The famous engraver Henry Albert Kell, aka Harry Kell, is one of the most famous individuals to emerge from England’s sporting-arms trade. Born in 1880, he was apprenticed to the trade in 1894. By 1900, his training was complete and he was engraving for his dad’s firm – Sanders & Kell.
Between the wars, Harry would inherit this business and build his own successful company. He would also establish a aesthetic style that would make him one of the most famous firearms engravers to have ever lived.
The 20 gauge E.J. Churchill Premier side-by-side you see here was probably engraved in Kell’s shop, and maybe even by Kell’s own hand. I say “probably” because Kell didn’t sign the work. This was typical for the time. What isn’t typical is the quality of the work, and like an actual signature, that’s what says “Harry Kell” to people who are in the know.
Over the years, those people have pushed the prices of “Kell” guns higher and higher. That means this nice little 20 gauge Churchill is in fantastic shape – and also a good place to sink some money for the future.
LOT 2168: 20 BORE E. J. CHURCHILL EXTRA FINISH (BY KELL) PREMIER PINLESS SIDELOCK LIGHT GAME GUN WITH ORIGINAL CASE. SN 4814. (ca 1932) Cal. 20 bore. 2-3/4″ Chambers. 25″ Chopper lump bbls with Churchill rib, gold inlaid “XXV”, are engraved “E. J. Churchill. (Gunmakers). Ltd” and “Orange St. Gunworks. Leicester Square. London.” on tops. There are 1-1/2″ pyramids of nicely cut scroll at breech ends. Damascened bbl flats are stamped with London nitro proofs for 2-1/2″ chambers, and “Choke”. SN is engraved on the bottom of each bbl. Splinter is engraved “Made in England”. Small, nicely scaled, pinless sidelock action is stocked to the fences, and features non-automatic safety (SAFE inlaid in gold), and Miller single selective trigger (original double triggers and interceptors are in envelope in case).
Sidelocks have grooved tumbler end cocking indicators. Action and lockplates are engraved with exceptionally well cut shaded scroll outlining vignettes of pheasants; a pair (cock and hen) flushing on bottom of action; trio (two cocks and hen) swooping off hillside on left lockplate; and another trio in meadow setting on right. “E. J. Churchill” is in scroll terminated riband on each lockplate. Blued top lever is gold inlaid with nicely rendered portrait of pheasant looking back over his shoulder. Engraving work most likely was done by Harry Kell, world renown engraver to the London trade.
Blued trigger plate is gold inlaid “The – Premier – Quality”. Double beaded trigger guard is engraved with matching scroll with SN in riband at grip. Finely figured and nicely marbled European walnut straight grip buttstock measures 14-1/2″ over ribbed horn buttplate, and features nicely shaped drop points, point pattern checkering with mullered borders, and a gold oval on toe line engraved with initials “G. P.” Matching splinter ejector forend has Anson release. Bore diameter: left-.613, right -.613. Bore restrictions: left -.010 (light mod), right -.004 (IC). Wall thickness: left -.028, right -.029. Drop at heel: 2-7/16″, drop at comb: 1-3/8″. Weight: 5 lbs. 6 oz. LOP: 14-1/2″. Original makers toe under (V. C.) case has stitched leather corners and inset leather rectangle gold embossed “Grant Pierce”. Front right of top is embossed “20g PHEASANT GUN”. Interior is lined in burgundy baize with celluloid Churchill labels tacked in. Case contains 2-pc cocobolo and brass cleaning rod with mop, Turks head and jag; E. J. Churchill marked round oil bottle; and snap caps. Along with envelope containing orig double triggers and interceptors, are an orange “A & F” hang tag with particulars of this gun, and orig key with tag marked “Grant Pierce”.
CONDITION: Excellent, original as found. Bbls retain 95% what appears to be orig black, with a few marks, thinning slightly at normal carry point. Action retains 30% orig case hardening color, balance silver to gray (color appears to have never been vivid). Lockplates retain 70 – 80% of their orig color. Trigger guard and top lever retain most of their orig charcoal blue. Stocks retain nearly all of their orig hand rubbed oil finish showing minor marks, as expected from normal use, along with a few light abrasions. There is a 1/2″ incipient check at rear of right lockplate, which also shows some minor chipping. Checkering shows little wear. Bores are excellent, bright and shiny throughout. Action is tight. Bbls are on face. Ejectors are in time. Trigger works. Case is very fine. Exterior leather has some minor discoloration, and some knocks and bumps. Orig handle is good. Interior cloth is fine with some rubs, marks, and repairs. Accessories are very fine. Snap caps show some scratches and marks. “A & F” tag is very fine with some creases and fading. An exceptional, dynamic, golden age game gun with some distinctive, well thought out, touches. Just a lovely gun. Estimate: $18,000-23,000