Inside Harrogate's oldest shop as it marks 185 amazing years
Anyone who knows jewellery, knows Fattorini of Harrogate, especially after the shop appeared in BBC TV's Antiques Roadshow earlier in the year in connection with the million pound discovery of the FA Cup.
But how many people know this family-run Harrogate business has a history which precedes by far that of the world’s oldest football tournament.Or that its roots are Italian and stem from the same year Charles Darwin set off on his momentous five-year voyage on the HMS Beagle.It’s that pedigree which was recognised recently with the unveiling of a special brown plaque near its twinkling windows on Parliament Street.First established an incredible 185 years ago by Italian immigrant Antonio Fattorini, the branches of this family business have sprouted far and wide over the last 200 years, as tends to happen with any family.In fact, it was the Bradford shop which was responsible for the FA Cup which ended up on Antiques Roadshow via the manufacturers in Birmingham. Both,however, were part of the Fattorini family.The current head of the Harrogate business Anthony Tindall is proud of the shop’s heritage and delighted by the plaque.He said: “It is a real honour to have the plaque. When we started there were no railways in Harrogate. The town only had 4,000 people. Our history goes all the way back.”Today A. Fattorini is a Rolex agency and sells fine diamond jewellery. Unlike many other businesses of similar longevity, ownership of the Harrogate shop has remained in the hands of direct descendants of the original owner.Speaking in the shop’s swish and spacious upstairs lounge, the relaxed and friendly Anthony said: “In a business there’s good years and bad years, successful eras and bad ones, good kings and bad kings, if you like.“The family’s Bradford spin-off was more famous in its heyday than our Harrogate one but that’s when Bradford was wealthy. “At one point there were more Rolls Royces in the city than anywhere in the world.“The success of a business depends on things like commitment but also on location.”Where we are sitting now was the family’s living quarters until the 1940s, as it had been since 1884 when the Harrogate shop moved from its original ‘temporary’ home at 14 Regent Parade to Parliament Street.The Tindalls’ history first became intertwined with the Fattorinis in the early part of the 20th century via the husband of sister Maria of founder Antonio’s son.When the latter died in 1912, Maria carried on the business with her son John Tindall, Anthony’s great grandfather.Joining the family business has always been a matter of choice, however.Anthony said: “I’m one of five brothers. Three of them chose 30 years ago not to go into the business. My other brother Charles is now partly retired from the business.“I’ve got a grown-up daughter and a son. My son worked here for two of three years but is studying in Vietnam now.“He has said he intends to return. It would be nice if my children did join but only if they wanted to.”Employing ten staff, Fattorini shows no inclination to join the current economic fashion for the easy buckIt changes but it does so with caution and with regard to the traditions that have made it successful for so long.Even the internet has had comparatively little effect on the oldest surviving business in Harrogate.Anthony said: “The internet is very important as a communication tool and for marketing but our products aren’t the sort you tend to buy online.“Customers need the reassurance of meeting someone, talking to someone face-to-face. They want to see and touch what they are about to buy.”Like any family and any business, Fattorini has experienced ups-and-downs.Earlier this year, two men were sentenced to more than 30 years in prison following a Â£1m armed robbery at Fattorini in 2014.The arrival in the shop of four masked intruders wielding axes and machetes must have been a terrifying experience for the staff.When I mention it in passing, Anthony remains as calm as ever but looks slightly uncomfortable, as you would.“The experience touched us all. Our customers were concerned afterwards, as well. But we’ve been making changes for the past five to ten years to bring the shop up-to-date in every way.“We’re an old company with a proud tradition but we learn.”