While you may be familiar with the Purdey HQ at Audley House, Mayfair – home to the boutique and some of the most important historical pieces in the Purdey legacy – the factory in Hammersmith represents another side of the company entirely. Here, you can’t help but be immersed in the modern day action, observing the bespoke creation of each and every Purdey gun.
Reporting exclusively for The Purdey Post, I was lucky enough to be invited behind the scenes at the factory – a privilege usually reserved for Purdey gun owners. Formerly an old slaughterhouse, the building was completely redesigned by architects Nash Partnership in 2015, and is now a technically advanced hub of innovation. With an elegant brick-clad steel frame, light-filled interiors that are ideally suited to the craft, and a purpose-built underground test facility, its subtle presence among the picturesque, largely residential enclave of west London is a feat of design in itself.
And so, to the guns. To create a Purdey from scratch takes up to 18 months, depending on the model. Each is a bespoke build, carried-out here at the factory, where the skilled artisans and engineers combine the best of traditional methods with the latest in precision machinery to ensure that every gun meets the exacting Purdey standards. Meeting the team really underlines their passion and dedication to this process – they’re driven by refinement, attention to detail and ultimately, creating the perfect Purdey.
Let’s take a tour…
We begin on the first floor, in the CAD room, where computer software has brought a 200-year-old design process bang into the 21st century. The designers spend their time testing and tweaking the finest of details; anything new remains a closely guarded secret. If a refinement passes the test in its digital format, it’s then created as a 3D model and once proven, is incorporated on the factory floor. This not only improves the consistency and tolerance of the guns, but it saves hours of valuable manufacturing time.
Next, to the machine shop on the middle floor. Software plays its part here, too: digital drawings are engineered for the machines, further refining and problem solving, improving speed and consistency across the board. The machining itself takes place in the most boutique of engine rooms and involves a good amount of time, close monitoring and corrosive substances, before the shiny new parts are ready to make their way back upstairs to the workshop benches.
Here, hand tools reign supreme. From the barrel making, incorporating particular metals that allow for subtle flexibility; to the stocking, where the root ball of Turkish wood is favoured for its density, quality and grain; to the actioning, ejector work and engraving – each element involves hundreds of hours, with a skilled craftsperson at the helm.
The best of the best
Many of the team have graduated to their stations following the Purdey apprenticeship programme, and a select few have been here for decades; those that leave often return, citing Purdey as “the best in the business by a long way”. The collective wisdom imparted as we move from bench to bench is fascinating – I even try my hand at chequering, though it’s highly unlikely my efforts will make it to a finished gun any time soon.
For those whose interest is driven by the shooting itself, the fun part lies in the basement, where the rifles are taken to be tested in the neat, soundproofed shooting range. Meanwhile, shotguns usually get their first outing for testing purposes at the Purdey Shooting School in Royal Berkshire, where there’s a little more room to assess their movement in the open air.
The inspection room at the factory is where each gun is readied for its owner. Cabinets line the walls, holding various prototypes under lock and key, as well as those that have made their way back here to be serviced – ideally at least once a year. At the time of visiting the shooting season has just ended, so the books are looking particularly busy (take this as your prompt to get on the list).
Given the chance, a tour of the factory will take your appreciation of Purdey craftsmanship to the next level. It’s where the real magic happens, as heritage and innovation drive each other forward to make Purdey what it is today, and lay the groundwork for the future.