Stafford Collection Magazine Autumn 2022 - Flipbook - Page 50
Walk past Audley House on Mayfair’s South
Audley Street, and if something like gunfire
is heard coming from within, don’t panic.
Even though the sound of armaments at play
would not be inappropriate here — this has
been the home to the gunsmiths Purdey since
1883 — what you are in fact listening to is the
riotous clatter of hammers on work benches.
This is not craftsmen in protest, but in celebration. It used to be the case that whenever an
apprentice completed his training, he would be ‘hammered out’ — welcomed to the fold
with this cacophony, before then being welcomed at a local pub. These days, some 200
years on, it’s more typically done to mark retirement.
That may be cause for celebration — but perhaps also for some concern. Gunmakers
are, after all, few and far between. “Apprenticeship requires a certain kind of person — not
just in being willing to commit five or more years of your life to training, but in attitude and
temperament,” suggests Jonathan Irby, Managing Director of the Royal Berkshire Shooting
School and former Head of Sales for Purdey. “That’s why we see a lot of nephews, grandsons
and godsons come into the trade — it’s an easier sell when someone already connected
to the gunmaking trade can explain it to them. It’s a risk for the gunmaker too — every
apprentice you take on is taking time from the masters without making any contribution
themselves. But they’re essential for the business to be sustainable.”