In the next part of our series about Royal Warrant holders, we take a look at the gun maker of Kings – James Purdey & Sons. Also known simply as Purdey, James Purdey & Sons specialises in high-quality guns, rifles and other shooting equipment, as has been a favourite of the Royal Family since the reign of Queen Victoria.
The company was founded by James Purdey, whose passion for gun making developed at the tender age of 14, when he started an apprenticeship with gun maker Thomas Keck Hutchinson, who was married to his sister. Following that, he worked for Joseph Manton of Oxford Street, one of the most prominent gun makers at the time. Purdey proved to be both talented and ambitious, and having mastered the gun making skills under Manton, he set off to start his own business.
In 1814, Purdey first opened its doors for business. The company thrived, and within ten years James Purdey was hailed as the finest gun maker in London. However, it wasn’t until 1838 that Purdey began its famous association with royalty. That year, Queen Victoria ordered a pair of double barreled-pistols to present to the Imam of Muscat. It was the first time that a member of the Royal Family had commissioned something from Purdey – and it would prove to be far from the last.
The founder’s son, James Purdey the Younger, took over the business from his father in 1858. A decade later, on February 12, 1868, the company received its first Royal Warrant from the Prince of Wales, who would go on to become King Edward VII. On March 28, 1878, four decades after she commissioned that first pair of pistols, Queen Victoria finally granted a Royal Warrant to James Purdey & Sons.
Shooting has been a major part of the royals’ lives for centuries. Both King Edward VII and King George V were keen hunters, taking down a number of animals while on safari in India, Nepal and Africa. While Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VIII also occasionally embarked on hunting expeditions.
Although those instances were before 1941, when big game hunting was not against the law, the Royal Family continues to shoot pheasants and other game birds. The Prince of Wales hosts annual November shooting parties at Sandringham House, and no stay at Balmoral would be complete without an invitation to partake in a spot of shooting. A number of senior royals, including the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry and the Earl of Wessex have also been pictured carrying rifles supplied by James Purdey & Sons.
Every British monarch since Queen Victoria has granted a Royal Warrant to James Purdey & Sons. The company currently holds warrants from The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh and The Prince of Wales, to whom they supply guns and cartridges.
James Purdey & Sons is presently housed in Audley House, a specially built property on the corner of South Audley Street and Mount Street. The company’s chairman, Richard Purdey, is the great-grandson of James Purdey the Younger, ensuring that the supplication of shooting equipment to the Royal Family is kept within the family.