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.
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.
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.
This month we’re extremely pleased to be on the front cover of Shooting Sportsman, the leading wingshooting and fine guns publication in the US today. Do pick up a copy because inside you’ll find our collaborative article with the legendary Vic Venters, wonderfully discussing the unique bespoke journey and finer points of ordering a new best-quality English gun.
He eloquently takes the reader through seven key areas that each Westley Richards patron will usually experience on their path to receiving their very own prized best gun. From the gun’s purpose, selecting the right gunmaker, the process and relationship, letting the gunmaker lead, heritage & house style, the eventual waiting game, and how handmade delivers a gun of such rare beauty and handle that it is truly one of a kind.
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.”
Hot off the press and looking magnificent is TheExplora journal by Westley Richards. This last week we received the first 10 copies for approval and we all have to say that it surpasses even our demanding standards!
Having taken 2 1/2 years to bring to fruition it was with great excitement, trepidation and relief that we got to handle the first copies fresh in from the printers. This project was a true labor of love for the team here at Westley Richards, so it was finally great to see the fruits of all that hard work.
The front cover features Westley Richards stunning and as yet unseen ‘Forest Rifle’, a magnificent .600 droplock double rifle specially commissioned to reflect the Central African forest environment. Fully carved in exceptional detail with the flora and fauna of the forest floor, the story of this rifle unfolds in the stunning photography The Explora fans have come to expect from Westley Richards.
Other articles, specially commissioned, focus on engraving, gunmaking, historical weapons, shooting and gun fit, topics we hope will be close to the heart of many an avid sporting man and woman.
Presented in a beautifully-designed luxury format with a combination of high quality uncoated and gloss coated paper stock and an outer cover finished with a scratch resistant matt lamination with spot gloss varnish and gold foil embossed logo. The 180-page journal, epitomises the exceptional standards and painstaking attention to detail synonymous with Westley Richards.
With a limited print run of only 1000 copies, never to be re-printed, The Explora journal is set to become a collectors item that no self respecting Westley Richards afficiando should be without.
The first copies to clients will be coming out in the next few weeks so for those of you yet to place your order now is the time!!!!!
To order your copy of The Explora journal click here
Think of a tie and the image of a gentleman in his finest business suit springs to mind. There is something about a perfectly knotted tie that gives you the confidence to take on whatever obstacles the day might throw in your way. In years gone by it would have been unheard of for any self-respecting gentleman whether president or postman to turn up to his place of business without a properly knotted tie around his neck.
Whilst not all of us here at Westley Richards can confess to being daily tie wearers and gone are the days where the gunmakers donned a tie in the undertaking of their duties, we do find ourselves drawn by the idea of wearing a tie on a more frequent basis. Now comes the problem. Whilst there are still a few remaining fine tie makers in England, their focus seems to be on paisley, blocks, stripes and dots, and whilst this is all well and good for the masses it does lack personality and individuality. Those ties that do reflect our hobbies, such as shooting, either appear dated in their motifs or are made poorly from a material that is stretching itself to be called silk!
So here at Westley Richards we set about making the finest ties we could, pulling together designers, manufacturers, printers and a whole raft of clothing to ensure the colours would work for shoot days or office days. First, we commissioned four distinctive designs of Grouse, Pheasant, Partridge and Mallard with the aim that they should be easily recognisable up-close and abstract at a distance.
We then took these designs to one of England’s premier tiemakers who put us in touch with one of the few remaining silk screen printers in England. Printing each design by hand on heavyweight 36 ounce silk and incorporating the W.R & Co. Ltd logo into the design, we selected a broad range of colours to suit (no pun intended!) the tastes of both the city and country man.
Once printed the silk was passed over to the tie maker to undergo the 9 stage process involved in creating a luxury 5 fold tie, a process that is only possible by hand and uses 50% more fabric than a standard tie, giving it a thick luxurious feel, ensuring a perfect knot every time.
The end result is a truly unique series of ties made to the very highest standards here in England. Available in a host of colourways there should be no excuse now turning up in the shooting field, or for that matter the office, without looking the distinguished gentleman!
In February 2018 the British Shooting Show celebrates its 10th Anniversary. The show has come a long way since its inception, and under the guidance of John Allison and Anne Bertrand has grown from being almost a local show into the pre-eminent gun, rifle and shooting show in the UK.
This coming year the show moves to the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham, Westley Richards very own home town. The show promises to be the biggest of its kind in the UK, with prominent manufacturers from the traditional hand built gun market, including Holland and Holland, Boss & Co., Watson Brothers and John Rigby, through to the highly respected Browning, Perazzi, Beretta, Blaser, Mauser and Ceasar Guerini to name but a few.
Access to the show could not be easier with direct links by road, rail and air. Re-locating to the NEC certainly brings a more international accessibility and the show is sure to continue to go from strength to strength. We look forward to seeing you there.
You may have found us a bit quieter than usual of late. Well, that is because we have been hard at work on an exciting new project. After considerable time and effort, we at Westley Richards are proud to announce the launch of our brand new website.
Featuring the finest imagery and design, and industry-leading technology, it showcases the world of Westley Richards like never before. Designed and developed especially for those with a passion for fine guns, hunting, bespoke leather goods and the very best shooting clothing and products, the new site is a reflection of what we do here at Westley Richards in our relentless pursuit of perfection. We hope you enjoy it and we look forward to welcoming you all into our world.
The day’s pass rapidly by and I am very conscious that I have been negligent on keeping the new posts put up here on The Explora, we value your visiting the site and following our story. Please let me reassure you that I have not disappeared and the normal frequency will be resumed now that I am back at the factory, I had a short and I feel, well deserved break away! I am pleased to say that there are some very nice and nicely illustrated subjects coming up shortly.
The Shoot meeting lodge at Vaynor Park
Recently I sent photographer Brett (ByBrett) on a day’s shoot at Vaynor Park, a shoot which has always been one of my favourite days out in the field, a classic English driven bird shoot on the most beautiful estate.
The workshop of Hayden Hill with its belt driven machinery.
Brett has also photographed for me the “Birmingham Trade”, the small workshops in the Birmingham Gun Quarter which are homes to individual craftsmen’s business’s. Nobody is sure how long the Gun Quarter will survive in its current guise as the developers continue to transform Birmingham. Also visited was the remarkably preserved and interesting Birmingham workshop of Hayden Hill. Hayden maintains a full compliment of belt driven machinery which is unique these days and which compliments his family’s quite formidable gunmaking history.
Stocker Keith Haynes keeping a close eye on his work.
It would not have been sensible to not shoot new photographs in our own workshops whilst we were at it, so a fresh new look at the workshops is also coming shortly.
In the new gun department we have some super Bolt action rifles just completed and a pair of .600 NE rifles, the first pair we have made. In the finishing shop we have 3 pairs of 28/.410 guns each set engraved in a different style by engravers Lepinoise, Spode and Silke.
We have been busy also with our used gun department and will shortly be showing our recent acquisitions. These include guns, bolt action and double rifles of our own make as well as those by J. Purdey, Holland & Holland, J. Rigby and Fabbri.
Once again thank you for your patience and my time “off”.