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Antiques and collectables consultant Mark Littler, based near Sandbach in Cheshire, had the pleasant surprise at one of his talks in Tattenhall in the same county, to a Probus group (for retired or semi-retired business or professional people).

It was towards the end of the event that Littler was presented with the object that definitely stood out from a standard valuation day. He knew it was obviously a “great thing”.

“Being a general valuer, I recognised the expert craftsmanship with the decoration to the stock and barrel. There was no doubt that this was a superb item,” said Littler.

He spoke to the owner and explained that this gun was probably rather more valuable than the family had always assumed and the owner consigned the gun to him for further research.

Time to contact a specialist.

Littler called London-based specialist arms and armour auctioneer Thomas Del Mar, formerly head of Sotheby's worldwide department of arms, armour and militaria. Del Mar founded his own firm in 2005 which is now part of the auctions ‘collective’ of 25 Blythe Road in West Kensington. He holds sales ‘in association with Sotheby’s’.

Del Mar confirmed that Littler had found a fine 60 bore German wheel-lock carbine, which had been made in Suhl/Thuringia in the late 16th century featuring beautiful art work.

The gun is now included in Thomas Del Mar's next auction of Arms & Armour on June 28, estimated at £8000-10,000.

Family history

It had been in the Davies-Colley family of the Newbold Estate, Bruera near Chester, since around 1890. How the family came to own the carbine is no longer known, but a pair of pistols with a similar treatment of the barrel and with the same mark as the present carbine and also with a double eagle on the lock, were formerly in the Saxon Royal Collections, Dresden. and sold at Sotheby & Co, London on March 23, 1970.

Another pistol decorated in this manner was sold by Thomas Del Mar at Sotheby's Olympia in June 2003. The leafy tendrils on the barrel and lock are characteristic of Suhl firearms of this period, a number of which have stocks carved en suite. Similar ones are preserved in the former Saxon Electoral Armoury, now the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden.

WEB carbine detail 12-6-17.jpg

Detail of the late 16th century carbine to be offered at the Thomas Del Mar auction in London on June 28.

The 2ft 1in (63.5cm) barrel shows five allegorical figures, probably depicting the liberal arts, and also exotic birds, a hound and a rabbit. Other engravings found on the gun depict a dog formed as a marine monster, an owl and a rabbit, a devils mask, flowers and fruit. Struck with the maker's mark (Neue Støckel 2767) over the breech, engraved tang signed 'HW’ and stamped with the maker's mark en suite with the barrel, it is fitted with a raised wheel-cover, which is decorated with the double eagle displayed of the empire.

Littler set up his business in 2016 to help value, advise on, and sell antiques on behalf of clients, either at auction or by private sale. He has worked for various auction houses as a generalist valuer and auctioneer.