Portrait of  Peter Smithhurst (Research Fellow) Peter Smithhurst (Research Fellow)

p.smithhurst@hud.ac.uk | 01484 47


Peter Smithurst was an undergraduate at Huddersfield in the days when it was a College of Technology and graduated in chemistry in 1967. He then went on to become a research chemist in the pharmaceutical industry for several years until drawn into museum work in 1974. He spent almost 20 years at Sheffield City Museums working in the field of Industrial and Technological History which embraced the steel, engineering, tool, cutlery and related industries. His passion for arms and armour then led him to the Royal Armouries where he is currently a Senior Curator working principally with older firearms.

His specialist areas of interest include: the evolution of firearms in the 19th and early 20th century; the early hand-operated “machine guns”; the evolution of breech-loading firearms systems and self contained ammunition; the development of the manufacturing techniques and technologies applied to firearms, heavy ordnance and edged weapons.

During this time spent working in museums Peter has been consulted on a variety of topics by a variety of organizations, including in more recent times some government agencies engaged in crime prevention and the administration of justice. He has also partaken in radio and TV broadcasts covering both Industrial History and Arms and Armour History. At one time he was invited to become Director of a museum in the United States which has a strong focus on the development of precision manufacturing and machine tools. He has recently been invited to become a Trustee of and an advisor to a new museum being planned in the US.

Peter is currently writing a book devoted to the development of gunmaking technology with special reference to mechanization and interchangeable manufacturing and its application to the British Enfield rifle in the mid 19th century. The book will also explore how this same technology was adapted and adopted to create other products and the beginnings of the “consumer society”.

Research and Scholarship

Ongoing research into the machines and processes used in early mechanized gunmaking. Few of these early machines now survive so research includes the archives of companies involved in their production both in Britain and the US; examination of samples (where they exist) showing stages in the manufacturing operation and “reverse engineering” the sequence in which the processes were carried out; the histories of the companies and persons involved in perfecting the techniques of interchangeable manufacture.

An analysis of the metrology of selected gun components and manufacturing gauges.

Continued research into Colt revolvers of the mid 19th century and the role of Yorkshire based companies in their production

The development of the technologies for the manufacture of self contained ammunition and the role of the Leeds based company, Greenwood and Batley.

The development, design and production of the Gatling Gun with special reference to those produced in Britain for British military and naval service.

Publications and Other Research Outputs


Smithhurst, P (2008) ‘Gun displays in museums - who calls the shots?’. In: On a Knife Edge: the Ethics of Weapons Display, 21st October 2008, The Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds


Smithurst, P (2007) ‘The Pattern 1853 rifled musket — GenesisArms and Armour , 4 (2), pp. 123-140. ISSN 17416124


Smithurst, P. and Williams, D. (2004) ‘Christopher Spencer: the manufacturing technology of his repeating rifleArms and Armour , 1 (2). ISSN 17416124


Smithurst, P (2000) ‘Colt in London’. In: The history of Colt firearms. London: Salamander. . ISBN 1840651709


Smithurst, P (1987) The Cutlery Industry . Shire Albums. : Shire Publications. ISBN 978-0852638705