The Stratford-upon-Avon-based jeweller Pragnell has expanded its premises — but they've not had to move to do so. Instead, they've knocked through into the house next door, a home built by a friend of William Shakespeare.
65 years ago, George Pragnell took a bit of a gamble. He was already a successful face in the business, having supplied several items to Queen Mary while running Biggs of Maidenhead. In 1954, he decided to go out on his own and bought a Tudor building in Stratford-upon-Avon to serve as headquarters for his new business — as well as his family home.
The rest, as they say, is history. Pragnell incorporated several other jewellers over the years, not least Philip Antrobus of Bond Street, who made The Queen’s engagement ring and a bracelet she wore on her wedding day. They have also expanded their premises. In 1993, Pragnell knocked through to incorporate number 6, and now they’ve taken over number 7 as well, unveiling an expanded and refurbished Stratford showroom.
‘My grandfather moved his family to live and trade from number 5 Wood Street in 1954,’ explains Charlie Pragnell, who now runs this sixth-generation family firm. ‘My father expanded the shop into number 6 and it was the right time for me to evolve the headquarters of our company further.’
Number 7 is a building with a fascinating history, an original Tudor house in Stratford-upon-Avon’s historic centre that has lived many lives. Built following the town’s great fire in 1594, it started out as a home designed and financed by architect Abraham Sturley, a close friend — by which we mean drinking buddy — of a then-30-year-old William Shakespeare, who was probably writing Romeo and Juliet while his friend was building a new home.
Sturley was clearly well connected. He was granted permission by the court of King James to adorn the ceiling and fireplaces with regal Jacobean patterns used in royal households, features which have been painstakingly preserved to this day. Other hints of the building’s history are seen throughout the décor, from pomegranate motifs — which were used as a symbol of fertility in Romeo and Juliet — to the performing unicorns of the 17th century.
Pragnell haven’t just moved in and got on with it. Instead, they brought in conservation specialists who spent a year renovating and restoring the place using traditional materials and techniques. They’ve saved timber beams and a Tudor walkway, reinstated lime plaster walls and incorporating reclaimed oak wherever possible. This building, which started life as a house before becoming everything from a pub (the Unicorn Inn, which had a theatre within) to a butcher to a baker to an office full of lawyers, is in better condition than ever as the next phase of its history begins.
The expansion increases the size of the Pragnell showroom by over 50 percent, as well as providing extra space for the company’s growing team. The new area holds Pragnell’s roster of prestigious timepieces, allowing more space in the previously-existing showroom for the firm’s extensive collection of modern and antique fine jewellery.
Pragnell worked with British interior designer Jo Plant who specialises in sympathetic restorations of period properties to update and modernise the showroom. New lighting, carpet, furniture, fixtures and fittings work in harmony with the 16th century surroundings. There is hand-painted wallpaper; lamps and mirrors to give an intimate, homely feel; and new furniture that makes the place feel modern and elegant while still complementing the Tudor building. The showroom’s exterior has also been restored and updated with the addition of new window displays.
There’s one other completely new feature — a private room. This is a place where clients can try on one-of-a-kind masterpieces or discuss a bespoke commission away from the main showroom floor. It’ll also serve as an entertaining space: a professional kitchen has been fitted behind the scenes, allowing the company to host private dinners for clients and VIPs in the showroom amongst one of the finest antique silver collections in the country.
The expansion of the Stratford-upon-Avon showroom comes 18 months after Pragnell opened its first central London boutique on Mount Street, Mayfair. The Mount Street boutique was designed to bring a sense of the brand’s history to Mayfair, while the new-look Stratford-upon-Avon showroom is representative of Pragnell’s status today as an international jewellery house.
‘The expansion of our Stratford-upon-Avon showroom is a hugely exciting step in the history of Pragnell,’ adds Charlie Pragnell.
‘It improves the experience for our customers and makes our Stratford-upon-Avon showroom an even more attractive destination for those seeking the most diverse selection of fine jewellery and watches in Great Britain.’
Find out more about Pragnell at www.pragnell.co.uk or call +44 (0) 1789 267 072.