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With his goatee beard, tweed waistcoat and cream puttees, Earl de Grey, second Marquis of Ripon, cut an impressive figure on the moors of Northern England and was hardly ever without one of his beloved Purdeys in hand. The example illustrated above right, a 12 bore half cock of classic hammer ejector type, serial no.14982, consigned by an American collector along with the fabled gamebook of Ripon’s Studley Royal estate, to Sotheby’s sale of vintage sporting guns at Gleneagles Hotel on August 30, had been commissioned from the London makers in 1895 as Ripon, pictured to the right in the bottom photo, embarked on a career as the most successful shot of the Edwardian era. In the heyday of the ‘shooting party’ when it was more important to be fast than accurate, the constant rapid belches from Ripon’s twin chopper lumps distinguished his conduct from the line-up of aristocrats at Holkam, Sandringham and Elveden.

Arguably the finest exponent of game-bird genocide, Ripon was recorded as having dispatched, with the assistance of three guns and two faithful loaders, 28 birds in one minute. He died holding a gun in his hands on Dallowgill Moor in 1923, by which time he had chalked up precisely 556,813 head of game.

For the honour of owning one of his many weapons, as well as the extensive book of game, a UK private collector paid a hammer price of £35,000.