Mother’s Day is really special at Gatwards because there’s a long line of them (Mums that is). All with a special place in the business.
Gatwards of Hitchin - A family business
As a family business now in its 8th generation there are lots of Gatward Mums to thank for enabling Gatwards to stay in the same family for over 260 years.
Up until the 7th generation, the business was always handed down to the eldest son, and so women did not come to the fore until after 6th generation. But of course, there were Mums in the background helping to nurture and encourage the future generations of Gatward leaders.
6th Generation Willson Gatward and his exasperated mother
6th generation Gatward Willson was one of 6 children who all lived in the flat above the shop in 20 Market Place. The flat is a rabbit warren of many rooms and cubby holes.
Willson was an energetic and curious child who would often wander off exploring all the nooks and crannies much to the frustration of his mother. Exasperated with his frequent disappearing acts, she once resorted to tethering his leg to the kitchen table to stop him from wandering off! Parenting styles were clearly a little different in the early 20th century.
Willson's Wife Sylvia - Mother of 7th Generation Lisa and Anna
Willson and his wife Sylvia had 2 children, Anna and Lisa Gatward. They had a happy childhood living just outside Hitchin and going to school in Letchworth. Sylvia had a love of clothes and loved to dress her daughters up in matching outfits. Lisa recalls hating some of the outfits and being the youngest daughter, having to wear the hand-me-downs from Anna when she had grown out of them.
Sylvia also loved tennis and when Anna and Lisa were encouraged to participate in athletics at school, she wrote a letter stating that she had “no wish to have a daughter who can run further, faster or jump higher than anyone else and would like them to play tennis” .This is quite ironic as Lisa’s daughter Charlotte later went on to be a keen runner competing in several marathons and triathlons.
Sylvia becomes a single mother after Willson's passing
Willson sadly became unwell and passed away after numerous operations and several months in hospital in 1960. His daughters Anna Gatward and Lisa Gatward were just 16 and 12 at the time and Sylvia suddenly became a single mother. Through a difficult time, she took the reins of the business assisted by Willson’s store manager, Ray Edwards and they kept the business going until Anna was ready to step in. She became fascinated with the world of gemstones and started studying for her industry qualification – the Fellowship of the Gemmoloigcal Association.
At the age of 12, Lisa still had several years of school ahead of her but inspired by a family cruise to South Africa. Her love of travel was born. This led her to pursue a career as an officer on the QE2 where she met her husband, Graham.
Following their marriage, they came ashore. Graham became an art dealer and set up his gallery above the shop and they had two children, Benjamin and Charlotte. Lisa then took her place alongside her sister in the family business and history repeated itself as they lived in the flat above the shop when Ben and Charlotte were just babies.
Lisa remembers setting up a baby monitor in the office behind the shop so that she could still work whilst the babies were sleeping. A balancing act that many mothers of today can relate to. She somehow got by with both babies in cloth nappies and none of the washing and drying machines that we all take for granted today.
Ladies at the helm and the emphasis moved to jewellery
With Anna, Lisa and their mother Sylvia running the business, the emphasis shifted from watches and clocks to fine jewellery and Gatwards is now known for selling fine diamonds, gemstones and beautiful gold and silver jewellery.
As Ben and Charlotte grew older, the family moved out of the flat above the shop to a house of their own. Often juggling childcare with working in the business, Lisa would bring Charlotte with her to the shop during the school holidays whilst Ben would help Graham in his art business helping with the picture framing. Charlotte developed an interest in the jewellery shop and would often sit with her grandmother Sylvia, her mother Lisa and her Aunt Anna when the suppliers would come in to showcase their ranges and would marvel at the beautiful jewellery on display.
She also helped out with the gift wrapping at the shop in the run up to Christmas and would earn herself some pocket money here and there.
The 8th Generation
Ben and Charlotte were always encouraged by their mother to pursue their own interests and they both went to university in York and London respectively. They then started careers of their own in London with Charlotte working in the financial world and Ben as a sub-titler for Television.
Charlotte met her husband, Paul through a love of athletics (despite her grandmother’s views) at a running club in London and they were married in St Mary’s Church in Hitchin in 2012 and then moved to Hertfordshire together in 2014. Their first son Charlie came along in 2015 and when she returned to work, Charlotte found that having a young baby made commuting and working in the City very challenging. She left the financial world to be able to enjoy a more balanced family life and joined Paul running his Chiropractic practice. Another son Henry then followed in 2017 and in the Spring of 2018, with plenty of business experience behind her, Charlotte was ready to join the family business.
Like her mother before her, Charlotte juggles caring for her two young boys and working in the business as well as still helping Paul with the Chiropractic practice. Charlotte’s mother Lisa helps wherever she can and somehow it all fits together even through a global pandemic!
History repeated itself again as Paul and Charlotte opened a new Chiropractic practice in Hitchin during the 2nd lockdown to be closer to the family jewellers. (just as Charlotte’s father set up his art business in Hitchin all those years before).
Charlotte then converted what was her father’s gallery to a workshop where we now have a jeweller and a designer and carry out on-site repairs as well as the bespoke design and remodelling of jewellery.
The 9th Generation
Ben and his wife Jessica had a daughter, Elizabeth in 2019 and so along with Charlotte and Paul’s 2 sons, there are 3 members of the 9th generation who may well become future leaders at Gatwards.
Until that time comes, we raise a glass to all the Mums over the years who have worked either behind the scenes or in the forefront of the business to help shape Gatwards of Hitchin into the jewellers it is today.