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Celebrating Female Leadership this Women's Day

Celebrating Female Leadership this Women's Day

Published by Charlotte Gatward on 7th Mar 2024

This International Women’s Day, we wanted to recognise the women who have led Gatwards of Hitchin over its recent history.

Gatwards Established in 1760

Gatwards was established in 1760 by James Gatward, a watch and clockmaker by trade who opened the shop in Hitchin when George II was still on the throne. From this point, the business was traditionally passed down to the eldest son of the family.

James Gatward’s son, Benjamin Gatward had an astonishing 17 children, 4 of whom followed him into watch and clockmaking with his eldest son, John who took over the Hitchin business as the 3rd generation.

Sylvia Gatward takes the reigns

It was not until 6th generation Gatward, Willson tragically passed away from an illness aged just 59 that ladies then took the helm. Willson left behind his wife Sylvia Gatward and two daughters, Anna and Lisa who were still at school at the time of his passing.

Sylvia, now a single mother, took over the business as chairman until her eldest daughter Anna, was old enough to take her place. When she finished school, Lisa then had a 2 year stint working on the QE2 cruise ship before she joined her sister running the business.

7th Generation, Anna and Lisa at the helm

With ladies then at the helm, the business then moved away from watches and clocks and the focus was much more on fine jewellery. Anna Gatward became fascinated with the world of gemmology and took her FGA, (Fellowship of the Gemmological Association) passing it with distinction. Lisa also became passionate about fine jewellery and became interested in pearls and studied for her JET1 (Jewellery Education Training)

Gatwards joined the Jewellers of Excellence group and at this stage, the business took on a number of well known jewellery brands including Italian brand, Fope, luxury brand Faberge as well as the fashionista’s favourites, Steven Webster and Shaun Leane.

The 8th Generation

Lisa had 2 children in the late 70s, Charlotte and Ben. From a young age, Charlotte too became fascinated with the world of fine jewellery and gemstones. She often recounts fond memories of sitting with her mother, Auntie and Grandmother in the back office during the school holidays as they met with suppliers in the shop. She looked on in awe at all the sparkling diamonds and coloured gemstones. Ben on the other hand became an accomplished actor and pursued a career in acting and then broadcast journalism.

Charlotte Helping out as a school girl

When she was old enough, Charlotte often helped the team at the shop during the busy Christmas trading period with the gift wrapping and her interest was nurtured by both her mother and Auntie.

Charlotte decided to pursue her own career and moved to London to go to university and remained there for 16 years working in the financial world. It was in London that she met her husband Paul and then moved locally when her 2 children, Charlie and Henry arrived. It was 2018 when she decided to take her mother’s place in the business following her retirement and a celebration was held in the Market Square at the time that Gatwards sponsored the first “Hitchin Beach”

8th Generation Charlotte takes the reigns

Charlotte worked under the guidance of her Aunt learning the ropes for a couple of years before the pandemic struck in 2020 and the shop had to close for the first time in its long history. Both Anna and the Managing Director at the time, Jim retired from the business at this stage and Charlotte then steered it through the 3 lockdowns that ensued with the assistance of the Gatwards team.

The online presence then grew, Gatwards was featured a number of times on the BBC and a new workshop was built above the showroom to bring all the repair and re-modelling work on site. Gatwards adapted to the fast changes that happened in retail at the time and gained recognition by winning a number of awards.

Gatwards today

Today, Gatwards is run predominantly by women. Charlotte is now the Managing Director of the business. The day to day running of the shop is looked after by store manager, Kathy who has worked in the jewellery industry for more than 20 years. Many of our female team are also highly qualified with Lizzie who has the FGA and has also worked in the business for more than 20 years and both Carla and Hannah both have their JET1 qualifications.

Under female leadership and guidance, the business continues to go from strength to strength.

Gatwards has long been renowned for its specialism in fine quality jewellery and the focus on excellent customer service with that personal touch. This has come down through the generations from the passion of the team and their commitment to continual learning in an ever-changing industry.

This International Women’s Day, we’d like to cheer all the women leading small businesses throughout the country.