Annika Purdey is a model countrywoman and the first female on the eminent gunmakers board. This scion of the Purdey family is cutting an elegant swathe through the shooting world, discovers Alec Marsh
Annika Purdey is poised by the grand fireplace in the Long Room at Audley House, the headquarters of James Purdey & Sons in Mayfair. She’s having her photograph taken and looking very much at home. As well she might, for on the walls around her are the portraits of her father, grandfather and great-grandfather. In fact, all her direct male ancestors going back to James Purdey the Younger, who took over running the firm in 1858 and built Audley House in the 1880s.
She’s equally comfortable having her picture taken. The half-Swedish scion of Britain’s foremost gunmaking family and journalist is a former model, having been signed up by the modelling agency Storm when she was just 16. As the shutter clicks away, she breaks off to greet me, looking effortlessly elegant in Purdey’s latest collection. “I’m the seventh generation and the first girl to be on the board,” she declares, waving her hand towards the ancestors lining the walls.
A family tradition
Annika joined the board of the company as a non-executive director in April 2021 when her father Richard stepped down after 27 years. “There’s a tradition of having a member of the family on the board but it is a huge privilege. I’m incredibly lucky,” she says, though a surname only gets you so far. “You’ve got to prove yourself. Nobody wants that nepotism hashtag hanging over them. This is why my father insisted that my sister and I went off and got our own careers first. What you have to do if you’re in my situation is get your head down, do your own thing and work hard,” she insists.
While family and raising four children has been at the forefront of Annika’s life, Purdey the firm has invariably been woven in intimately. “I’ve always felt passionate about it, and it has a real connection to me: the room, the house, what we do,” she says. When Annika married businessman Tim Brocklehurst, Audley House shut up shop for the day to host the reception. “All my wedding photographs were taken here,” she reveals. It was also the venue for the children’s christening parties.
Growing up the Purdey way
Sweden played a key part in her own childhood. Annika was born in Lidköping on the vast Lake Vänern, where her parents had a home and spent four months of the year. “It is beautiful. That’s where I spent all my summers as a child and that totally brought out my love of forests and lakes,” she says. And, it goes without saying, there is the love of shooting passed down from her father that is now shared by her own children.
“Shooting is something I grew up with; it’s also something my children have enjoyed. They started beating when they were about four years old; it’s just good wholesome stuff,” she believes. “I was brought up to talk to everybody on a shoot. One shouldn’t just go and be the gun. You should be interested in the topography of the estate; ask the gamekeeper about anything that you want to know.” Annika speaks in admiration of the gamekeeper at Tulchan Estate in the Highlands, who is in his 43rd season. “I can point to a beetle and he can practically tell you its great-great grandmother. He knows everything and he’s fascinating.”
Shooting: the entire experience
Bearing such an iconic name, she must be a good shot? “I’m all right,” Annika says with a smile and typical modesty. She goes on to explain that for her a shoot day is not simply about the shooting, not least because these days she finds herself pulling the trigger less than she used to. “Quite often I’m working, and if not with clients I often have a child with me who would like to shoot, but I don’t mind. I really enjoy the whole experience of a shooting day or weekend,” she says sincerely. “I’m a huge dog person. I love watching them at work. I also enjoy arriving early in the morning and going out in all weathers. We recently had a day at Tulchan and it was extremely cold. There was deep snow. It was stunning.
“The connection you get from spending the whole day outside in the countryside with people is really special,” says Annika. She clearly loves the social side of fieldsports. “You don’t just go away shooting – it’s a whole weekend,” she enthuses. “I love the slightly relaxed evening on the Friday, then shooting all day, and then coming back to the house and having the smarter dinner on the Saturday night. One of my greatest pleasures is shooting with old friends I grew up with in Sussex. There are a few places where I shoot down there that are all very private. It is very special.”
A new passion
A newly rediscovered passion is for fishing. “I fished as a child. Daddy taught me. But I’ve taken it up again at Tulchan on the Spey. I love it and, of course, I’ve been spoiled because I’ve been taught by the lovely gillie at Tulchan,” she laughs.
Looking forward, since her children are Brocklehursts, how does she feel about being the last ‘Purdey’? “I probably will be the last Purdey,” she replies. “But I don’t think of it like that, really. We’re a family and we’re all invested in and passionate about the brand. My children are too. I’m confident in what I like, I know what I want to achieve. I have a good network of people in the industry and I’m determined that this is going to go well, and I’m quite a determined person anyway.” This last comment is delivered with a warm chuckle but you know she means it.
The last Purdey?
“I don’t see it as a pressure at all,” she says. Rather, she follows her father’s advice to “do your best, give your best and have fun along the way”. And that, quite possibly, tells you a lot about Annika Purdey, whose portrait will doubtlessly one day adorn the walls of Audley House’s Long Room, side by side those of who she describes fondly as “the old dudes”. “I would be honoured,” she says. So, I’m sure, would they.
Click here to read how the Purdey Sporter is made in house.