Back in June 1861, a rifle contest was held in Grantham. The top prize was a presentation rifle bearing a plaque engraved with the words: “Presented by The Earl of Yarborough Lord Lieut. of the County of Lincoln, June 1861 at the Rifle Contest, Grantham.”
Now, 152 years later, the gun has returned to Grantham with its owner Phillip Wagstaff, who is keen to learn more about the gun and the place where it was won.
Mr Wagstaff, 71, travelled with his prized possession from his home in Osberton, near Worksop, to visit the Journal office, from where he planned to travel to the butt field where the contest was held, believed to be off Beacon Lane.
However, Mr Wagstaff is not certain of the location and hopes to find out more about the rifle competition and history of the .577 short Enfield type muzzle loading presentation rifle.
Although he has collected many guns over the years, he said the Grantham-won gun is the best of the bunch, as it is “unique” and has never been fired.
He added: “I will not shoot it. I could shoot it but I’m not going to, it’s too nice. It’s too good for that, it’s unique.”
Mr Wagstaff is a member of the Muzzle Loaders Association of Great Britain, and has a real passion for old guns. His interest stretches to their history and led him to visiting Grantham Library to research the competition by scouring old copies of the Grantham Journal on microfiche. He found a notice printed in the newspaper on June 1, 1861. It read:
THE PRIZES offered by the Lord Lieutenant of the County of Lincoln, and the Countess of Yarborough, will be shot for at Grantham by the 2nd, or Kesteven Battalion of Volunteers, on Wednesday, the 12th of June, 1861.
A Charge of One Shilling will be made to all persons on entering the Butt Field, with the following exceptions, viz: Military, Volunteer, and Cadets in Uniform; also Annual Subscribers of the 3rd Lincolnshire, who will be furnished with Admission Tickets.
Refreshments will be provided at a Commodious Marquee, by Colour-Sergeant Boyall.
The Band of the 3rd Lincolnshire Rifles will be on the Ground, and will play during the day.
The following week featured comprehensive information on the competition and prizes.
* If you can help Mr Wagstaff locate the butt field or have any more information on the gun or competition, call the Journal office on 01476 562291.