Exploring 260 Years Of Gatwards In Hitchin, From Watches to Luxury Jewellery


Absolutely Hertfordshire meets Charlotte Gatward, the 9th generation owner of family-run business Gatwards, to discuss evolution, luxury and Hitchin

What can you tell us about what was offered when James Gatward first opened in 1760?

The early Gatwards were originally watch and clock makers and so this is how Gatwards of Hitchin started in 1760.

What have been the biggest changes in the 260 years since then?

The biggest change has been the move towards fine jewellery, which has happened in recent years with ladies at the helm. When Willson Gatward died in 1960, his wife Sylvia took the reins followed by her daughters, Lisa and Anna Gatward, and the emphasis moved away from watches and clocks and into jewellery. 

What does it mean to be the oldest, independent family-run jewellers in the UK?

It is a tremendous honour to be a custodian of this business. I am incredibly proud of our heritage, and I love the history of this building. It is also a joy to be here for the special moments of people’s lives and to serve our loyal customers, many of whom have also shopped here through many generations of their families.

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Charlotte Gatward

Were you always going to be involved in the family business Charlotte?

No, not always. I initially wanted to be a journalist and got a degree in English at Kings College London. I then ended up working in the city specialising in Foreign Exchange so couldn’t have been further from jewellery. The business was always there throughout my life though, and once I had children, I didn’t want to be working in London anymore. I then got involved in my husband’s chiropractic business for a few years, before taking over from my mother and aunt at Gatwards.

Today, what would you say Gatwards is known for?

We are known for high quality items – particularly fine gemstone jewellery. We are also known for “putting the sparkle” into buying jewellery by going out of our way to make the in-store experience special.

What kind of things would we find if visiting your Hitchin boutique?

We have two beautiful Italian gold fine jewellery brands, Fope and Marco Bicego, so as you walk in, you will see stunning necklaces, bracelets and matching earrings from both brands. Our main window is packed full of diamond jewellery, sapphires, rubies, emeralds and then the more unusual gemstones – tsavorites, tourmalines, citrine. Whatever you may be looking for, we are certain to be able to find it – even if it is not currently in-store – we can source it for you. 

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Fope is one luxury brand on show

Why do you love being based in Hitchin?

I was born in Hitchin and lived in the flat above the shop for the first two years of my life and I was married at St Mary’s church in 2012, so the town has a lot of meaning for me. I love the town for its array of independent shops and also the community feel. We are very lucky to have a BID (Business Improvement District), of which I am a Director. I enjoy having an input into how we can improve the town for the various businesses that pay a levy to the BID. Hitchin does really well for putting on lots of community events which makes it a great town to be part of.  

What are your most popular pieces right now?

Well, a diamond solitaire ring will never go out of fashion of course! We are seeing a lot of enquiries for oval shaped diamonds and also yellow gold jewellery is having a revival, so all the Fope and Marco Bicego is very popular as well as diamond pieces set in yellow gold. 

What are the benefits of having a workshop on site?

Having an in-house workshop has been incredibly helpful. We used to send all jewellery repairs to outworkers, but can now offer a full repair service on-site, so our turnaround times are much faster on customer repairs and for estimates. We can also re-size a ring on the same day if a customer really wanted to wear it out of the shop! 

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The Hitchin boutique

What did it mean to you to be recognised in the Family Business Top 100 Awards?

I was shocked and very flattered – I really love what I do so it never feels like work to me. I also see myself as a custodian of this business for the 9th generation and beyond, so I just hope that they get inspired to continue it

How were you involved in the Platinum Silver Jubilee Pageant?

We were asked to be involved in the Platinum Jubilee Pageant as official sponsors. When I took the call, I was quite surprised at first but then realised that we do have quite a lot of synergies with the royal family being a heritage business that has been passed down through many generations, so it seemed like a good fit. We were contributors to a commemorative book that was created for the event and gifted to the royal family as well as various politicians and senior dignitaries and is also available for sale. We then attended the book launch at Claridges and watched the Pageant on the screens there alongside many other family businesses. It was a really special event and we felt very honoured to be involved. 

As we head into 2023, what does the future hold in store for Gatwards?

We are making plans to further improve the in-store experience at Gatwards. We’d like to make some upgrades to our shop floor and office space so that will happen in the first half of the year. We also have some ideas for some really exciting events with some collaborations in the pipeline – I can’t say too much more at the moment, but watch this space! 


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