The .450 Double Rifle Of Dennis Finch Hatton

Discussion in 'Articles' started by Foxi, Sep 17, 2017.

  1. Foxi

    Foxi AH Fanatic

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    The Double Rifle of Dennis Finch-Hatton

    .450 3 1/4" Nitro Express by Charles Lancaster


    450_3_1_4_NE_CharlesLancaster_FinchHatton1.jpg

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    Charles Lancaster .450 NE (3 1/4) Back action non-ejector (formerly ejector) double barreled big game rifle
    Double Barreled .450 NE Big Game Rifle which was the personal weapon of Hon. Denys Finch Hatton, Big game hunter and lover of Karen Blixen (Out of Africa).

    Completed in 1911 and re-barreled in 1928. Silver escutcheon with D.F.H initials and the date 1925.

    In its original leather red beige lined case with initials D.F.H. This rifle is extremely accurate and a target is available.

    Denys Finch Hatton was born in England on April 24th 1887, the son of Henry Stormont Finch Hatton, Earl of Winchelsea and Anne Finch Hatton (nee Coddrington), a daughter of a former Admiral of the British Fleet. Educated at Eton and Balliol College, Oxford, Denys was a natural sportsman and scholar of the arts. In 1911 the 24 year old Denys bought land in British East Africa as an investment which would give him the freedom to spend his time hunting. He would spend every Autumn and Winter in Africa doing just that.

    In 1925 he became a professional big game hunter and took numerous wealthy and distinguished clients on safari - including H.R.H. the Duke of Windsor (the then Prince of Wales). His taste for adventure led him to learn to fly, and it was on May 14th 1931 that he died in a fatal plane crash in his Gypsy Moth near what is now the Tsavo National Park, Kenya. He is buried in the Ngong Hills and an obelisk marks his grave to this day.

    The story of Denys Finch Hatton and his love affair with Karen Blixen (his only known romance) is immortalised by Robert Redford and Meryl Streep in the Academy Award winning film "Out of Africa" (1985).



    Not my story, I found it in the net-during my day-dreams of Africa
    Foxi
     

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    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 18, 2017
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  2. sierraone

    sierraone SILVER SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Great movie. Have seen it many times including when it was on in theaters in the summer of 1985.
     

  3. Witold Krzyżanowski

    Witold Krzyżanowski AH Legend

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    Very good movie and beautiful double rifle. I like it.
    Witold
     
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  4. CAustin

    CAustin BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Ambassador

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    Where is the rifle now @Foxi?
     

  5. Foxi

    Foxi AH Fanatic

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    CAustin,so the story is true......

    https://www.google.de/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=5&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwiC7-GIjK7WAhVCOxQKHZeqDdoQFghLMAQ&url=http://www.holtsauctioneers.com/Gun_Room/December%202009.pdf&usg=AFQjCNGznN5MNxl9q0QIhxyGT9xAGmXijQ

    Holt's
    Auctioneers of fine modern & antique guns

    IN THE GUNROOM​
    Collectors are a strange breed. Take John Ormiston. He buys an empty case, and is then obsessed with finding something to fit inside. For years all that case held was promise. “Dear old John,” says Nick. “He’s got it badly.” A good friend since he first ventured into the gun trade, Nick was to play a role in John’s search for something to fill the case for it was a leather rifle case by Lancaster, and it bore the potent initials “D. F-H.”. John was hot on the trail of the Denys Finch-Hatton gun for which it was made. But the chances of finding the legendary big game hunter’s rifle were slim. Finch-Hatton had lost his life on Wednesday, 13th May 1931 when the Gypsy Moth he was piloting to Nairobi plunged to the ground and burst into flames. Was the rifle in the ’plane with him? At the time, Finch-Hatton was scouting for elephant from the air. The money-spinning potential of aeroplanes in Africa had occurred to him in 1928 when, answering an urgent call to outfit a safari for Edward, Prince of Wales, he flew over the Rift Valley for the first time. His reputation as a hunter had spread far and wide, and his reputation as a soldier was sealed when he was awarded a Military Cross in 1916 having faced off his attackers during an ambush in the now overlooked campaign in German East Africa. As a lover, FinchHatton’s reputation went global after Robert Redford played him in Sydney Pollack’s film, Out of Africa. A lushly romantic interpretation of Baroness Karen Blixen’s memoir, it scooped seven Oscars. In real life, Karen Blixen’s husband, Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke, shared the honours as Africa’s top PH with Finch-Hatton. Sharing became a habit and Bror Blixen took to introducing Finch-Hatton as “my good friend, and my wife’s lover”. Finch-Hatton had left from Karen Blixen’s farm, the farm famously “at the foot of the Ngong Hills…” for that last flight. The lovers quarrelled; she watched him go and tried (in vain) to slash her wrists. Another lover, pregnant by Finch-Hatton at the time of his death, was the racehorse trainer and aviatrix, Beryl Markham. In her own (superior) Africa story, West with the Night, she credited him with intellect and strength, quick intuition and Voltarian humour. “As for charm,” she wrote, “I suspect Denys invented it”. Here was a man for John to identify with; small wonder he wanted to add FinchHatton’s rifle to his collection. “I think I would have liked him,” he says. “FinchHatton was one of the Happy Valley set who knew how to enjoy themselves, real characters.” I spotted John recently riding the Piccadilly Line absorbed in the pages of a Holt’s catalogue and heading for a sale. Many of the lots were like old friends. “The sort of guns I like to collect - classic, best English sporting guns - tend to go round and around,” he says. “There aren’t all that many of them.” Is it the search for December 2009 Page 2 a gun, or its acquisition that most excites John? “The thrill is finding ‘the impossible’ and buying it when you can’t afford it,” he replies. “If somebody gave me £10m and said, ‘make yourself a gun collection’, I (half) wouldn’t want to do it. It would be no more than an investment fund.” John’s collecting bug had attacked early, the nineyear-old plundering antique shops for swords and daggers, unthinkable behaviour in our own milksop era. “In those days people didn’t knife each other,” he points out, lugubrious as Eeyore. The first gun in his collection was a pinfire revolver with which his grandfather, a ship’s captain, had shot a mutineer – “either in the stomach or in the middle of the Atlantic, I’m not sure,” says John. He also remembers “going on the train from York to Bradford when I was at school to buy a double-barrelled percussion muzzle loader that I then used to shoot rabbits - I shot more rabbits with a muzzle loader than I did with a breech loader.” I have seen John shoot, and those bolting bunny exploits served him well. The Africa bug bit early too. “My prep school headmaster lent me a copy of The Man-eaters of Tsavo,” he says, recalling Lieut.-Col. J. H. Patterson’s 1907 tale of two lions in British East Africa who developed a taste for Asian and African railways builders, (135 of them), until the colonel taught them the ultimate lesson with his .303 Lee Enfield. The schoolboy was beguiled, and as an adult John lived the dream. He became the director of Holland & Holland and the founder of both The Scottish Sporting Gazette and The African Sporting Gazette, Africa’s premier hunting magazine. If ever there were a suitable candidate for ownership of the Finch-Hatton rifle, John was that man. But would his quest prove impossible? If not in the Gypsy Moth, perhaps the rifle was one of those impounded by the Kenyan government in the 1970s? Now Nick takes up the story saying, “Unbeknownst to John, at the time when he actually bought the case, the gun was already in England.” As part of Karen Dixon’s estate, it had been left to Jock Dawson, another famous PH who transformed himself into a respected conservationist after Kenya banned hunting in 1977, and headed the Rhino Rescue Trust in the Rift Valley. Precisely when John was in his reverie about the empty gun case, Nick was in Kenya with Dawson who died in 2004, aged 84. Dawson’s son brought the elusive gun to England, and it found its way to a Holt’s valuation day at Powderham Castle in Devon. Minus its signature case, and with no clue to its provenance, the gun was a Charles Lancaster .450 double rifle in poor condition. “It was consigned with a suggested reserve of £1,000-1,500,” says Nick. “I rang Dave Perkins who used to own Charles Lancaster and told him the serial number. Dave Boy was fabulous. One of the old-school East End boys, all selftaught gunsmiths. And he told me who the rifle was made for. Then I started to research, and next thing I knew we’d increased the estimate to £3,000. We had everybody after it, the world….” The impossible had been run to ground. “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the lot described in Holt’s catalogue,” says John, and he measured the compartment for the barrels inside his case. “It matched the barrels.” Auction day dawned; how fast would the estimate be exceeded? “But I had never before been to an auction where I was so determined to buy a lot,” John recalls, voicing the rising thrill of obsession. December 2009 Page 3 “My head normally rules my heart; not this time. Once the price went over £20,000, I was battling it out with a telephone bidder. In a muck sweat, I eventually got the rifle for £27,000”. John slid the rifle into the case. Like Cinderella’s glass slipper, “it fitted perfectly – even the mark where the sights had rubbed the lid’s baize lining aligned exactly.” The Holland & Holland Shooting Grounds was the backdrop when the rifle’s new owner first fired his acquisition. “I used the original Eley Kinoch .450 3¼ ammunition, and it grouped perfectly at 56yds, with a shot from each barrel ¼inch apart.” John’s imagination immediately took flight. “I wanted to take the rifle to Africa to follow in Finch-Hatton’s footsteps,” he says. Four trips later, with Zimbabwe and Botswana standing in for Kenya, John is jubilant. “The rifle has shot buffalo, elephant, eland - even warthog, its condition and accuracy making it the perfect companion for anyone wanting to shoot dangerous game. And because no other rifle belonging to Denys Finch-Hatton is known, this one is a piece of Africa’s history.” Elizabeth Walton
     

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  6. zephyr

    zephyr AH Enthusiast

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    I bought a key detachable side lock by Jos Lang that was made for Abecrombie and Fitch in 1914. Lang inscribed on one barrel Abercrombie and Fitch on the other. The reason why I bought it besides filling a niche..... I had a set of Silver Snap Caps stamped Abercrombie and Fitch
     

  7. D.M.V

    D.M.V AH Enthusiast

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    I emailed the gentleman who found the rifle and unified it with its original case. He told me he sold it and its now on display at a Gun shop in England
     

  8. zephyr

    zephyr AH Enthusiast

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    The recipient of the snap caps

    [​IMG]
     

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  9. sierraone

    sierraone SILVER SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    What a great story! It is every bit as good as the movie, probably better. @D.M.V. Please email that gentleman back and find out what shop it is in on display. I would easily go out of my way next time I pass through London to see that rifle!
     
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  10. D.M.V

    D.M.V AH Enthusiast

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    I don't have access to my inbox. Im on the road. If you Google his name from the story. He has a profile on guns international. He sells on there. He emailed me back pretty quickly and told me which gun shop has it and its on display there. But i probably wont be home for few months and my phone is my only internet connection and my Gmail app doesn't go back that far.
     

  11. sestoppelman

    sestoppelman AH Legend

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    Still cant believe they cast the shrimp Redford in the role of Finch-Hatton. We saw the movie soon after we returned from the first safari, in Tanzania.
     
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  12. gizmo

    gizmo SPONSOR Since 2015 AH Legend

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    I agree on the Redford thing and I can't stand Streep either but.... it is a great movie.
     

  13. gizmo

    gizmo SPONSOR Since 2015 AH Legend

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  14. D.M.V

    D.M.V AH Enthusiast

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    What's the name of it is it on YouTube
     
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  15. Fr8liner

    Fr8liner AH Veteran

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    What a story - gave me goosebumps before the envy set in. :sick:
     
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  16. gizmo

    gizmo SPONSOR Since 2015 AH Legend

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    It's a book, I have no idea if the audio version would be on YouTube or not. When I get hom I'll have to look. I can't remember the title.
     
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  17. D.M.V

    D.M.V AH Enthusiast

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    I do read. But audio books are great cause i can listen to them whilst running fright
     

  18. Timbo

    Timbo AH Enthusiast

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    Reading various books by PHs at the time and cross referencing these with Out of Africa (book and film) it's remarkable how you can fit snippets of a person's character, events and life together from these differing perspectives. It was like each PH telling me a little bit more, or expanding on an event, about DFH. It was satisfying to realise that when Redford took Streep out into the bundu - to prospect new hunting grounds - that was a historically accurate event. I also recall that when DFH crashed his aircaft was filled with oranges that his host had given him the night before and which his boy was carrying. I had much fun many years ago, doing detective work such as this on DFH.
     
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  19. sierraone

    sierraone SILVER SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    As of today, the rifle is on display at R. Ward Gunmakers, previously known as Ray Ward Guns, at 12A Cadogan Place, London. Phone is +44 20 7808 0291. This shop is about 2 - 2.5 kilometers south west of Purdys, H&H, Beretta and William Evans. For a detailed location for those of you that have previously been gun shopping, window or otherwise in London, Google "London Gun Shops. then focus in on the center of the map.
     

  20. Wheels

    Wheels AH Legend

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    Great post and story Foxi.

    I believe that two H&H doubles were used by Redford in the movie. Last I heard one had been given to Redford and the second was held by George Caswell at Champlin Firearms. Those who visit have the ability to handle the firearms in the vault!(y)
     
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