by John Gow, a Birmingham funerary sculptor, is situated on the back wall of the Cathedral near the entrance door, which, below a skilfully sculpted urn, lists his family as his wife Harriet and three sons as Charles, George Seale and William, together with the son of Charles named Charles Westley. The monument to Theophilus and Mary Richards, the parents of William Westley Richards, is situated nearby on the other side of the door, and the difference between their modest style and William Westley Richards’ monument could be seen as a reflection of the difference in wealth, as well as a change in taste.
What the average visitor could not possibly know from this monument is that William Westley Richards was married twice and had six children by his first wife, Ann Barlow. The monument also does not state that, as he described himself on censuses, he was a gun manufacturer. It is interesting to note that on the parish register at the baptism of his children he never declared himself as a gun manufacturer but as a jeweller or silversmith. Being in no way qualified to comment upon guns*, in this article I wish mostly to explore the family of William Westley Richards, which turns out to have sad overtones, in contrast to the immense success of his business.
It is necessary, however, to say a little about the business of Westley Richards & Co., which he founded, in order to explain his importance. The slogan quoted in the title illustrates his quest to constantly improve his product, rather than just sell as many guns as possible, and his guns became renowned for their quality in both military and sporting capacities. The Mechanics Magazine in its obituary of 1865 said, “…the mark of his firm being a guarantee for high quality, trustworthiness, and excellence of workmanship“.
His business opened in 1812 at the address where both his father and grandfather had owned a toy shop, 82 High Street. (I tentatively suggest that this was part of where the Pavilions Centre how stands.) His father was a silversmith, cutler and gun maker, and in an 1812 directory there are two businesses listed in the High Street under the names “Theophilus Richards and “Theophilus Richards & Co.” By 1829, in a directory of that date, Theophilus Richards is listed as a gunmaker at 32 High Street, which presumably was the business of William Westley’s brother, Theophilus, who continued his father’s business after his retirement in 1825 and his death in 1828. In an 1835 directory Theophilus has moved from the High Street and became a very successful merchant. Westley Richards seems, therefore, to have taken over or closed his father’s gun business.
William Westley Richards only seems to have dealt in guns himself, but, coming from a family of jewellers and goldsmiths, he was a co-director of his father’s, firm at the time of his father’s death in 1828 and was in charge of the Toy Shop for a short while (which may have moved from 82 High Street.) We know, however, that he retained his gold and silver smithing skills from the role he played in the Great Exhibition of 1851 as a juror for these skills, and from his self-description on church registers. Both his grandfather and father had made guns, but from the time of his father’s death in 1828 he may have been the only member of the family who did so. (The name Theophilus appears on guns until 1833, but I think it is possible that Richards continued for a time to manufacture the guns of his father’s business.) His father retired in 1825 and in 1826 William Westley assumes responsibility for the Toyshop from his brother Theophilus for a short while, before Theophilus’ son Henry took it on, and it then disappears from view. There is no mention of Theophilus Richards as a gun manufacturer at 33 High Street in Birmingham directories after 1830. Theophilus had a very successful merchant company which appears at various addresses until settling at 36 Edmund Street.
In 1813 William Westley played a large part in establishing the Gun Barrel Proof House in Birmingham, still there today, which helped ensure the quality of guns and enabled Birmingham gunsmiths to deal with their products locally rather than having to go to London. In 1815 he opened a shop in New Bond Street, London, where his agent was the so-called “Bishop of Bond Street”, William Bishop, who was well-known by the aristocracy of the day and served the firm for sixty years. His business seems to have been a success from the beginning, as in 1812 the Napoleonic wars were still in progress; many sales were made to the British Army throughout the nineteenth century, which was grateful for his innovations. In 1821 he entered the first of nine patents, typifying his drive to improve. His firm gained a reputation for sporting and hunting guns at the time when trade dipped at the end of the war, and then began to sell both military and sporting guns abroad. During his lifetime the majority of his guns were produced in the High Street, mostly using an inhouse system of small workshops, rather than buying in from the many small workshops beginning to inhabit the Gun Quarter around St. Mary’s church. A factory system, as we would know it today with an assembly line, had not yet been invented.
William Westley’s eldest son, Westley Richards, inherited his father’s desire for excellence to an even greater degree, and took out twenty patents to his father’s nine. He worked for his father as a co-partner until his father’s death in 1865, and became a senior partner when his half-brother Charles died in 1871. There are various reports that he actually took charge of the business in 1840 or 1855. He retired around 1873, and after this date he retained an interest in the firm whilst employing a managing director, and continued to submit patents for the improvement of guns. After the son had retired, the firm continued to grow and moved to an Arts and Crafts building in Bournbrook, Edgbaston in 1894, demolished in 2009. (The university pub called The Gun Barrels, recently demolished, was named after the factory.) By the time Westley died in 1897 the firm was the most highly respected gun makers in the world, and went on to play a large part in the supply of guns for the First World War. Having been forced to expand to accommodate supply, after the First World War the firm declined somewhat, but tended to concentrate on sporting guns for which it was renowned. It continues today under the same name but with different owners in premises near the Gun Quarter.
Samuel Galton Junior (1753-1852) was asked to leave the Quakers because he was an armament manufacturer, and went back to Quakerism when he retired in 1804 and became a banker. I have found no evidence that either the St. Philip’s congregation or the Anglican Church at this period had any moral doubts about the sale of guns, possibly because by this time Britain had abolished the slave trade in 1807 and slavery in 1833. William Westley Richards bought a pew in the church (a normal practice of the time) and was a churchwarden for three years between 1822 and 1825.
His birth family
William Westley was the eighth child and fourth son of Theophilus Richards, (the subject of a previous article). By the time Richards was born, on 9th October 1789, his parents had already lost at least three children and went on to lose another son in 1800. Both his mother and father had been baptised and married at St. Philip’s, and all of their children were baptised here. William Westley was to be their only child with a monument in St. Philip’s, and although he lived in Edgbaston for much of his adult life, having moved from High Street after the birth of his second child, he apparently continued to worship in this church and all his children were baptised here. Whereas both his second wife and their three sons were all buried in St. Philip’s, his first wife and their adult children were buried elsewhere, with the three younger children of his first marriage who died being buried in St. Philip’s without memorials.
It is said that he had a good education, and might possibly have been to Sicily, (or he might have been confused with his brother Thomas Bingham Richards). As stated above he had silver and gold smithing abilities, which he must have learned from his father, together with the knowledge of gun making. In January 1813 his sister Mary Ann married a clergyman, Francis Pelly; in the same year, on 21st September when he was almost 24, William married Ann Barlow at Acton Trussell in Staffordshire, and there are suggestions, which are hard to verify, that the marriage was not happy. Ann Barlow came from a well off family who had bought the manor house at Acton Trussell, a village near Stafford, in 1778. Her father having died, the ownership of the house passed to her brother John. There is a memorial to a John Barlow still standing in the churchyard of Acton Trussell who may have been her brother and who sold the house in 1819; the manor house is now a hotel.
As was common at the time, it is quite possible that it was the marriage settlement from his first wife which enabled Richards to set up in business. His elder brother Thomas worked as his father’s agent but mostly had his own career in antiquities, and his second brother Theophilus worked in his father’s two businesses. William Westley may at first have been left to make his own way as the youngest living son, building on his experience of his father’s work so successfully that he would eventually become the most well-known of his family. All three of the brothers would become both successful and rich. The fact that William Westley named two of his daughters after his sisters might indicate a happy family life, as also does the fact that he worked with his brother Theophilus on the 1849 exhibition in Birmingham, and was married for the second time by the husband of his sister; his second wife was a friend of his sister Caroline and one of the executors of his will was the husband of his niece.
His first family
His six children with Ann were:
– Westley Richards, born 8th August 1814, baptised 6th January 1815
– Emma Richards, born 4th December 1815, baptised 5th June 1816, died 15th November 1819
– Caroline Richards, born 8th February 1817, baptised 1st May 1817
– Edward Harding Richards, born 14th June 1818, baptised 15th October 1818, died 23rd April 1819
– Ellen Richards, born 16th November 1819, baptised 5th January 1822
– Mary Ann Richards, born 16th July 1821, baptised 5th January 1822
I find this list very thought-provoking. It is repeatedly stated that William Westley Richards divorced Ann, a difficult thing to do at this period as it required an act of parliament. This fact is usually aligned to his statement, “the inside of a barrel (i.e. of gunpowder) is like a woman or a violin” (meaning unstable). Yet it clearly states in the church records that when he married his second wife he was a widower, so it seems unlikely he was divorced, and I have been unable to trace a divorce. There is a notice in a magazine called The Weekly which states in the death notices of its edition for October 1821, “Anne, 29, wife of Mr. Westley Richards possibly after a long illness.” I discovered that she was buried on 15th September, 1821 in Acton Trussell, and her address is given as Hagley Road, Edgbaston, which proves she had been living in the family home.
It seems possible that following the birth of her last child Anne died of complications. In 1819 her baby Edward Harding died in April, then her daughter Emma died on 15th November at the age of three, and the following day Ann gave birth to Ellen. Ellen was not baptised in Ann’s lifetime, suggesting that Ann may have been ill, and was not yet two when Ann gave birth to Mary Ann and died three months later. When Ann died she had only been married seven years and had given birth to six children. The fact that she was buried in Acton Trussell may or may not be indicative of strain in the marriage.
By 1818 the family seems to have moved from the High Street to the corner of Chads Lane (now Chads Road) and Hagley Road in Edgbaston, a part of the select Calthorpe estate which was beginning to be developed; both his father and his brother Theophilus were living in Edgbaston at this time. Hagley Road at this date was semi-rural, with several farmers being listed as house owners. As Birmingham town centre became increasingly crowded and industrialised, it was normal for the wealthy, and merchants in particular, to move out to Edgbaston. By 1853 he was living in Hall Hill Road, Edgbaston, (now Edgbaston Park Road), probably on the corner of Somerset Road.
His second family
After the death of Anne in 1821, Richards baptised his last two daughters in St. Philips in 1822, and then in 1823 he married Harriet Seale from London, who presumably came from a wealthy family as she brought £3,000 to the marriage; her father was a merchant who was dead at the time of the marriage, and had lived in Muscovy Court near the Tower of London. It is thought that Harriet was a friend of one of his sisters, which presumably is how he met her. The wedding took place on 18th January at Old Church St. Pancras in London and was performed by Richards’ brother in law, Francis Perry. The couple went on to have the children listed on the memorial:
– Charles, born 14th December 1823, baptised 2nd December 1824
– George Seale, born 6th July 1825, baptised 6th October 1827
– William, born 28th December 1827, baptised 26th January 1828
In the 1841 census the family are all living at home; by the 1851 census their son William had died aged sixteen in 1843 and Charles and George Seale are still living at home, together with their half-sister Mary Ann. By the 1861 census Charles was still at home together with Mary Ann, but George Seale had married and moved. Harriett died at the very beginning of 1864, and William Westley died not long afterwards in September 1865, their deaths possibly expedited by having their son George Seale die in 1863. Charles did not survive long after his parents, dying in 1871 aged 47, two months after the death of his only son who was aged fifteen months. He had lived with his parents until their death.
The children of William Westley Richards
I appreciate that the children of Richards’ first marriage are not memorialised in St. Philip’s, but it is difficult to understand his life without including them.
Westley Richards (1814-1897) became very wealthy and had his daughter marry into the aristocracy, but had a sad life. His mother died when he was six, two siblings died in 1819 when he was four and his sister Caroline died when he was seventeen. After such a childhood he then had to endure the death of his half-brother William when he was 28, and the death of his young wife so soon after marriage when he was 31; in short order his half-brother George then died when he was 49, his step-mother died when he was 50, his father died when he was 51 and his last half-brother Charles died when he was 57. It is therefore not surprising that Westley comes over as a stern and hard-working character, a high Tory who was keen on hunting and country sports as well as being involved in the Conservative party in Birmingham, but who mostly threw himself into his work; he was the opposite of his father’s kindly character. It was under his jurisdiction that the firm became most prominent.
In the 1841 census Westley is listed at the address of his maternal uncle, Edward Barlow, an attorney, together with his two surviving sisters, Ellen and Mary Ann, and their grandmother, Ann Barlow. His uncle lived in what might be described as a small stately home in Stone, Staffordshire. His father’s second family, meanwhile, were living in Edgbaston. One wonders if either there was some division in the family, or if he and his sisters were actually brought up by his mother’s relations after her death. (On the other hand it is perfectly possible that they were simply visiting, which was not recorded.) Certainly the legal records which concern Westley Richards contain the names of his mother’s and his wife’s family, rather than those of his father’s family.
In 1845 he married Emma Vere Fane, the daughter of an M.P. and banker who was the grandson of the 8th Earl of Westmoreland and who lived at Little Ponton Hall in Grantham. (It is sobering to realise that Vere Fane was compensated for his West Indian slaves on the abolition of slavery by the British government, and put his money into banking.) They were married by her maternal uncle, indicative of the close ties he retained with her family all his life. The newly married couple lived in Wood End, which is part of Erdington and was then a rural area; in the Post Office directory of 1845 Westley Richards is listed as a farmer in Erdington. They probably lived in a Tudor house known as Wood End Hall, now demolished, which had been the manor house in the ancient parish of Pipe. The marriage settlement between them, in which she brought £3,000 and he brought £5,000, was drawn up by his maternal uncle Edward Barlow among others.
His young wife had recently given birth to their daughter, Adela Augusta, when she died in a hunting accident in 1847, and was buried at the then newly-built church of St. Barnabas in Erdington High Street in December. I was told that she was probably interred in a vault underneath the area on the side of the church now covered by a new café. Westley Richards moved from Wood End and never married again, throwing himself into his work.
By the 1851 census he is listed as being in a hotel in Rugby, and in 1871 he is living at the back of 82 High Street, Birmingham, where the firm is situated. The death of his half-brother Charles in 1871, and the marriage of his daughter in 1873, might have encouraged him to retire in 1873 (although one source states that he retired because he was ill), but he seems to have lived an equally vigorous life in Rutland. In 1857 he had bought the estate village of Ashwell, probably for a hunting estate, which he was praised for improving. Both his uncle Edward Barlow and his future son-in-law Henry Bromley had financial interests in the area. In 1879 he built Ashwell Hall, which is as large as a stately home, and the census of 1881 reveals that he lived in great style with a butler, housekeeper, secretary and a large number of servants. He became a J.P. and High Sherriff of Rutland, and a strong supporter of country pursuits, as well as being a member of the Carlton Club. Throughout his life he played a very active part in country shows, shooting, breeding horses and exhibiting cattle, as well as frequently acting as a judge and donating prizes. In 1893 he wrote a book about cattle and was a judge of horses. By the time of the 1891 census his daughter has moved into the main house and he is living in Ashwell Lodge, where he died in 1897. He had a commemorative plate engraved in Ashwell church, “Sacred to the memory of the beloved wife of Westley Richards”, fifty years after her death, coupled with his name. In his will he leaves £14,000, a reflection of how far his family had come since the death of his grandfather Theophilus.
Adela, his daughter, having lived with her future husband’s family at the family estate in Lincolnshire after the death of her mother, married her cousin Sir Henry Bromley, the son of her mother’s sister, who was a Captain in Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Cavalry. She became Lady Bromley in 1895 when her husband succeeded to the title as the fifth Lord Bromley of East Stoke, and they moved from Ashwell to the family estate. She died in 1926 aged 79, long after her husband’s death in 1905. He left nearly £33,000 in his will, whereas Adela left only £1,200.
They had five children, all of them distinguished. Her daughter Esther married Charles Tryon, a banker who was the son of a British admiral, and settled in Vancouver; she died in 1956, forty years after her husband. Adela’s son Herbert was a lieutenant in the 7th Canadian Infantry and was killed in action in 1915 aged 35, being memorialised on the monument in Ypres. Robert became the 6th Lord after the death of his father but died aged 31 in 1906, having been an attaché to Washington, a J.P. and Assistant Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for the Colonies. The next son, Maurice Bromley-Wilson then became the 7th Lord and was a major in the South Nottinghamshire Yeomanry, Deputy Lieutenant of Westmoreland, a J.P. and High Sheriff of Westmoreland. His brother Rear Admiral Sir Arthur Bromley became the 8th Lord in 1957 on the death of his brother, and lived until 1961. Having retired from the navy where he had fought in World War I, he became a Gentleman Usher to King George V, Edward VIII, George VI, and our present queen and was awarded at various times C.M.G., C.V.O., K.C.M.G. and K.C.V.O.
Caroline Richards (1817- 1831), died aged fourteen and was buried in St. Philip’s on 4th May 1831. Her brother Edward had died on 23rd April 1819 and her sister Emma died aged not quite four on 15th November 1819. From then on her life must have been very difficult as her sister Ellen was born 16th November 1819 and her sister Mary Anne in July 1821, after which her mother died. She was almost six when her father remarried. It is notable that Emma, Caroline and Edward are not memorialised in St. Philip’s. One can only presume that her death was devastating for the whole family, but perhaps particularly for Westley, to whom she was nearest in age.
Ellen Richards (1819-1912) As stated above, Ellen was living with her maternal uncle in Staffordshire on the 1841 census. On the 1851 census she is listed as a visitor to the Hobson family in Northfield, (where the wife is listed as “daughter of a factor”) and in 1857 she married Robert Hayling Woodhouse, who was ten years younger than her 38 years. Robert Woodhouse had a brother who was a clergyman, by whom they were married, and may have had a brother who was a solicitor, which might explain the connection with her half-brother George. They married in Claines, Worcestershire where her half-brother George was a solicitor, but the couple lived in Leominster, where Robert Woodhouse’s family had lived for several generations. In the 1861 census Robert is listed as “clerk to shop merchant”, but by the 1871 census he had become a hop merchant and went on to become a J.P. Having married late, Ellen swiftly went on to have two children, Robert Westley Woodhouse born in 1858 and Marion Ellen Woodhouse, born in 1860.
By the 1891 census the family had moved to Great Malvern, and Marion was unmarried. Despite being ten years younger than his wife, Robert died in 1904, leaving very little money, but Ellen would live until she was 93, dying in 1912, and leaving over £3,000. As William Westley Richards had left her £4,000 in his will, and specified any husband was to have no control over it, one assumes the money she left was inherited. She outlived her daughter who died unmarried, also in 1904.
Her son Robert Westley does not give the impression of having thrived. In the 1891 census he is listed as a clerk assistant, and in the 1901 census he is simply living on his own means and not working; he died unmarried in 1906 in the Talbot Hotel in Leominster. He left only £1,000, yet his parents in the 1901 census seem to live in some style, with a valet and several servants. Ellen therefore outlived all of her family.
When faced with these bald facts it is hard to know if Ellen’s marriage to a man ten years younger and apparently not well off was an act of rebellion, but there is no hint of disapproval in her father’s will.
Mary Anne Richards (1821- after 1864) never married. She is with her Uncle Edward on the 1841 census, and then with her father’s family on the 1851 and 1861 census. At the time of her father’s will of 1864 she is still unmarried. I tentatively suggest that she may be the Mary Anne Richards living in Leamington Priors, a fashionable place for rich Birmingham people, who died in 1868. On the list of probate she is described as aged 45 and a spinster, leaving under £2,000.
Charles Richards (1823-1871) is said to have worked on the accounts side of his father’s business, and in censuses appears as a gun manufacturer. He lived with his father in Edgbaston until his father’s death and then in 1869 married Elizabeth Mary Howe, the daughter of the vicar of Knowle, the Reverend John Howe, in St. John’s, Knowle; she was aged 20 to his 46. It is sad to read the 1871 census when their family was complete with a baby son, and then to realise that shortly after this date their first and only son Charles Westley died in May 1871, swiftly followed by his father in July. According to his probate he is worth under £9,000 and at the time of his death was living in Carpenter Road, Edgbaston, situated very near his father’s old house. The houses on this road might be described as opulent, being large and surrounded by trees.
Elizabeth Mary went on to marry again after the devastating death of her husband and son, and, as the daughter of a vicar, it is not surprising that when she married for the second time she married a priest. She must have stayed in the Birmingham area, as in 1874 she married Josiah Mander. He was at first a teacher, but then took holy orders and became a curate at St. Philip’s in 1871. In 1876 he became the vicar of Stonechurch in Oxfordshire, and then rector of Princes Risborough in Buckinghamshire around 1901, and seems to have been a very active priest and writer of holy music. They had three daughters and a son; Elizabeth Mary died in 1905, followed by her husband in 1914.
George Seale Richards (1825-1863) was the only son not to work in his father’s business. He was a solicitor in Claines, near Worcester, and married Charlotte Martha Walker, who came from County Sligo, Ireland, at the church where his parents married, Old Church St. Pancras, in 1858. When he died in August 1863 his probate states that he was worth under £3,000, which suggests that he had made his own money and had not inherited any of the family fortune. He died aged 38 and was buried in St. Philip’s, and certainly by the time of the probate in 1864 his widow had moved to Calthorpe Street, Edgbaston, which is by Five Ways.
Charlotte Martha Richards in the 1871 census has moved to live with her sister on the Hagley Road near Woodbourne, and then, in a strange turn of events, she married John Howe in 1872 in Edgbaston. He was the widowed vicar of Knowle, who was the father of her sister in law Elizabeth Mary nee Howe, and they went to live in the vicarage in Knowle with his two young daughters. She was widowed for a second time in 1889, and in the 1891 census is living in Leamington with her step daughters. When she died in 1894 she was buried in Knowle.
George Seale Richards had a son, George Westley Richards (1859-1925) who does not appear on a census with his mother after 1861 (though he may simply have been at boarding school) and went into the Royal Berkshire regiment, where he was sent to India. He married Eunice Mary Dames, whose father had been in the Royal Artillery and was a Lord Lieutenant and in 1888 High Sheriff, at Enderry, Ireland. Their son, Francis Howe Richards (1891-1937), was christened in Leamington where George Westley’s mother was living. In 1903 they were living at Withington Manor, near Cheltenham, when Major George Westley Richards returned from the hunting field to find his wife dead at the age of 38.
He married again after this tragedy: Nora Ellen Mitchelson came from Pickering in Yorkshire, where they married in 1905, but they lived near Cheltenham; she was only 20 to his 46. In Gloucestershire he became a J.P. and was a High Sherriff and Deputy Lord Lieutenant. When he died in 1911 he was buried in St. Peter’s churchyard in Cheltenham, where he is commemorated under a cross.
George Westley Richards had two sons, one by each of his wives. His son by his first wife, Francis Howe Richards, followed his father into the army, and was a Major in the Royal Artillery, like his mother’s father, when he fought in the First World War. He was wounded four times and received the D.S.O.; his medals were sent to his stepmother as he was still in hospital in 1921. He worked in Ireland and India and, before the Second World War broke out, he died in 1937 in Rawalpindi, where he was commanding the 5th Field Brigade Royal Artillery and was killed by a falling boulder at the age of 46.
By his young second wife, George Westley Richards had a son, George Dick Kendall Richards, who was born in 1918 in Reading, and married in 1940. He went into the Royal Navy where he was killed in 1943, and is listed on the Chatham Naval Memorial. At the time of his death he was a Commander dealing with enemy armed trawlers around Dunkirk, and during his career he was awarded D.S.O. and D.S.C. There were many reports of his death, describing him as “a dashing gunboat commander” and noting that he set six enemy vessels ablaze. He was not quite 25 when he died and had been married only three years.
William Richards (1827-1843)
All that is known of William Westley’s last child is that he died at the age of fifteen, almost sixteen.
The will of William Westley Richards
Written in January 1864, Richards’ will was executed in 1866, a year after his death, by his son Charles, who seems to have looked after legal as well as monetary matters in the firm, and his niece’s husband Charles Couchman, whom he describes as his friend. The latter was married to Annette, the daughter of Theophilus Richards, his brother. Richards’ second wife, Harriet, had died on 1st January 1864, so I would assume that this will, dated January 28th, replaced a previous will as there is no mention of his wife. The probate listing of the will as “under £10,000”, puzzled me until I read the will, in which it emerged that his eldest son Westley had probably taken money from the business already.
There are several touchingly personal bequests; at the very beginning he leaves to his son and executor Charles “the picture of Our hounds painted by Mr. Woodward of Worcester”; he assures his eldest son Westley that although he has not left him any part of “Estate and Effects” it is not from “any want of affection but solely because he has been and is well provided for from the share he has had and continues to have in my said trade or business”; and he takes great care to leave his grandson George, son of George Seale Richards who died in 1863, the profits from an investment of £2,000 for his “education and maintenance” and to give him capital if necessary for his “advancement and preferment”. George Westley Richards went to Eton and Oxford before going into the army, and clearly made good use of the bequest.
It emerges from the will that Richards owned an estate in Battersea, and it is from the rent income from this that he leaves his two daughters £4,000 each “free from marital Control”. (His brother Thomas Bingham Richards had also owned property in Battersea, and I am not sure if these properties were in some way connected.) He states that he was in co-partnership with his sons Westley and Charles, and bequeaths his share of the business including “Messuages, Workshops Warehouses and buildings” into a trust which was used for the trustees’ expenses and then went to Charles.
Westley Richards had a varied group of grandchildren: Adela Bromley became firmly connected with the aristocracy and her children went into public service and the armed services; Marion Woodhouse and Robert Woodhouse died young and unmarried; George Westley Richards flourished in the army and received high public office. Of his great-grandchildren, two died in war and another died in the army. I cannot help but wonder what this man, so rich and successful but faced with so much death down the generations, would make of all this.
*For information on the many innovations brought to guns by the firm of Westley Richards, see http://www.westleyrichards.com.
Written by Gill Partridge April 2017