79 Beak Street and John Wilkes Gun Makers

You might be wondering why Estate Agents would be talking about gun makers, but it’ll all become clear very soon… Davis Brown Estate Agents has roots dating back to 1900, so we love to know the history of the properties that we let and sell –wherever in London that might be!  Some areas have a really interesting history and knowing the history can add to the fascination of a property or area, and the story of Number 79 Beak Street is truly fascinating.  This unique grade II listed building is noted for its special architectural and historical interest but not only that, it was also home to one of the last gun makers of Soho.  

John Wilkes Gun maker’s first started trading as a pistol maker in 1820 in Birmingham however it was not until 1894 that the shop was moved to London.  Its first location in the capital was a shop at Number 1 Lower James Street in Soho – the area John Wilkes would eventually remain for over a century.  Moving on from making only pistols, the firm expanded into making rifles – producing up to 100 a year.  

Production slowed during World War I however the company survived and in 1925 the shop moved to what would be its final shop at 79 Beak Street.  Set over three floors, this traditional 18th century terraced house was converted to a shop with two floors of workspace.  Steeped in history and tradition, by the end of the 1900s, the shop became locally famous for its gun-making artefacts and relics.  Here John Wilkes explored a new type of gun craft, focusing on high quality guns and rifles with intricate and ornate decoration.  As the focus moved from quantity to quality, production dropped to only 100 guns in the last 30 years of trading on Beak Street.   

In 2000, John Wilkes made, what must have been an emotional decision to leave Beak Street after so long in the area.  Taking years to clear out, the building was not vacated until July 2003. 

79 Beak Street is now home to three flats with an art gallery on the ground floor.  Davis Brown has let these flats for over a decade and the building is a personal favourite amongst our negotiators for it’s unique history and original, period features.   

If you’re looking to rent or purchase a flat in Soho, Davis Brown Estate Agents are here to help!  Please get in touch with Emma or Sarah-Jane on 0207 637 1066. 

Beak Street 79 F1 - ext

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