A history of C & H Weston of Brighton

The glass shop sign at the top is believed to date from the 1920s

The glass shop sign at the top is believed to date from the 1920s - Credit: Archant

John Milewski never misses a visit to Weston’s gun shop on a trip to Brighton!

This American classic was once retailed by Chas & H Weston, Gun, Rifle & Pistol makers

This American classic was once retailed by Chas & H Weston, Gun, Rifle & Pistol makers - Credit: Archant

There are many reasons to visit Brighton, on Britain’s south coast, and on several occasions I have enjoyed exercising the dog along the beach out of season, when the summer crowds have gone away. However, for me, a visit is never complete without looking into Weston’s gun shop, located little more than five minutes’ walk from the promenade.

I was recently privileged to meet Jack Wood, a retired prior owner of the shop and Jack shared the shop’s history with me whilst we examined a collection of 140 vintage airguns that the shop had just acquired. The shop’s origins can be traced to the 1750s and Abraham Weston, who was a clock and gun maker with premises in Lewes, then the county town. The shop moved to Brighton in around 1813, when the town was becoming fashionable, thanks to the patronage of the Prince Regent, later George IV. Premises were obtained in The Colonnade (now New Road), adjacent to the Royal Pavilion.

Charles & Herbert Weston

Abraham had two sons, William and Joseph. The former operated from 6, The Colonnade, and when he died, Joseph’s sons, Charles and Herbert Weston took on their uncle’s business and traded as C & H Weston, roughly between the years of 1870 and 1920. Charles’ son, Charles Arthur Weston’s name was added to the trading name two years after Herbert had died in 1920, and the business operated as C & A Weston. When Charles Arthur died in 1935, the business left family ownership and was sold to Frank Vaughan in 1936. The shop continued to trade under the Weston name until 1971, when the premises in New Road finally closed.

Jack Wood operated a number of gun shops under the F.A. Anderson name in the Sussex and Kent area, including the premises where today’s Weston shop is located in East Street. In 1982, Jack was permitted to resurrect the C & H Weston name by Vic Vaughan. In 1992, Jack sold the shop to his son, John, and Ivan Mather, whilst continuing to operate under the F.A. Anderson name as well as Pantiles Vintage Guns. The July 1992 issue of Air Gunner announced that Ivan had bought the shop and has since traded under the original C & H Weston company name.

There is no room to display all the shop's recent acquisitions, and these old airguns will be displa

There is no room to display all the shop's recent acquisitions, and these old airguns will be displayed once space allows - Credit: Archant

C&H Weston market products and airguns

Luckily, Ivan shares Jack’s passion for the shop’s long history and Brighton’s oldest gun maker. The shop has amassed a fine collection of original C & H Weston products, including the 1920’s glass shop sign. Ivan showed me an early 1930’s BSA Standard impressed with C & H Weston’s retailer markings, as well as an earlier Gem-type with similar markings. I was also allowed to examine a boxed Pope’s Air Rifle Pistol set, which was marked Chas & H Weston inside the lid, as well as a glass bottle of Rangoon oil.

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The shop has recently acquired a huge collection of vintage and classic airguns, in fact, so many that not all are currently on display. I could see several BSA Cadets and Cadet Majors, as well as a number of Mk1 and Mk2 Airsporters. Several had 11.5 mm scope rails, which means standard mounts will fit, and most still had clear readable etching. There were also pre-World War 1 BSA air rifles, including a very early straight-hand stocked example with long-tang trigger guard and straight-through tap. This was very reasonably priced at £195 and I suspect will not stay in the shop for long.

There were numerous Webley air pistols, some still with their original boxes such as a fine ,straight-gripped Senior that I looked at. This pistol still had its original sample box of pellets and adverting leaflet, as did a similar Mk1 Webley pistol next to it. The shop’s display cabinets were filled to capacity with early American Hyscore pistols, Haenels, a Zenit, Diana G4s and some push-in barrel models. Placed around the pistols was a plethora of vintage airgun pellets, some dating from the 1950s, such as tins of early Wasps and boxes of Beatalls. There was even an oblong tin of Airgunaid Blitz pellets in .20 calibre. Remember them?

Classic match rifles

Classic German match rifles are popular with some collectors and I saw no less than three Original 50 air rifles, some with aperture sights. There was also a Feinwerkbau 300, which came with an original wallet containing a tool kit and a selection of foresight elements. Flanked by a couple of exceptionally fine Webley Mk 3 air rifles, a Webley Mk3 Supertarget stood out in the rack as it was fitted with the less common Parker Hale PH197 foresight unit. These match units accepted larger Anschutz elements and were intended for full- as well as small-bore rifles.

The UK has some great airgun heritage and it is uplifting to know that people such as Jack Wood and Ivan Mather take the time to research some of this heritage and keep names such as C & H Weston alive today, when they could so easily be forgotten. I extend my sincere thanks to Jack and Ivan as well as Weston’s shop staff, who I have always found to be both welcoming and helpful whenever I visit.

Visit the C & H Weston gun shop here.