COLLECTION: Mechanical Arts & Arms

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William III "Pattern 1690" Infantry Musket

Origin: England
Lock: 7" x 1 1/4"; Barrel: 45 5/8" x 1 3/8"; Bore: .80 caliber; Overall length: 61"
Wood, iron, steel, and brass
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 2012-170
Label:As the Crown began its long struggle to standardize the British soldier's firearm during the 17th century, the first true ancestor of the famous "Brown Bess" musket appeared. The "Pattern 1690" Land Service musket was produced in very limited numbers, and only 717 were delivered to the Tower of London during the reign of William III. With a stock of black-painted ash, this example may be one of those specified in Board of Ordnance contracts written in 1695-96.

Many of the arms produced for the Ordnance during the reign of James II had rounded lockplates and were engraved with the Royal Cypher, but surviving locks are smaller, having been made for pistols and carbines. As such, this gun may be one of the first rounded-lock muskets made for the Tower. With a nominally 46" barrel, a round-faced lock, iron triggerguard and a brass buttplate, these Pattern 1690 infantry muskets were the first to have the basic physical traits and proportions which became standard between the 1720s and the late 1760s.

This superb example of the Pattern 1690 survives in its original configuration, and even retains its ancient wooden rammer. Since this musket was made right before the introduction of the socket bayonet, it is stocked up to the muzzle, and could only have been used with a dagger-like plug bayonet. A well-made and sturdy musket, it is quite remarkable that it wasn't altered to accept a socket bayonet during the beginning of the 18th century, when thousands of similar arms were modified to do so.

Although it is likely this musket survived as part of an arms display in the United Kingdom, similar "obsolete" arms were sent for the use of the American colonists during the first part of the 18th century.

For a discussion of this musket type see David Williams' "The Flintlock Ordnance Muskets of William III and their Supply," Arms & Armour, Vol. 9 No.1, pp. 9-21 (2012) and pp. 17-22 of DeWitt Bailey's "Small Arms of the British Forces in America, 1664-1815." Other Pattern 1690 infantry muskets can be found on pp. 52-3 of George Moller's "American Military Shoulder Arms, Volume I," and pp. 104 and 107 of "The Early Firearms of Great Britain and Ireland from the Collection of Clay Bedford," (no. 106).
Provenance:Formerly in the Giles Cromwell collection.
Mark(s):Barrel marked with two indistinct proofmarks on the top flat of the breech, which are likely a "Crowned WR" cypher and a "Crowned Rose." A "TH" is struck into lock-side of the buttstock, along with a "D" Ordnance storekeeper's mark. Engraved into the lockplate is a "Crowned WR" in front of the cock.