LOCK, STOCK AND 200 YEARS OF SMOKING BARRELS
Purdey & Sons are the venerable Mayfair gunmakers whose craftsmanship shows artisan work at its unparalleled best. With the new shooting season upon us, The Rake was given a behind-the-scenes tour of their London factory.
I have some peculiarly vivid memories of my childhood. Being bollocked by the vicar for messing around with my twin brother at church, hiding in the laundry bin while playing hide-and-seek with my siblings — normal childhood stuff. Another memory that has stood the test of time is that of my father returning from a 24-hour absence wearing a country-checked shirt, plus fours and large woollen socks with garters dangling down. He was also clutching a brace of birds that he would hang out by the back fridge to be plucked and eaten. At the other end of the house was a cabinet, out of our reach, where my father kept his cavalry sword from his army days and his shotguns, which included a pair of Purdeys. Video by Marcus Ebanks
While my age — and the lack of an appropriate invitation — forbade the use of the guns, like the shoes in my father’s cupboard, the Rolexes on his wrist, the guidons in the hallway and the picture of Dad and Prince Philip on the fridge, my father was very good at teaching us children about what was precious and to be admired in the house. Perhaps this was designed to stop us ( jacked up on sugar, as we often were) causing mayhem and damage. Like many of the things I treasure most in the world today, channelling them through the prism of my father makes them that much more special. The Rake has worked with many country-sports goods and gun manufacturers over the years, but my eye has always drifted up Mount Street in Mayfair to Audley House, the home of Purdey.
Theirs is a wonderful and historic flagship store. The marble pillars on the outside still bear damage from the Blitz, and are purposefully unrestored, lest we forget. The inside has the hallmarks of a traditional British heritage shop: peace and quiet, deferential staff, beautiful product. Turn right on the crimson carpet to find the clothing section, where the garments are designed with shooting’s dress codes and traditions in mind, though with upgrades like technical inlays for insulation and enhanced waterproofing.
Turn left and you will enter the Long Room. This is where bespoke gun orders are made; ledgers dating back to 1814 give you an idea of the history you are contributing to. The large table in the centre of the room is where the board meets, but it has also hosted Her Majesty the Queen for supper at the retirement of the former chairman Richard Beaumont. The room is a museum of the brand’s impressive history, where large displays of guns exhibit extraordinary beauty and craftsmanship. The Rake made a visit to find out how they are made. Much to our satisfaction, not only do Purdey employ techniques that would have been used on the first day of production in 1814, but the factory itself is still in London (specifically, an old abattoir in Hammersmith), and therefore one of the last of its kind in the Big Smoke. Read the full feature in Issue 77 of The Rake - on newsstands now. Available to buy immediately now on TheRake.com as single issue, 12 month subscription or 24 month subscription. Subscribers, please allow up to 3 weeks to receive your magazine. Our customer service team can assist with any subscription enquiries at firstname.lastname@example.org.