On March 14, 1637, the London gunsmiths banded together and founded the Worshipful Company of Gunmakers of the City of London. This name has been retained to this day, while the original name - The Master, Wardens and Society of the Misterie of Gunmakers of the City of London" - is only known to gun historians.
The charter of the Worshipful Company of Gunmakers makes mention of private tests of proof, and this appears to trace back to barrel proofing which apparently stated in early part of the 17th century.
The original Worshipful Company consisted in 125 gunmakers, of which 63 were citizens of London. The right to proof remained in the hands of the members, and this included the search for unproofed firearms which were then either proofed, or if the owner objected, were confiscated.
This rule applied to the city of London and the surrounding country within a 10 miles radius. It was forbidden to sell any gun in that area which did not bear the Crown over A mark of the Gunmakers Company. The charter also specified the length of time a young man had to be an apprentice as well as the period or time he would be a journeyman. It was at this time that the Crown over GP was first used and to this day, this is the mark of the London Proof House.
In the year 1670 the charter was confirmed and the power of the organisation was extended. The Crown over GP was retained and yet another proof was added - inspection after proof - and this was marked with Crown over V.
The two marks were always seen together, especially during the 18th century, with the name of the barrel maker often being sandwiched between them.
In 1713 the Gunmakers Company built its own Proof facility in Goodman's Field, Whitechapel, London, where it still stands today. By 1813, the rights and power of the Gunmakers Company was extended to cover all of the British territory.
After some bad blood between London and Birmingham, the latter was authorized to keep its own proofmarks, provided the proof was identical to that of the London Proof House.
That is the story behind the crowned GP and the crowned V (the V stands for "verified" and has nothing to do with Queen Victoria)
By 1876 the British asked the Liège gunmakers to drop the crown above the controller's initial on their guns, because it could confuse some people and give the thought the gun was of British manufacture. The Belgians admitted that the British proofmarks were in use since longer than their own, and replaced the crown by a 5-points star from 1877 on.
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