Makers of Fine Guns since 1829
W W Greener was a member of the second-generation family which had been involved with gunmaking from 1829 to the present day. Today the company still makes the finest sporting shotguns and rifles in its Midlands workshops.William Greener was the first to make guns. After serving his apprenticeship with John Gardner in Newcastle upon Tyne he worked for Joe Manton, probably the best English gunmaker in the early 1800s. Returning to Newcastle in 1829 he set up on his own to make percussion muzzle loading sporting and military shotguns and rifles, as well as harpoon guns for the Dundee Whalers. However, there it was difficult to obtain the best materials so he moved to Birmingham in 1844 where greener gunmaking has remained ever since.
William was an inventor and during his lifetime he invented; the expansive bullet (1835), an electric light open, 1846 - long before the modern ‘Ediswan’ lamp was patented in 1879), a device to open the fall gates of the railway level crossing simultaneously, a self-righting lifeboat (1851) and modifications to the Miner’s Safety Lamp. But first and foremost he was a gunmaker and the quality of his guns soon attracted the rich and famous, among these Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria. At The Great Exhibition of 1851 he won two gold medals and a diploma. He went on to win medals at the New York exhibition of 1853 and Paris Exposition of 1855. William wrote three books, The Gun in 1834, The Science of Gunnery in 1842 and Gunnery in 1858. He also wrote a pamphlet - The Proof House - The bane of trade - which was instrumental in reforming the gun barrel proof hat in the act of 1855.
After William’s death in 1869 his second son, William Wellington Greener, continued the family tradition of making high-quality sporting and military guns, and his inventions helped to develop the breach-loader to make it the modern sporting gun we know today. Probably W W Greener’s greatest contributions were, affecting the system of choke boring, and, inventing the famous cross-bolt. The former allowed him to win all The Field Trials from 1875 to 1879 and this led most wing shots to use Greener guns to win prizes and competitions all over the world. The cross-bolt which he invented in 1867 to strengthen the action of breach loaders resulted in the strongest action, weight for weight, of any gun made. By the turn-of-the-century in 1900 he had the world’s largest sporting gun factory employing over four hundred and fifty skilled craftsmen. Like his father he wrote several books the most famous of which The Gun and its Development was published in 1881. This book, like The Breachloader and how to use it published in 1892, round to nine editions.
W W Greener’s two sons Harry and Charles took over the business from their father in 1910 and ten years later the farm was incorporated into a limited company. Production was switched to military requirements during two world wars and during the intervening period demand for very high quality sporting guns diminished. The company under the two brothers, and later Leyton Greener, Harry’s son, concentrated on well-made, but less expensive ‘Empire’ models and single barrel GP shotguns - developed from a riot control gun for the Egyptian Ghaffir police force.
But the building of the inner ring road in Birmingham meant the factory complex fronting St Mary’s Square had to go. So, in 1965 the company was sold, the old factory with its imposing Victorian edifice was pulled down and production for the company as a family run business ceased. Webley, which acquired the gunmaking part of the business continued to make the single barrel GP for a few years but it was not until 1985 that the company was bought by its present owners, David Dryhurst, Graham Greener (W W Greener’s great-grandson), Ken Richardson and Richard Tandy.
The next few years saw a return to making best quality sporting guns. To promote this in 1987 the new ‘St George’ 12 bore side-lock was made. This design was chosen as the company was making ‘best’ guns again and the lock plates provided a large area for some very special chiselled relief engraving of St George - it would be the link between the previous ‘Show Gun’, a Unique ejector ‘St George’ shotgun, made by Harry Greener in 1907, to the very best Presentation quality guns that company was now making. Finished in 1992 and engraved by Alan and Paul Brown this gun lead to many orders being placed in the years that followed. Recently a new hammer gun with carved engraving has been made and a .375, double Facile Princeps rifle. Guns built today can be ordered in all bore sizes. From 10, 12, 16, 20, 24, 28 and 32.