Royal Small Arms Repair Factory – Pimlico, London

Colt’s Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company works at Pimlico, near Vauxhall Bridge on bank of  River Thames (c.1853). This establishment later became the home of the R.S.A.R.F.

Facility Type & Function:

Royal Small Arms Repair Factory (R.S.A.R.F.) – A British Government owned works engaged in the repair of small arms weapons.

Brief History:

The Royal Small Arms Repair Factory (R.S.A.R.F) was established in 1858 by the British Government to act as the first depot and training establishment for the Corps of Armourer Serjeants who made up a significant number of the work’s staff. The factory was used as a repair and modification facility for a range of small arms belonging to the British armed forces. Like other similar establishments it was run by a superintendent drawn from the senior ranks of the military.

The R.S.A.R.F. had a relatively short operational life. Between 1866 and 1868 it ceased as a repair factory and by 1870 the entire function and the Armourer’s Corps depot was moved to a proof house known as the “The Tower”, located in Bagot Street, Birmingham. It appears that much of the factory’s small arms repair work was also transferred to “The Tower” and after 1885 additionally to the Repair Department of the British Government’s R.S.A.F.  in Sparkbrook, Birmingham.

The location of the R.S.A.R.F, Pimlico from a map of the Millbank area of Westminster c.1855.  The buildings just visible at the bottom left of this image represents the eastern wing of the Royal Army Clothing Depot/Factory.

The R.S.A.R.F occupied buildings previously leased by Samuel Colt’s Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company (Note 3). These were located at Bessborough Place, Pimlico on the north bank of the River Thames just above Vauxhall Bridge.  This placed the R.S.A.F. in very close proximity to another of the British Government’s military supply works, i.e. the Royal Army Clothing Factory which was situated slightly further west.

Location Details:

Pimlico, London, Middlesex, England

Associated Token, Check & Pass Issues:

Type 1

Function: Unknown (Note 1)

Material: Bronze

Design: Bi-facial with a plain edge

Shape & Size: Circular,   34.4 mm

Obverse: Incuse legend around upper edge reads R.S.A.R.F. and around lower edge LONDON.  In the centre field the incusely stamped identification number 99 .

Reverse:  Incuse stamped around upper edge read  P , I and M (Note 2) and in lower half  a “broad arrow” symbol placed above the initials WD (i.e. denoting the property of the British Government’s War Department) .

Date:  c.1858 to c.1870

Maker: Unknown

Published References:  Yarwood, J.F. & Johnson, M.C. – Supplement to Military Tokens of the British Commonwealth. Private Publication. 2018. Token reference. MMT134.


Notes:

  1. Possibly a worker’s time registration, identification pass and/or pay identification check.
  2. It is presumed that these initials represent an abbreviation of the word “Pimlico”.
  3. Samuel Colt’s original revolver manufactory began production on 1st January, 1853. At the time many in Britain viewed Colt’s advanced steam powered machinery as proof of America’s growing position as a leader in modern industrial production. On a tour of the factory, Charles Dickens was so impressed with the manufacturing facilities that he recorded his favourable comments of the works and its products in an 1854 edition of “Household Words”. Most significantly Colt’s factory mass-produced interchangeable parts that could be easily and cheaply put together on assembly lines using standardized patterns and gauges by unskilled labour. In establishing a factory in London Colt hoped that his fully British manufactured revolver would enable him to  win lucrative British Government supply contracts. Unfortunately sales of Colt’s  London made product were not as high as  had been expected and in 1856 they closed their Pimlico works and repatriated its  machinery  back to the USA.

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