Celebrating 200 years at Gatwards of Hitchin

As Gatwards jewellers celebrate two and a half centuries of trading, we take a look back at the history of the business...

GATWARDS of Hitchin are celebrating their 250th anniversary this year. The family is now in its 7th generation, but when James Gatward opened his doors for business in 1760, George II was still on the throne, Marie Antoinette still had her head and a child prodigy called Mozart was touring Europe.

The Gatwards were originally watch and clockmakers and it is probably fair to say that for the first 100 years, local time was ‘Gatward time’ as they repaired, maintained and, more importantly, set the time in all the local churches and great houses. Setting out in a pony and trap they would visit, among others, Brocket Hall and St Pauls Walden Bury – perhaps this is how they met the Countess of Strathmore who often used to come into the shop with her daughter, the late Queen Mother, accompanied by her daughters, the then princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. 

Times have changed

Gatwards no longer make the watches and clocks for which they were well-known, but continue the tradition by stocking many fine watch brands such as Omega, Ebel and Longines.

Now in the hands of Anna and Lisa Gatward, the emphasis today is more on fine jewellery and gems, particularly as Anna is a Fellow of the Gemmological Association.

This passion for gems often results in individual one-off pieces, but fine brands such as Diamond by Appointment, Cento, Roberto Coin, Fope and Links of London are also to be found in the beautiful beamed showroom. The directors travel widely to personally select the beautiful and unusual pieces their discerning clientele have come to expect.

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Some things, however, do not change and Gatwards remain committed to the highest standards of service and integrity.

They have been trusted by the people of Hitchin and the surrounding areas for 250 years to supply and care for their precious possessions and it is not unusual for them to welcome second or even third generations of the same family into their historic premises in the Hitchin Market Place dating from the Medieval period.

Qualified and knowledgeable staff take great pride in assisting clients in their choice – matching people to product is almost an art form at Gatwards.

Marking 250 years

Throughout 2010, a number of events and special promotions are taking place, starting with the presentation of a specially commissioned bench to the town and people of Hitchin on May Day, featuring the seven generations.

The unusual, double sided seat was designed by Arcangel, who created the 10th anniversary Princess Diana memorial in Kensington Palace and the Queen Mother memorial in Whitwell.

This was followed by a black-tie dinner in St Mary's Church in July featuring a gourmet dinner by Michelin starred chef, Anton Edelmann, opera excerpts and harp recital. All proceeds to St Mary's Church, The Garden House Hospice and Hitchin Initiative.

The new seat, together with the clock which Gatwards presented to the town to mark the Millennium, will serve as a permanent reminder of the long association between Hitchin and the Gatward family.


Gatwards, 20 Market Place, Hitchin SG5 1DU

01462 434273 www.gatwardsofhitchin.co.uk

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