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The Bondie's Story..

The Adelphi, Circa 1900 from across the road in Friargate
The Adelphi, Circa 1900 from across the road in Friargate

If you are bothering to read this bit about us, then grab a cup of coffee and we'll clue you up a little with some history.

It all started in 1966. The shop was located on Fylde Street, which is almost gone now, near what is currently Preston's University. We occupied the left half of the Adelphi public house (sadly no connecting pipework came into the shop from the Guiness pump in the pub) Today the whole area is now completely different and practically unrecognisable.

In the early days, Bond and Bywater was an experience of guns and gentlemans suits.

1961 - McNairs Header
1961 showing the shop with McNairs header

In 1966, Cliff Bond and John Bywater, the two names behing the shop header, moved into the 42 Fylde street address where Mr John McNair was already carrying on a well established business supplying very high quality gents clothing and suits, and for a period of time after that, both businesses ran together in the tiny floorspace available, helping each other out attracting trade with the use of vouchers for each others goods. This proved a good ploy.

Bond and Bywater had started on the road to their future.

McNairs Vouchers
McNairs Vouchers

On the first floor above the shop, was "The New Trading House" which was run by a Gentleman called Henry Kirby, a notable Preston Historian and published author, and a good friend.

In those days it was much simpler to buy shotguns and ammunition, all you needed was money and a ten bob licence from the Post office, with these two things, you could start a great hobby, and obtain a good collection of nice gear without the bother we have now. The modern day hysteria over gun ownership wasn't there and shooting was just another acceptable pastime.

Things started slowly at first, then after the 1968 firearm came in to force, things began to improve for Bond and Bywater. There was a healthy trade building up repairing broken shotguns which enthusiastic owners had worn out, supplying pistols and rifles for target shooting and vermin control, selling cartridges at £1 7s 6d a box of 25, tins of pellets for between 2 and 3 shillings, telling lots of tall stories about shooting exploits, in fact the atmosphere in the shop was just like the pub next door without the beer.

There was a hard core of regular customers, who, would bring their sleeping bags, flasks and sandwiches and spend days in the shop, avoiding going home in fear of their wives battering them for buying another gun instead of a weeks food, swapping shooting related tall stories between each other and smoking themselves into a stupor. (Maybe one or two reading this will be of that elite crew).

For years this was the format in the shop and the business slowly became the first Firearm dealer in the country to start really discounting all brands of shotguns, which the other shops did'nt like. If you look back in old copies of the shooting press from the late seventies, you will see the Bond and Bywater name writ large as "THE LEADING DISCOUNTER OF FIREARMS". Unfortunately, this created some friction with other retailers, and some suppliers who were not used to this way of trading. In the long run this was the making of the Bond and Bywater name and we became the "DISCOUNTING BAD BOYS" in the trade, we certainly gave plenty of people the opportunity to get shooting on a small budget, who would otherwise not have been able to afford a gun.

In time, discounting was taken up by nearly all the trade and it became the norm. People would ring right round the country for the best price on a shotgun sometimes spending more money on the phone calls than the saving on the gun (has this changed today?). This purchase would then be wrapped and posted to them at their home, sent from the local Post Office at the bottom of Friargate just across the road from the shop run by Pat and June, it seems almost incredible now that this was routine practice. It was a much simpler world then.

Bored Yet?

Moving a little more up to date. In February 1994, the shop finally moved away from next door to the Adelphi pub, after one of our customers had been served a cloudy pint and fell out with the landlords dog over a wet leg incident and a badly torn pair of best tweed trousers. We think his wife tore the trousers.

The Shop in 1992, before we moved
The Shop in 1992, before we moved, looking down Rodney Street to Shutts Mill

The transfer of all the stuff in the shop was done in a manner that would have made the Sweeney proud. We had a big white van which we borrowed from Ashworths Pies and Puddings, a local emporium who's owner was a very good friend and customer of ours and a gentleman as well, who is sadly no longer with us. Piled high with all the goodies from the shelves of the old shop, a couple of very iffy looking characters up front in the cab, one with a very nice Smith and Wesson 44 tucked under the drivers seat to make a tactical deposit if necessary and spare ammo in the glove box. Well we just can't remember whether it had fired five, or was it six, but we felt lucky, and neither of us was called Harry.

The Shop as was in 2009
The Shop as was in 2009

Picture of how it looks today with the University campus complex
Picture of how it looks today with the University campus complex

This was the style of the 20 or so journeys made to shift the entire contents to our present location at 91-92 St. Paul's Road (which used to be a Wire Works back in the 1880's). At the end of this whole excersise was one very tired van and a new shop full of stuff piled high in the middle of the floor, and some hot pies for dinner. Result.

That was all back in 1994, and and lots has happened since.

Our clay shoot has continued to run throughout the forty or so years since we started it and is very popular, it has grown year on year with all the old stalwarts turning up filling the sky with holes, blaming the gun for missing, but generally enjoying themselves. There is also a healthy influx of new shooters every year as well, keen to be the next world champion.

With the arrival of 1997 and the disgraceful teatment our shooting community got with the banning of pistols, we took all our pistols and ammunition on a road trip for some last minute fun before the hand in deadline. Suitably laden with thousands of rounds of ammunition which was as much as we could carry, and some pies for lunch, three of us took a trip to a secret location in the middle of nowhere, and set about having a last good time. It wasn't long before two of the pistols stopped working after firing only a few hundred rounds each, so we used them as the target instead, shooting them to pieces with the remaining working guns. Once all the pistol ammunition had been exhausted, the now ornamental remaining pistols were put up as targets themselves, and a firing squad of large calibre rifles finished them off, just like the Alamo, it was good fun in a curiously sad way. Then we stuck two fingers up at the Government.

When the hand in day came, we took them to the Police HQ, where the remaining "wreckage" was given up for compensation in a few jiffy bags for protection against the sharp bits, a month or so later, they paid us out. A sad end, and a hollow victory.

Are you sure you're not bored yet?

Moving in to the new Millenium, the last twenty years since it clicked over have seen some big changes in the gun trade. We have been reasonably fortunate, as we do a great deal of gun repairs and refurbs / restorations, which has been a good source of business in the difficult times after the banks, and their ilk ruined the economy for everyone in 2008. Times changed fast, and we had to react to the changes, not without some success and plenty of sleepless nights.

Moving to the present day now, we still carry out a great deal of repairs. Air rifle sales have moved mainly to pre charged rather than spring powered, clothing has gone mostly internet rather than in store. Nowadays, buying a new gun is generally researched to death on the internet before a purchase is made, and usually bought at a distance from the purchaser, the transaction is then dealt with by the recently evolved and unwritten code of the "dealer transfer system" for a small fee to the buyer, their new acquisition is sent from the vendor to their local gun shop for them to collect. All these things are a natural evolution due to emerging new technology and ill concieved legislation changes, which by necessity, need to be included into the daily running of a modern gun shop.

Our Current Premises
The Shop Today

Well that's about bang up to date for us, we've been here since 1966, and for all those years have managed to dodge the grim reaper of firearms legislation and numerous market changes, keeping our heads above water. Then there's the Virus!

We hope that the continued trend for new shooters carries on, as they are the lifeblood of any sport and business continuity, maybe someone will continue our story into the future when we're gone.

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