Here’s something unsual: A hammerless 12g James Woodward & Sons side-by-side shotgun with a second-pattern James Purdey & Sons thumbhole lever. Very odd.
This Woodward looks like it’s right around the turn of the 19th century. In it’s day, the action was pretty current technology. But the mechanism that opens it — the Purdey thumbhole lever — is from an earlier generation of gunmaking.
James Purdey & Sons introduced it’s second-pattern thumbhole in the late 1860s. It was a refined version of the company’s first patent thumbhole, introduced in 1863 to go along with Purdey’s new double-bite bolt. By the mid 1870s, Purdey started transitioning to the toplever/Scott spindle setup on its hammerguns, and then it went to that system on almost all it’s shotguns by the the 1880s.
So what is this old fashion design doing with younger Woodward? I guess whoever ordered the gun wanted it there. Perhaps they were familiar with the system and wanted to stick with it on their new shotgun. And if that’s what the customer wanted (and could pay for) that’s what Woodward would have done.