Report from James Purdey & Sons, and Holland & Holland Stores (London)

bellemastiff

New Member
Thanks again to all the forum members here, both for giving me a huge amount of reading material as I lurked over the past year, as well as direct advice in my original thread... it's led to the steady, methodical improvement in my wardrobe and daily appearance.

Which definitely came in handy, on my recent trip to London with the wife. People in London dress pretty good! I stuck to my "uniform" of: Levi's 505's, white OBDC's from BB, brown jeans belt from orvis, and 'dress boots' from AE ( Bayfield ). Along with either my Anderson-Little blue travel blazer -or- patagucci brown coat (it got pretty cold some days). As an aside, would REALLY recommend the AE Bayfield as a "travel dress boot" to cold weather cities... it can handle 5 miles of walking in a day (through puddles and snow) and still pass as a 'dress shoe' whenever you get to your destination. Seriously, I walked probably 15 miles in 3 days in the Bayfields, and got no blisters. Anyways, admittedly I wasn't 'dressed up' by London standards, but I never felt out of place or underdressed (we avoided truly '5 star' restaurants etc.)

Anyway the point of the trip was to get fitted for a new gun from each of Purdey and H&H. I can hardly believe I am typing that!--having recently sold a minority of the business I started two years ago, the two guns were the major 'treats' I was rewarding myself with... of course justified to the wife as "hard asset investments" as ol' Ben keeps the printing presses running... english guns holding their 'real' value well over a period of time. And for the record, I still need to "pinch" myself as I recall getting fitted for a London best gun on the trip... I am not a 'silver spoon' type of guy! Alright enough of the context and backstory, and on to the store reviews....

James Purdey & Sons

I went to this store first and didn't have too much time to browse as I had to make an appointment an hour after their opening time. I did have time to pick out a wool sport coat in the Purdey house tweed... which I thought was a great value at $600 (on sale). I understand that isn't "cheap" but from what I understand the quality of the Purdey items is very good (and it sure feels it). I do know some forum members have expressed that there is a Purdey pricing "premium" for their clothes, and I'm sure this is true, however I felt the sale mark-down more than erased the premium. Besides, if you're really into shooting (and maybe I'm revealing myself as a dork here), wearing the official Purdey tweed is just FUN. Not in a show off way, because 9999 out of 1000 folks (even shooters) won't recognize it, but because *you'll* know, and every time I look at it or wear it, I'll remember a fun day in my life!

The wife was also able to find a tweed sport coat with a very flattering cut, for $300usd (again on sale). Every item I came across that had a label was made in Scotland, Ireland or England. The (traditional shooting) socks were thick, beautiful wool, and fabrics used in all their other clothing, usually wool or sometimes cashmere, always felt very sensuous and just breathed "quality". Every clothing item I saw here appeared to my eye to be 'timeless' in its cut and style, so that I think it might be hard to differentiate the era / year of manufacture for any of their items, aside from wear and tear, over time. To me that's awesome. I.e., I didn't see any "fashion" items with non-traditional cuts (though I'm not an expert about this stuff).

The store was laid out beautifully, only 3 small-ish rooms (one of which was a gun room)... small and cozy.

Overall, I can't disagree that EVERYTHING , not just the guns, at Purdey's has a premium price where you pay some for the name... but from what I could tell nearly everything was the highest quality possible. At least if you pay a huge price premium, you don't pay the double tax of also getting an inferior quality item (like you might with a "fashion" brand). Reminds me of Hermes in that sense, which has a huge pricing premium but inarguably high quality manufacture and materials. Whether the premium is worth it, is a personal choice. For a shotgun nerd like me who reads Shooting Sportsman cover to cover in the first few days when it arrives, I don't think I'd be able to resist getting some sort of small item from Purdey's, regardless of my current disposable income situation, any time I'd be in London. If you're not into guns or the whole 'english country' thing, it's probably not going to seem like a good value to price ratio for you.

Holland & Holland

Holland & Holland had a physically larger store than Purdey, with a few more rooms, some of which were larger, as I remember. There were some great taxonomy style displays, as well as a mix of feels / decor that straddled the line between "english country" AND "old school safari". I recall a few of the clothing items were also geared towards warm weather safari type outfitting, which is a legitimate niche for Holland & Holland as they have more of a big game / elephant hunting / double rifle thing going, than does Purdey or the other london gunmakers.

The gent I talked with in the H&H gun room, did acknowledge that H&H got too "fashiony" for a while in the past few years (having been bought by Chanel who ostensibly tried to leverage the H&H brand to more profitable sales demographics)... they did seem to learn their lesson and, to the same degree as Purdey's, I saw mostly traditionally cut, high quality items here, rather than 'fashion' clothes.

H&H prices seemed a bit higher than those at Purdey's. Though, I should note the items we purchased from Purdey's were on sale, and also, I only checked prices on a few items at both stores so this impression may be inaccurate as it's anecdotal. But the tweed jacket my wife liked at H&H, cost roughly $1000 USD which seemed very steep even if it was very high quality! (especially compared to the one we got at Purdey's and its price.)

Overall the quality of the fabrics was excellent... beautiful wools and tweeds, and I especially enjoyed the display of shootings socks, which really showed the contrasting bright colors in a fun way. I did ask a clerk if they offered any "normal" socks rather than just the traditional full height shooting socks (worn with flashes), and he said they didn't (at that time), which was disappointing... I definitely would have bought some if they had offered them, due to the thickness, feel, and vibrant color of their wool.

The whole experience and sight of it makes me jealous of our English shooting counterparts who get to wear fun and traditional outfits when shooting... whereas the dress here in the states (with a few exceptions) tends to be limited to synthetic materials and the 3 most popular colors: camo, camo and, more camo! We did leave the H&H store without making a purchase, but not because I didn't like any items there, more because I didn't see anything I 'had to have'.

Overall

I enjoyed both stores and would recommend a visit to each if you're into shooting, hunting, or english country dress / lifestyle. If you could care less about shooting or hunting, I'd still recommend both of them if you find yourself in London and are looking for a tweed coat or any clothing item made out of thick wool. Of course, I am biased towards liking both, so if the brand "premium" annoys you or the idea of buying any clothing from a gunmaker turns you off, both shops are probably best avoided.
 

DukeGrad

Super Member
My friend
The Purdey coat goes for 1200 at BSA British sportin guns above NYC. You did well They are made by schoffel in Germany and England. Their retail is about 800 bucks . Schoeffel has a high appeal in England Europe.Holland and Holland charge a lot more . I have no idea who dies their tweed but it is either Laksen or Chrysalis. They have loden coat which reeks Rascher. Another German maker that does very nice coats . Congrats on your guns did you get to Wesley Richards!! Nice day Again those 2 places will be true British An establishment like my Hardy bamboo rods and reels Nice day enjoyed this those places are very nice And your guns a better investment than gold bars!! Enjoy
 

Andy

Site Creator/ Administrator
Staff member
bellemastiff:

Hope you got down Mount Street after Purdey to have a drink at the Audley and dinner at Scott's!

But wearing Levi's on a trip to England!!! I never wear jeans when I'm traveling (actually I never wear jeans in public)!
 

bellemastiff

New Member
Andy -- sorry I wore the Levi's.

All I can say in my defense is, had I made the same trip 5 years ago, it probably would have been in tennis shoes, Gap jeans, and possibly tee shirts... I am fond of the saying "the perfect is the enemy of the good".

I didn't make it to the Audley but we DID have our last dinner of the trip at Scott's -- luckily our last day there was a Sunday, and so a reservation could be had (whereas it couldn't on a Thu or Fri night). All I can say is: WOW! Probably in the top 3 most expensive dinners I have ever had, and worth every penny...

While we're at it, along with Scott's, I'd recommend any forum members who are in London, check out the martini bar at Dukes Hotel. Apparently their martinis were the inspiration for those in the James Bond books. It's very small, cozy, and fun. They have their own special house vermouth, and they keep the gin and vodka for the martinis in a freezer set to 20 below celcius or something like that... insanely good martini's! (be warned, insane goodness comes at the price of nearly 20 euro per martini!)

DukeGrad -- wow, thanks for that info. If these jackets cost that much at BSA in NY, sounds like I made out like a bandit. The savings even covered our dinner at Scott's!
 

Oldsarge

Moderator and Bon Vivant
As one whose only London Best is a 1909 Jeffery SLE I am jealous, jealous, jealous. Damn, a Purdy and an H&H. You really ought to have looked into countryside real estate while you were at it. Something around five hundred hectares should suffice . . .
 

DukeGrad

Super Member
My friend

Next time you need to visit Wesley Richards as well. Wesley is a bit more costly than Holland and Holland, but has a very nice outdoor gear shop.
He carries Schoeffel/Laksen/Chrysalis.
Wesley Richards is a bespoke gunmaker, loved as well as your Purdey maker.

Also, my God you need to get to Farlows. Farlows years ago, made fly reels. 1920ish they became famous from an old Hardy reel maker. Dingley. Dingley became as famous as Hardy that period.
Any old farlows reel was made by Dingley.

Farlows has become become, much bigger than Orvis. They carry all outdoor gear/hunting/fishing.
Farlows is probably the one place where you will find all coats, blazers/boots/ and hunting/fishing gear.Again, Schoeffel/Laksen/Chrysalis/Dubarry (makes a nice tweed coat).
After they got out of fly reels, they became a very big outdoor company.
Peek at Wesley Richards.

OK
God love that place

Jimmy
 

Andy

Site Creator/ Administrator
Staff member
bellemastif:

You're forgiven! :icon_smile: And thanks for the Duke's Hotel martini tip! - next time.

Yes Scott's is expensive, but as you said, worth it. Their gin and tonics are good there too.
 

DukeGrad

Super Member
Drinking tips you wanted!

Thought this was a clothing forum.
Next time, I know all the drinking places to go to!

Sorry bout that, let me know

Nice day gentlemen
 

bellemastiff

New Member
Thanks for the tip on Wesley Richards... will have to check that out next time!

Did you think of getting a pair from one of the makers ??

I respect the "cool" factor of getting a pair, but didn't go that route for two reasons.

1. These are my first english guns, and I would have had a hard time choosing which of the two makers to get the pair from. Getting one from each allowed me to experience the process of both and decide which I like better, based on personal experience (or, decide that I appreciate both, but for slightly different reasons).

I suppose currently I'd have to give Purdey the slight nod right now, based on wood alone... they only have a single grade of wood (rather than 3 tiers, for which you have to pay to upgrade, at H&H)... and I was able to choose a wood blank by looking in person (which emailed pictures, is no substitute for!)

2. Second reason I didn't go for the pair, is because I'm a yank, not a brit. As we don't hunt shooting at high driven birds with a chap reloading/holding our second gun as we shoot, getting a pair doesn't strike me as very practical (although it is definitely cool).

Also, since I ordered the "under grade" gun from purdey's (the new O/U which is more machine produced and which has some of its manufacture done in Italy), I was able to purchase both guns for a total cost of much less than what a pair would cost (And in addition I think the pairs have a premium even above the 'times two' for two guns, as they have to match wood, engraving etc)... in 30 years I may have to go back for a true 'best' purdey and next time it will be a hammer gun (the new ones they're making are breathtaking)
 

Oldsarge

Moderator and Bon Vivant
They are that! IMO, all hammerguns are aesthetically superior to any hammerless . . . except for triggerplate actions. I know that this may be considered heresy by some but if what you want is a superior gun, rather than a more prestigious name, stay out of London. The best double guns in the world today are made in Scotland by David McKay Brown.

DavidMcKayBrownSxS.jpg
I have held and swung them. They are matchless.
 

DukeGrad

Super Member
OLD Sarge

I concur. There is an old article by Chuck Hawkes?? regarding David Macay Brown.

In Birmingham Wesley Richards does one of the best as well as William Powell.
Wesley is equal to Purdey and Holland and Holland.The firm is probably the oldest in England.
The article was about the development of these guns in Scotland.
A lot of information about David Brown.
They all make a beautiful gun.
A different attitude in Europe than in the states.!
And the love of making a fine gun, first of all.The best.
A different forum!

Nice day my friends
 

KenCPollock

Active Member with Corp. Privileges
Similiar experiences. Last November we did walk down Mount Street, had a drink at the Audley and dinner at Scott's. Although I am not a martini drinker, I am already booked for 5 nights at the Dukes for our next trip. We prefer staying in St. James (having already tried the Ritz, Sofitel [twice] and The St. James there).
No experience with Holland & Holland or Purdey, but my experience with moderately priced OTR sport jackets at Cordings, H&H, etc. is that they are heavily fused and quite stiff. I will stick with my soft and comfortable old Norman Hiltons.
It would be difficult for me to wear jeans in London, because I do not own any.
 
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well-kept

Super Member
I am at this moment wearing a pair of Holland and Holland boots. They are re-badged Edward Green Galways in almond calf. I won't wear them to hunt for anything but antiques and old first editions, but they are extremely fine in every way.
 
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