Making art out of historic guns

When the founders of Lockyer of England saw a pile of 100 year-old guns destined for scrap, they couldn't bear the thought of their heritage, history and craftsmanship being lost, and they vowed to find a way to rescue them.


This month, after months of planning, the Bexhill-based company was officially launched to restore, decommission and transform the guns into unique pieces of sustainable art.

Managing director George Champ said: “We saw beautiful old British side-by-side guns destined for scrap and it bothered me how under-appreciated they were. I saw these guns as works of art, as well as pieces of engineering, and we realised that was the way that we could save them.

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“We are rescuing them and their unique history. We want people to appreciate each gun for its craftsmanship and its artistic value.”

Lockyer of England managing director George Champ with an Art Gun

He was particularly struck by the beauty of some of the intricate engravings on the guns – many made in the mid to late 1800s and each loaded with a unique history.

Once a vintage gun has been discovered by Lockyer, it is painstakingly restored – a process taking several weeks. It is made completely safe, so no gun license is needed and it can’t actually be fired.

A team of experts make any repairs and restore and enhance the ‘steel plate’ which often features delicate engravings. The barrel is taken back to its original steel and then given a finish of either original steel, graphite black, burnt bronze, or matt gold. Every ‘Art Gun’ is then boxed with a description of its unique history.

The rescued guns are discovered worldwide, as well as people inheriting them. Lockyer has already started receiving private commissions to turn bequeathed guns into art.

George said: “The guns come from lots of different sources and finding the guns has become something of an obsession. It’s exciting when we find a rare or particularly beautiful one.

“It’s great to think we are literally saving the beauty and history of these guns for future generations to enjoy.

“Each gun would have been painstakingly hand-made by a team of master craftsmen, sometimes taking over a year to make just one gun. The gun maker and engravers’ artistic style is reflected in each one, so turning them into a historical piece of art seems a very fitting tribute.”