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    WORDS AND PICTURES BY JOHN FERGUSON Traditional and long-established Gunsmiths brothers based in the small town of Halesworth, Suffolk which is i… Read More
    WORDS AND PICTURES BY JOHN FERGUSON Traditional and long-established Gunsmiths brothers based in the small town of Halesworth, Suffolk which is in the Eastern region of the UK. The brothers where born and have worked in the same shop all their lives. Read Less
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WORDS AND PICTURES BY JOHN FERGUSON
You could easily mistake the nondescript shop front in Halesworth for some modern day curiosity shop. Instead, the faded cream exterior of the small business hides an Aladdin’s cave for Suffolk’s shooting fraternity. A Richardson & Sons have traded as gunsmiths on the site for over 72 years. The shop, bought in 1945 by Alan Richardson, is now run by his two sons, Leon, 70, and Vere, 68, who was born in the small upstairs bedroom. They have survived the many commercial pressures that have seen countless other businesses in the town die or move on.

 
First impressions are that it all seems a bit chaotic and disorganised, but the brothers wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s organised chaos,” says Vere, “but I know where everything is in the shop.” Even though he has a little trouble locating his small hacksaw, pushing through a pile of tools on the workbench.
 
The shop has undoubtedly benefited from their good old-fashioned sales approach. Customers come from all over Suffolk and the neighbouring counties to have their guns serviced, as well as buy ammunition, clothing and also benefit from some free advice, all served up with a smile and a few jokes thrown in. 
 
Leon and Vere learned to shoot in their teens.“I’m fascinated by the whole process,” says Vere. “How the shotguns are put together, and how they work.” He holds up a block of wood. “You can see how these guns start life, from this block of hardwood to the beautifully finished article. But we’re gunsmiths, not gunmakers, which confuses a lot of people. We don’t specialise in any one section of the gunsmith craft, but do all the various jobs connected to guns, whether in wood or metal.” The brothers are now officially retired. “But we love what we do,” says Leon. “I’ve seen what happens to people who retire, if they have nothing to do after working all their lives. We don’t want that, so we keep working. We do this for the love of our profession – it’s definitely not for the money!
 
Regular customer Ben Witneshaw, owner of three different shotguns, bears witness to this. “It's a wonder how the shop has survived for so many years. They just don’t charge enough,” he says with a wry smile. “We’ve even told them to charge more, and I’ve even offered to pay a little more for the servicing of my guns. That’s why I and all the other regulars just keep coming back – the service, the hospitality and the friendliness. Sometimes I come in even when I don’t need anything and I live over 20 miles away.”