We are pleased to announce the much anticipated launch of our new Pathfinder apparel collection. Conceived to loyally partner the most devoted of sportsmen on their many adventurous pursuits, the Pathfinder’s modern approach raises the game for anyone on safari, in the field or simply enjoying the great outdoors.
With comfort, style and performance our focus during its development, each member of the collection is designed to be tuned into the owners needs, whether providing necessary warmth, ease of movement, durability or lightness of weight, alongside the gentlemanly elegance that Westley Richards is renowned for.
First up is our Pathfinder Quilted Gilet, which of all the new pieces, truly embodies the collection’s raison d’etre. Created for those chilly mornings out in the African bush, before the sun’s heat is felt in the air, and those mild days in the field when your shooting coat is too heavy.
Sturdy 2-way zip and patented snap closures made by Swiss experts Riri.
This gilet has a host of high performing features with components and materials that simply won’t let you down – this starts with the insulation. Unlike most others on the market our design team chose the superior Primaloft® Gold in place of classic goose down. A manmade material specially developed for the US Army, created to be comparable to goose down in weight, compressibility, and warmth, but able to retain heat while in the presence of moisture – be that rain, snow or even sweat.
Primaloft® Gold is the latest iteration of this material and is well known to be extremely packable, lightweight, water resistant and breathable, making it an excellent choice for more difficult outdoor pursuits.
To partner our splendid new gilet range is a selection of smart trousers and shorts that are perfect for both in the bush and everyday use. Drawing on our extensive knowledge of safari, the Pathfinder Twill Trousers and Shorts are a classic cut for exceptional comfort and made with the finest British cotton twill for its robust yet light-weight qualities. Styled with only the essential pockets to retain a handsome look during downtime, the range comes in three colours for any occasion and environment.
For those sportsmen in need of even greater comfort, with ease of movement and a finer feel a defining factor, the collection also features our signature Pathfinder Shorts. Crafted with a luxury Japanese cotton blend to offer a light, reassuring stretch, these shorts offer the modern huntsman not only freedom and agility but superb comfort and a refined style.
One of the first striking displays I noticed at the Westley Richards flagship and factory, a few months back, is the wonderful grid of thirty framed red stag and roebuck prints up on the wall in the apartment. It is not only visually impressive but the variety and individuality is somewhat staggering.
In the lead up to the stalking season I thought it an ideal moment to delve deeper into this unusual print collection, and in turn its origins. This was a far greater undertaking than I had planned as the prints themselves hold little written information and what there was, was in German! I understood from their original folio case that the set was first published in 1891 by Georg Albrecht zu Erbach-Erbach and printed in Leipzig, but that was essentially it.
Old original folio of the prints named Selecta and published by Georg Albrecht zu Erbach-Erbach in 1891.
As I began to source information online, it became clear I needed to get my hands on an out-of-print book named ‘Sport in the Alps in the Past and Present’ by William Adolph Baillie-Grohman, 1896. Fortunately for me there are some very niche booksellers out there, and the copy I received has now formed the great proportion of my writing, on the history behind these final prints.
Georg Albrecht zu Erbach-Erbach (1844-1915) was the great-grandson of Franz Graf zu Erbach-Erbach (1754-1823), a very famous sportsman and collector of antiquities, medieval artefacts and hunting trophies. Franz Graf, at the time of formulating his collections, was the regional count who oversaw the district of Odenwald (in Hesse, Germany) from its seat at Erbach, where the family castle was located. It is at Erbach Castle where one of Germany’s, if not Europe’s, greatest and most ancient of stag trophy collections sits, in its famed Hirschgalerie – the state hall – and is still there to this day.
Inside the Hirschgalerie, Erbach Castle.
The Erbach collection was one of four noteworthy collections in the Alpine region that, at the time of Baillie-Grohman’s book (in 1896), had luckily survived war, conflagration and pillage of the last two to three hundred years. In 2020, that is now over three to four hundred years. The others belonged firstly to the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which passed onto Queen Victoria’s son Alfred (Duke of Edinburgh), the second was Count Arco-Zinneberg in the palace of Munich, and finally the most celebrated, the King of Saxony’s collection at Moritzburg castle near Dresden.
The Moritzburg collection is regarded as the most important, containing a selection of old heads including two prized pairs of antlers, the first being an incredible sixty-six point head! The stag that carried these historical antlers was shot in 1696 by the Elector Frederick III of Brandenburg, who subsequently became the first King of Prussia. The second enjoys the distinction of being without question the largest pair of red deer antlers in the world, at time of writing. Even though it has only twenty-four points, it has an enormous spread of 6 feet 3 inches, and weighs with a very small fragment of skull bone no less than 41.5lbs.
66 point red stag head, Moritzburg Collection.
The Erbach collection, mainly the work of Count Franz Graf zu Erbach-Erbach contains some very fine ancient red stag heads, one coming close in weight to the monster of Moritzburg, for it scales nearly 35lbs. Two others are of note, the first being a twenty-two pointer whose main beam measures 46.5 inches. It has an extraordinary spread of 5ft 2.24 inches in a straight line from tip to tip, and the circumference round the thinnest part of the beam above the tray tine is 8.66 inches. The second head is a twenty-eight pointer, slightly less in length and spread, but an inch more in circumference.
6 point & 10 point roebuck antler print, Erbach Collection.
12 point & 12 point roebuck antler print, Erbach Collection.
Those two heads once formed part of what, in the sixteenth century, was one of the most famous natural history collections in all Europe, at Castle Ambras in Tyrol, the creation of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria. After the partial conquest of Tyrol by the Bavarian and French troops in the first decade of the 18th century, the two heads were looted by the then King of Bavaria, and were presented to Count Erbach.
28 point & 30 point red stag antler prints, Erbach Collection.
What gives the Erbach collection its actual legendary status is the level of abnormal antlers that not only stem from red stags but from a plethora of unusual roebuck heads. Unquestionably some are of German origin but others, whose origin it is acknowledged is unknown, Baillie-Grohman suggests by structural evidence, safe to assume that they are not European but Asiatic roebuck heads.
Upon the death of Franz Graf his grandson, Franz Eberhard, wisely took to cataloguing the entire collection. Once completed it was actually Franz Eberhard’s son, Georg Albrecht, who then produced the prints for popular consumption and this is the set that now lives in the Westley Richards apartment today.
Limited edition Selecta folio reproduced by Westley Richards alongside a variety of coasters and placemats featuring the prints.
Some of you may remember that in 2012 Westley Richards reproduced the original selection of these prints as a limited edition of 100. Very few remain but for those keen enthusiasts, do head to our store to purchase your own collection of these beautiful prints on heavyweight art paper.
Here at Westley Richards we are proud to be developing some of the future’s finest gun makers, engravers and leather workers in the world. None more exemplify this than the exceptionally talented Léo, who at 22 has already played an instrumental part in the creation of our new exhibition magazine rifle “The Roebuck Rifle”.
In June 2020 he will celebrate 2 years with Westley Richards and has certainly come a long way since he sent a chance letter to the company, all the way from Belgium, to enquire about an apprenticeship. It is clear that our dedication to working with young talent, giving them unique opportunities and watching them thrive is at the very heart of the Westley Richards DNA.
Léo, where did you grow up?
I grew up in the Belgian countryside, in a little village outside of Liège.
Did you always want to be a gun engraver?
Not exactly. I did always want to have an artistic job but in fact only started to think about the engraving profession a few months before my studies began in this subject. The idea first came to mind when my father took me to a hunting show where my soon-to-be teacher, Pierre Dôme, was performing a demonstration for the Léon Mignon School of Liège.
What did your education/apprenticeship entail?
At Léon Mignon School I learnt the two key areas of engraving both the handcraft and drawing. This included traditional techniques of hammer and chisel and the hand-chisel as well as technical drawings of ornament composition and game-scene sketches. Thereafter I taught myself how to use the pneumatic chisel and stereo zoom microscope, which I use today.
Who inspired you to become an engraver?
My family principally, but I do have two very special people who really inspired me to become the person I am today. My two best friends, Laëtitia Copine and Nicolas Braud. Laëtitia taught me about the world of the arts and greatly influenced how I now consider, analyse and understand art. Nicolas helped me to appreciate unexpected challenges and importantly how to remain stoic in front of them, an incredibly vital quality in the practice of engraving.
Who would you count as mentors in the field of engraving?
I am fortunate to have a few master engravers that I have had the privilege to meet and call mentors. The first are my two teachers from the Léon Mignon School, Master Lucien Gironi and Master Pierre Dôme, who I regularly keep in touch with. Others who I have had the chance to cross paths with who need no introduction, who very much like my school teachers, shared their work, ideas and knowledge with great kindness. Masters Paul Lantuch, Alain Lovenberg and Bram Ramon.
How long did it take to learn the art of engraving?
I began learning the art of engraving in September 2015, with my background in the arts and the first class education I received, I have had a rapid rise. But when you ask “How long did it take to learn the art of engraving?”, it is a difficult question as like others, I’m sure, consider that I will never stop learning (and that’s a great thing).
Indeed the continual learning is the most exciting part of the job, always amazed by the masterpieces of great engraving masters, past and present, who have work for Westley Richards. Holding their works in my own hands is always such a privilege. Spending many an hour researching I discover talents across the globe who produce such technically impressive works with skills that are out of this world. Knowing this drives me to keep experimenting and push boundaries with this historic craft.
Tell us about the ‘Roebuck Rifle’ that you recently completed for Westley Richards?
The Roebuck Rifle is my very first grand-scale project in engraving. At first, embarking on this project made me acutely aware of my level as engraver and how long still the path of apprenticeship really is. To be honest in the beginning I was very nervous about such an important artwork, but with the fantastic team around me at Westley Richards, and the nerves subsiding, I began to have fun and enjoyed the entire process.
The ornamentation was my first challenge, the client had decided upon a carved leaf design using a technique I had only used once before at my school in Liège. At that time I used the traditional hammer and chisel method, however with my new pneumatic tools this was a completely fresh experience and one I threw myself into. Fortunately the path of this level of engraving I was able to begin on the smaller elements, like the roebuck head on the safety shroud, to build confidence.
On the advice and information kindly shared by older masters I moved into the larger game scenes, for example the roe deers seen on the floorplate. When Trigger and I decided on the pair of animals we wanted to capture for the scene, from a picture where we see the male chasing the female, my next big challenge emerged. Trigger had selected an image where only the top of their bodies were visible due to high grass covering their chest, undersides and legs.
I spent many an hour studying deer anatomy and movement through reading veterinary books and watching live action video in slow motion, to finally deduce the exact musculature positioning to achieve a true to life visual. Seeing as I have rarely been near the animal in real life I relied on my colleagues to add those final touches to the end result.
A special thanks to the Westley Richards patron, who commissioned such a fabulous artwork, and to my colleagues and mentors for their critical advice and encouragement. Without them I would not have reached the new heights of technical and artistic excellence I have dreamed to achieve and will continue to strive for.
Head to our engraving section, to discover the incredible variety of engraved artworks that patrons have commissioned over the years.
A couple weeks ago we featured the first part of “Making of the Bournbrook”, giving you a behind the scenes look into our creative exploration from collection concept to design. In the second and final part, we continue our journey through the rigorous detailing of material selection, production sampling, tests out in field and ultimately the delivery of our final bags.
To meet the dedicated high standards of quality that the Westley Richards name is globally recognised for, ever since our founder coined the mantra – “to be the maker of as good a gun as can be made” – we put no time limit on these stages to achieve the pinnacle of end results.
First critical decision came in the form of material selection. Westley Richards has had a long relationship with both its leather and canvas manufacturers, however we felt this an ideal opportunity to research new partners. After much time spent sourcing, meeting and testing new options nothing compared to our existing relationships… I’m sure there is an old adage for that.
All our leather is supplied by the incredible Tarnsjo Gaveri tannery in Sweden. It is amongst the last remaining 5% of tanning houses worldwide who still employ the tradition of vegetable tanning, in favour of the more time and cost-efficient chrome method.
Their sustainable approach helps respect the environment – using bark extracts, water and water-based finishing – and delivers a leather that feels both luxurious, ages beautifully over the generations and has unparalleled levels of endurance.
With our canvases, we have long been pleased to partner with Halley Stevensons. A fantastic British company regarded as the world’s leading waxed cotton fabric innovators of weatherproofed canvas. Based up in Dundee, Scotland, the regions hard weather inspired workers to experiment with applying oils and greases to cloth to make it more durable and protective to the elements. 150 years on, not much has changed except the science behind the coatings, which are now engineered to be virtually impermeable and incredibly long lasting.
Unlike our heritage gun and rifle designs, which have remained largely untouched for centuries, creating a new travel bag collection fit for our clients required countless amendments, technical drawings and samples. In fact the new fine leather goods collection you see in-store today is the summation of 50+ full-scale technical packages and bench-made samples. Our overriding focus was to deliver the finest in English style, handle and strength, with no superfluous detail.
Once the collection aesthetics were correct, befitting the truly discerning traveller, each of these samples were then rigorously tested out in the field. Taken by Ricky and Trigger on shooting trips in the UK & Spain, business trips to Paris, London & Florence, and personal vacations to Canada, Italy & US, the collection got to experience a plethora of outdoor scenarios.
On their happy return, adventures were shared and final improvements to the proto-samples were made. And in late October the Bournbrook range was signed off for production to appear in our inaugural winter brochure – Westley Richards: Collections 2020.
The Bournbrook Travel Bag Collection reflects the height of luxury and is now available to buy in-store and online in a range of vegetable tanned & exotic leather, buffalo hide and strong canvas combinations. Like all our fine leather goods we offer bespoke initialling to add that very personal touch.
At the end of last year we launched the first members of our new Bournbrook travel bag collection. Conceived, designed and importantly hand-fabricated by our expert leather department here at the Westley Richards’ Pritchett Street headquarters.
Unlike our fellow gunmakers we uniquely manufacture all our fine and exotic leather goods, both sporting and travel, in-house and side by side with our gun making. For myself and others alike, it is a great pleasure to witness English craftsmanship at its zenith within these four walls; and of particular importance, that Westley Richards continues the Midlands’ proud heritage as the centre of England’s leathermaking since time immemorial.
The Bournbrook’s journey begun early in 2019. With aims to expand our leather offering through a new luxury lifestyle collection, the team’s initial focus centred on ‘town and country’ as a territory. Many patrons of the company split their time between their residences, the city and the field, and therefore a collection that travels with them at every moment revealed itself as an ideal place to begin.
To inform the initial concepts we fought hard to ensure that this new collection exemplified the finest in English style, hand craftsmanship and quality, and ultimately for it to be delivered through the distinctive lens of Westley Richards and its heritage.
Being a gun company, synonymous with Africa and safari, our key ideas for the collection rightly stemmed from there. The principal twin pocket concept, seen on the front, takes the form of bellows pockets, which is drawn directly from our safari sporting attire. A great example of this can be seen on the Westley Richards Bushveld Safari Jacket.
Further inspiration comes from our celebrated bespoke gun cases, visible on those front pocket strap closures. These straps are hand-stitched together using traditional saddlery techniques, also reflecting the ancestry of the region. Another key detail arrived in the form of a repeat diamond embossing. A clear reference to gun stock checkering and originally used, at this large scale, on a hand-embossed copy of our bi-centennial book “The Pursuit of the Best Gun 1812-2012”.
Finally, and I’m sure most pertinent for The Explora reader, is the introduction of the exclusively designed lining by master engraver Paul Lantuch, used across all our travel bag collections. This wonderfully illusory illustration reveals, within its decorative design, a different face-like apparition when held in opposing directions. An ingenuous idea, absolutely befitting of such a legend.
Once the concepts were agreed the designs were established into four key bag types, catering for a classic gentleman’s lifestyle. A soft briefcase for professional life, a 48hr weekend bag with wash bag for recreational life, and a rucksack for everyday life.
In the next part – Making of the Bournbrook: Part 2 – I will share the exciting task of selecting the eventual materials, producing countless samples, hours of testing out in the field and the final presentation of the collection you see today.
The Bournbrook Travel Bag Collection is now available to buy in-store and online in a range of vegetable tanned & exotic leather, buffalo hide and strong canvas combinations. Like all our fine leather goods we offer bespoke initialling to add that very personal touch.
As we begin 2020, I would like to take this good moment to introduce myself to the friends and followers of Westley Richards who regularly read our much-loved blog, The Explora. My name is Stephen Humphries and I recently joined the company in the brand new role of Creative Director. A thrilling opportunity that will involve the continued elevation of this adored company – through greater visibility to the wider field sports world and taste making community-at-large, and the establishment of Westley Richards fine leather goods & sporting attire as the ultimate in style for the well-versed adventurer.
My background has been within the luxury brands environment for many years having collaborated with a number of globally recognised British and international prestige brands, from fashion, jewellery and leather goods to elite beverages, hospitality and publishing.
Having been surrounded by sporting enthusiasts throughout my career it is a true privilege to mention the name Westley Richards, and I look forward to bringing my distinct expertise honed over the years with similar spirited businesses – those that are family-owned, steeped in heritage and with unparalleled quality and hand craftsmanship.
In the first few months here I have been getting to know all the many wonderful and awe-inspiring parts of the company and its impressive premises in Birmingham. By way of its exceptional gunmakers, engravers, leather workers, production & sales teams, brand & photographic departments and senior management.
Those of you who have had the privilege to visit the Pritchett Street factory will first enter into our flagship store, a showroom that far surpasses any selling environment I have visited in Mayfair. Inside, a constant selection of Westley Richards British country clothing, smart travel bags and fine leather goods are on display alongside our selected partner brands, catering for English shoots, Safaris and adventurous travellers alike.
Past the gun room, housing clients recent bespoke creations, one takes the stairs to the first floor, home to the gun factory. There a hive of activity takes place where bench-trained gunmakers are in full flow, each at different points of the gunmaking process. Having studied and begun my career in product engineering this was a particular delight for me as many familiar machines, tools and paraphernalia were in attendance. One area of handcraft that really struck me came in the stocking room, where I witnessed some checkering being applied. This I could tell immediately, required such accuracy and dexterity from our makers, as any mistakes would be critical.
Side by side with the gun factory sits our leather department, this is rare amongst our major competitors who often manufacture their leather goods outside of the UK. English made leather is second to none, the country’s traditional skills and styles lend to an extremely high quality product, with endurance, a trait proudly synonymous with the Westley Richards name.
And finally, to the second and uppermost floor. For those dedicated readers amongst you will know, this is The Apartment. A beautifully designed interior space resplendent with Westley Richards ephemera, trophies, literature, photographs, artworks and artefacts. Collected and assembled by Simon Clode during his transformation of the business to what we know today. This remarkable place has such visual, textural and historical appeal even the most esteemed of our clients are stopped in their tracks on entry, and has often delighted them for many an hour on their visits.
In my short time here it is evident that there is an unbelievable depth of heritage and character around the company that must be carefully nurtured, as has been by those many important figures past and present. With this front of mind I, along with the rest of the team, very much look forward positively, distinctively and with great expectation into the bright and exciting future ahead.
On that note, I leave you for now with our recent wordsmithing of the future facing Westley Richards vision that first featured in the inaugural winter retail catalogue – Collections 2020.
“Established upon a heritage of wild adventure, Westley Richards has long been regarded as one of the finest gun and rifle makers the world has ever seen. At the side of generations of audacious huntsmen, we proudly handcraft history’s most beautiful and prized art guns, leather goods and sporting attire, taken on journeys like no other.
Our independent spirit has cultivated an unparalleled culture of innovation, artistry and excellence for well over 200 years, commanding enviable respect from our peers and continuously lionised by true characters of the outdoors.
As the leading light of England’s original Gun Quarter, Westley Richards are honoured to be part of Birmingham’s illustrious past and modern renaissance.”
It is with great excitement that we launch our new town and country travel bag collection, under the moniker, Bournbrook. As you all will be aware the name holds a very special place in the history of Westley Richards and its best gunmaking.
Following the success of our Anson & Deeley Boxlock action, still referenced in modern sporting shotgun and rifles today, Westley Richards upgraded to a purpose built premises in Bournbrook, Birmingham in 1894. Described as an elegant factory, both ‘useful’ and ‘ornamental’ – it was intended to accommodate more rationally the different departments of gunmaking in one place. Designed by local C.E Bateman, a celebrated architect associated with the prevailing Arts and Crafts movement of the era and the Birmingham Guild of Handicraft.
The company remained in Bournbrook for over 110 years until 2008 where a planned move to the city’s historic Gun Quarter gave the opportunity to further house the gun and burgeoning leather factories under a single roof alongside a new flagship retail space.
Leather making is a big part of the future for Westley Richards and unlike our key competitors we make all our leather goods in house side by side with the gun making. The West Midlands has been a centre of leather-making since time immemorial so it is fitting that Westley Richards should have moved into the business. It began with the manufacture of high-quality slips and cases to protect clients’ guns but is now expanding into other areas, offering a wide range of traditionally-tanned and exotic leather goods to adventurous travellers and field sports enthusiasts alike.
The Bournbrook Collection is greatly inspired by both the checkering our master gunsmiths carefully handcraft onto our gun stocking, and key details seen in our traditional gun cases. An ode to the master engraver Paul Lantuch is on display with an exclusive lining design. Each design is available in our signature range of tanned leather, buffalo hide and strong canvas combinations.
A refined 48hr travel bag for those charming weekend breaks away. Whether heading to your favoured shooting lodge or simply a quiet place for some R & R, this smartly designed weekender has all the functionality you require, including secure compartments inside and out and a collapsible shoe section. Comes with a suitcase slip, fountain pen holders, bellows pockets and a deluxe leather adjustable strap.
A soft briefcase created with the commuter in mind, travelling between their fine country home to meetings in town. Thoughtfully designed with secure compartments for laptops, devices and documents. Comes with a suitcase slip, fountain pen holders, bellows pockets and a deluxe leather adjustable strap.
The Bournbrook Wash Bag is your perfect travelling partner. Sports a large open interior with a robust matching handle and a secure external pocket for extra storage.
Prices begin at £265
As Westley Richards moves into 2020 and beyond, the company has exciting plans to establish itself as the foremost manufacturer of the finest English-made leather goods, with the finesse and flair for which they are widely recognized. Walking through its factory today is a great privilege: with centuries of knowledge and experience in their hands, Westley Richards’ master gunmakers and leather artisans are bringing to life their clients’ next most prized possession.