In the mak­ing

Country Life Every Week - - IN THE MAKING -


F you’re lucky enough to visit Aud­ley House, James Purdey & Sons’ em­po­rium on May­fair’s South Aud­ley Street, which has been home to the dis­tin­guished gun­maker since 1883, you’ll wit­ness first hand the rich his­tory bound up in its walls. Es­tab­lished by James Purdey in 1814—whose fam­ily was at the helm un­til 1948, when the Beau­mont fam­ily bought it, fol­lowed, in 1994, by the Richemont Group—purdey is one of the most re­spected and lux­u­ri­ous com­pa­nies in the world.

It has no less than three Royal War­rants and its chair­man, James Horne, re­galed me with a story of a pair of minia­ture shot­guns (one-sixth of the usual size) that Purdey made for George VI, who, when bored at din­ner par­ties, used to slope off, armed with his diminu­tive firearms and a can­dle, to shoot moths at­tracted to its light—just one of the many tales prov­ing the ex­tra­or­di­nary skill of the com­pany’s crafts­men.

Still proudly made in Bri­tain, by a 50strong work­force based in the com­pany’s Cen­tral Lon­don fac­tory, Purdey’s be­spoke guns are lov­ingly crafted by its gun­smiths—many of whom have worked there for 40–50 years—with each model tak­ing two years (12,000 hours) from start to fin­ish.

In­deed, the process is so care­ful and pre­cise that Purdey clients are ac­tively en­cour­aged to be part of the pro­ce­dure so they can un­der­stand the com­plex­ity of build­ing a shot­gun. ‘You’re buy­ing some­thing re­ally spe­cial and part of that de­light is go­ing to meet the crafts­men and see­ing them pro­duce the var­i­ous parts,’ en­thuses Mr Horne.

The ‘Purdey way’ sees clients meet their crafts­man, choos­ing pieces of wood (wal­nut for stocks), their en­graver and the style of that en­graver’s work. Some keep it clas­sic, with a rose and scroll, and oth­ers let their imag­i­na­tion run wild, with dogs, a favourite patch of coun­try­side or a like­ness of their wife. One client even chose to de­pict Mar­garet Thatcher.

‘Shoot­ing has changed be­yond all recog­ni­tion,’ ex­plains Mr Horne, founder of Guns On Pegs (which buys and sells game shoot­ing on­line). ‘High-bird shoot­ing has be­come so in vogue, you need a gun to han­dle that.’

It’s clear that Purdey can pro­vide the lot, in­clud­ing a ‘mon­ster week­end bag’ that I have my eye on, which ‘ef­fort­lessly takes all the things you need, as well as all the things you don’t, but can’t live with­out’, in­clud­ing cigar and drink­ing ap­pa­ra­tus and your gun, of course—al­though you may need some­one else to carry it for you.

‘when You can tell a Purdey per­son out shoot­ing–they’re un­der­stated, not flash. Au­then­tic­ity is key and we never com­pro­mise on how we craft our guns James Horne, chair­man of Purdey, talks to Hetty Chid­wick

Be­spoke shot­gun

from £132,000 (020–7499 1801;

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