Last Thursday saw the historical Gun company Westley Richards throw a very special evening, that offered guests a rare glimpse behind the scenes of the last surviving gun manufacturers in Birmingham’s proud and historic gun quarter.
WESTLEY RICHARDS & CO. has been making unique shotguns and rifles since they were founded in 1812. Today, they offer the most comprehensive range of bespoke shotguns and rifles by any single English maker. What is even more impressive is that every item is built in the Birmingham workshops by a team of highly skilled and enthusiastic craftsmen, many of whom started in Birmingham as young apprentices. The company stays true to the ethos of it’s founder, Westley Richards, who promised “to be the maker of as good a gun as can be made”.
Westley Richards moved to its present location in 2008, and this was the setting for the celebratory evening. The base, a former enameling workshop, is just stunning, a triumph of using traditional buildings for modern-day requirements. The exposed brickwork and original large windows are just spectacular, and make the whole building impressive and awe-inspiring.
On the evening, guests were greeted by waiting staff wearing traditional black check and white outfits (a gorgeous touch!) and bearing glasses of champagne. There was an initial chance to peruse the store, which stocks a glorious mixture of bespoke, personalised leather goods which are handmade on site, and other complimentary products such as Courtney Boots and brands like Schoffel Lyndon, Barbour and Levi’s vintage. The range of beautiful products, set out in the equally beautiful store made it very easy to start a Christmas wishlist, and I had my eyes drawn to an exquisite hat, festooned with beautiful ribbons and feathers.
We were then treated to a tour of the workshops and factory. This was a fascinating glimpse into the artistry and craftmanship that goes into creating just one rifle. We also heard about the history of the guns, how they were often the property of big game hunters in the days of the British Empire, and how, nowadays, most of the guns are made for the US market. Each gun is made to order, and can take a staggering 3 years to produce. We also had the chance to look into the leather workshop, to look at the beautiful materials that are turned into luxury luggage and bags (the rucksacks in particular are just incredible – another for the wishlist.) Bespoke engraving was offered on the evening for any bags and luggage purchased.
On returning to the shop there were more opportunities to browse, as well as delicious nibbles of game, and, of course, more champagne. I was particularly impressed with the wonderful changing rooms, which were more like a dressing room of old, continuing the quintessence of Westley Richards as a byword for quality and class.
*With thanks to Westley Richards and Lotty Harper events for the invitation to a wonderful evening.