'The talented businessman and entrepreneur who took his taste for adventure and used it to turn a 200 year old business into a globally recognised icon.'
It takes a certain lightness of touch and nimbleness of mind to turn an arcane 200 year old business into a global adventure and hunting outfitter that is known across the world. That Simon Clode achieved this is testament to the man who harnessed his own sense of adventure and used it to build a business that was a first port of call for those whose sporting passions took them to the wildest places.
Simon, who passed away in December after a courageous scrap with cancer, is an enormous loss to the world of best English gunmaking, and a huge loss to his many friends and customers who will miss his dry sense of humour and his interrogating nature. On first meeting, Simon could be brusque in the extreme. In the early 1990s, one English magazine editor asked him for an interview about Westley Richards and the company’s plans for the future only to be told, rather directly, that Simon didn’t think the readership of that particular ‘rag’ was the sort who would appreciate what Westley Richards did. Despite this, years later that editor came to count Simon as a friend and agreed that his appraisal of the qualities of the magazine he edited were pretty accurate even if they weren’t appreciated at the time. Simon knew what was right for his business.
Brought up in Worcestershire, Simon trained in California as a commercial diver in the oil industry, spending time risking his neck in Africa, Saudi Arabia, and the Caribbean. Westley Richards was, at that time, owned by his father Walter Clode, and it is difficult to know whether the young Simon’s sense of adventure came from his association with the business that had built heavy rifles for Sutherland, Ernest Hemingway and Stewart Granger amongst others, or found its source somewhere else.
In 1987 Walter turned 60 and was eyeing retirement. As Simon recalls in the book Westley Richards, in Pursuit of the best gun: “He (Walter) unexpectedly asked us if we would like to join the company; so I did.
“I was then being paid very well in the oil industry but diving is a young man’s job and quite dangerous. I had a young family and these jobs could take you away for months at a time. I joined the company in August 1987. The oil business taught me how to work hard and I was ready for a new challenge.”
After joining the business, Simon realised that if Westley Richards was to remain as a going concern, he had to arrest the loss of skills across the best gunmaking industry and begin rebuilding the momentum of the sector.
“My Father had kept the company going via his dealings with India, and one cannot underestimate how difficult the 1960s, 70s and early 80s were for gunmaking in Britain with inflation and other factors. The market for the antique guns from India had been very important for us, but I knew it couldn’t go on forever.”
The way forward for the business seemed obvious to Simon – Westley Richards would again focus on making the very best guns and rifles, by using the skills available not only with the in house gunmaking team, but harnessing resource from sister company Westley Engineering. The latter specialised in precision components for the automotive and aerospace industries.
Beginning with a dozen .410 detachable lock shotguns –the design that made Westley’s name – Simon discovered that the appetite for new Westley Richards sporting guns was as strong as ever. The first .410 guns quickly sold out and the company introduced other gauges to the line-up, followed by more of the famous models through which Westley Richards had built its reputation. In 1995 the company reintroduced the new model Anson & Deeley double rifle and in 2004 the famous Ovundo over and under shotgun was brought to an appreciative market. So successful was this strategy that Westley Richards can today legitimately claim to have the widest portfolio of sporting guns and rifles of any bespoke maker. Production is now a 50/50 balance of sporting shotguns and rifles, built to best quality only but with varying levels of engraving and ornamentation.
But Simon didn’t just rebuild the gunmaking side of Westley Richards, he completed a whole makeover of the gunmaking brand and its sister engineering division. In 2007/08 the old Westley Richards premises in Birmingham was sold to make way for the redevelopment of part of the city. Instead of downsizing the company, Simon used the opportunity to build a stunning factory and retail space in disused industrial buildings on the outskirts of the city. He then housed Westley engineering on the adjoining site, bringing real integration to his business model.
And the Westley Richards building is an honest to God site of pilgrimage for the sportsman and fine gun lover. The retail space is stunning and the working environment for the gunmakers is the best in the business. The building is topped off by the penthouse apartment that Simon built so that he could ‘live over the shop’.
To complement the retail shop, Simon built a thriving online shop and also brought in house a leather workshop to build beautiful cases, slips, magazines and luggage right in the heart of the factory.
But many who have never met Simon will be familiar with his voice through his blog The Explora. He used it to speak frankly and honestly about the gun trade in a way that no one ever had before. He debunked myths and pricked inflated egos, much to the amusement of his readers, if not the entire gun trade. But he also showcased stunning guns – of his make and others – brought into glorious focus by his own skills honed with his beloved Leica cameras.
But why was Simon such a force of regeneration in an industry that could have disappeared without trace, its products being dismissed as relics of a bygone age?
It is simple; he lived the sport and adventure with the same fierce passion as his customers. He knew the safari guides and knew the same miles of sun bleached bush and veldt that they did. He relished the history of sporting shooting and safari in particular and understood its conservation benefits. Like all great hunters, Simon loved the animals he pursued. But, of equal importance is the fact that he was always a good businessman and marketer, understanding that his clients belonged to a very special club; that small group of international adventurers who hunt game in wild places not simply to shoot, but as an affirmation of life and to experience the sheer exuberance that can be found off the beaten track and away from the noise and clatter of everyday life. Simon once said that he ‘loved expensive people’. By this he was not referring to wealth per se, but to those people who pursue their dreams often against all odds.
Let’s leave the last word to Simon himself: “I am fortunate to live the sport. I love the practical side of it and where the gun leads to – safari is one of the most interesting ways to travel. I enjoy sharing my love of the sport with clients from all around the world.”
Simon leaves four daughters: Karena, Natasha, Sophie and Francesca. His wife Lucy predeceased him in 2005.
Peter Buckley. on December 21, 2016 at 7:48 am
It was with the greatest shock on opening the Explora just this moment to find the "man himself" whom after just one meeting left the greatest of impressions on me, has passed away, what can I say so desperately sad!
Please pass on my deepest sympathies to his daughters his father and family.
Neil McVeigh on December 21, 2016 at 8:21 am
To his daughters and family please accept my condolences and sympathy.In the gunmaking world he was a colossus and Wesley Richards under his guidance went from strength to strength.May he continue to walk amongst giants!Neil McVeigh
Chris A. on December 21, 2016 at 9:03 am
To his daughters, family and W.R. team: Please accept my condolences and sympathy. Our Simon he continue to illumine our paths and dreams of our common passion for the best gunmaking.
Peter on December 21, 2016 at 9:12 am
A very sad day , receiving this news. The person who has made more for bespoke gunmaking than we probably can understand,has passed away.
My deepest condolences to his family.
Diego Satrustegui on December 21, 2016 at 9:51 am
Dears friends of Simon specially daughters and Trigger.
We have lost a good friend and gentelman
I was so fortunate to share with Simon many hunting days and it was always a pleasure to enjoy the same passion.
He will be on my memory and my prays
Jim Kilday on December 21, 2016 at 9:57 am
Requiescat in pace, Simon
Nick Cargill on December 21, 2016 at 10:03 am
Although never having met Simon, I feel like I have lost a friend and great influencer of my love of the sport. Shooting is a relatively new pastime for myself, and it was with great joy that upon exploring gunmakers websites I came upon this blog. It had none of the pretentiousness or egotism of other gunmakers, but was a modern appreciation for the beauty of craftsmanship, whatever name it came under. This fostered my love of shooting, and I found myself habitually checking it daily for Simon's words.
For this I would only like to thank a great man whom I never got to meet, and pass on my sincere condolences to his family, as well as the team at Westley Richards. John Gregsons words were very much in the tone of this blog, and were greatly appreciated in accompanying such sad news.
Ross Cowell on December 21, 2016 at 10:23 am
A sad day, indeed. We mourn the passing, and our loss, but must celebrate the passion and dedication of Simon, who was, a true "Explora" , in so many ways. His vision will be missed.
My condolences, and sympathies to his family, his friends, and all those at WR.
Patrick McCabe on December 21, 2016 at 10:35 am
Dear Anthony, Clode Family, And Westley Richards' Staff,
My Condolences. Simon embodied cool in every way, one of the very smartest men I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He will be missed and there will not be another made in that mold. What a lovely genius who could take the piss out of the best of them! Thank you for all you did for the Gun Trade my friend, your vision has created great beauty that will last forever. I will miss You-
DArcy Echols on December 21, 2016 at 10:43 am
We are all diminished with his passing. My condolences to his daughters and family
God Speed Simon
Thierry Bombeke on December 21, 2016 at 12:09 pm
To the Clode family and the entire WR team, I offer my deepest condolences. Simon was probably my favorite person in the gun trade and I will miss him greatly.
Larry Blunk on December 21, 2016 at 12:20 pm
To Simon's family and the wonderful staff at WR,
I have known Simon for nearly two decades. As a young man working for him many years ago, he was always a great gentleman and a figure I would look up to. Over the years he has always found time in his busy day to entertain my questions and provide commentary even when I wasn't asking for it! His humor will never be forgotten and I can't tell you how many times he put me right in my place when I thought I properly executed a quip! He was always the most brilliant man in the room and truly embodied what the gun trade should be: honest, reliable, and fun. I know he has touched the lives of many, many people around the world and his legacy will never be forgotten.
I'm off now to have a vodka martini, slightly dry, with a couple olives. Cheers, it was fun.
Neill on December 21, 2016 at 12:59 pm
This is terrible news and a huge shock. I never met Simon, but have communicated with him many times via this blog. I cannot express in words my admiration for the work he, you,and his team, have done in putting Westley Richards at the pinnacle not only of UK gun making, but world gun making. Please pass my condolences on to all at the company and his family.
Joanne Ryall on December 21, 2016 at 1:11 pm
Such sad, sad news!
A huge loss to the English Gun trade.
My heart felt condolences go to Simon's family.
Colin Partridge on December 21, 2016 at 1:26 pm
My condolences to Simon's family and friends and everyone at WR.
I never had the pleasure of meeting him in person, but from the correspondence we had, I recognised I was dealing with 'Best Quality'.
Mims C Reed on December 21, 2016 at 1:58 pm
Another empty chair around my campfire and the world is no better for it.
Rest easy Simon, you are missed for sure.
Trigger on December 21, 2016 at 2:33 pm
On behalf of David W Brown:
Simon Clode. Best quality gun maker. Best quality man. The likes of him will not come our way again and we are all the better for him having passed through our lives.
Rest in peace.
Vic Venters on December 21, 2016 at 3:50 pm
A true visionary -- the visionary of the British gun trade -- and so I am told stalwart in the face of his mortality. His like will not come again. Sincere sympathies to his family, his father, and the entire WR team.
Fowad on December 21, 2016 at 4:05 pm
its a shock! Accept my condolences!
I used to be in touch with him through correspondence and visited Westley Richards specially to meet Simon in august 2015. I have learned a lot from him about english guns and rifles. I used to take advise from him from time to time. A big loss to english gun trade! He was a respectable gentleman.
Tim Wilkes on December 21, 2016 at 4:22 pm
How very sad. He was a gentleman. He had vision. He was innovative. He was creative. He will be missed.
Richard Matz on December 21, 2016 at 6:51 pm
My deepest condolences to Simon's family and the Westley Richards team.
I am sure Simon is standing with angles, watching game a foot and winged birds of flight mentoring all to see the beauty abound the simplicity of workmanship and function of a Westley Richards gun.
I'll miss his insight and commentary
Eddy Pauley on December 21, 2016 at 7:23 pm
My condolences to the Clode family, friends and the WR family.
Mark Audino on December 21, 2016 at 11:38 pm
Crushing news that has saddened me beyond what I can adequately express. John's very noteworthy tribute certainly reinforces that Simon made a meaningful difference with his life and his work. It thankfully gives us something positive to reflect on and rally around during this time of sorrow. Our hearts are one in supporting Simon's family, friends and all the artisans of Westley Richards.
Peace & Blessings,
Ben Arrowsmith on December 22, 2016 at 1:59 am
I got to know Simon quite well in the late 80`s not long after he had joined W-R.
He was a true gentleman, he transformed the business back to the pinnacle of gun making
Rest in peace.
Lajos on December 22, 2016 at 4:12 am
A real shock... Every morning the first thing was/is to get my coffee and click on the Explora button in my bookmark, to learn something from Simon and the other boys. He and the blog was not only teaching and the best way to learn, but made me part of a family in a way nobody else was able to do.
Accept our deepest condolences and sympathy!
Lajos from Hungary
Ned Cowell on December 22, 2016 at 4:13 am
I never met Mr Clode, but I came to like and admire him through this blog. I was genuinely shocked and saddened to hear of his passing, and my sympathy goes to his family, friends and colleagues, for their very great loss.
Peter Buckley. on December 22, 2016 at 5:48 am
Dear Trigger and all Westley Richards staff.
I feel that I must contribute again to add something that has been on my mind since discovering the the sad news.
Some days before the devastating news was delivered through "The Explora" I came across an item on the Internet that I hoped at some time I would discover and pass on to Simon.
I was first introduced to "The Explora" whilst researching Westley Richards Rook And Rabbit rifles and after reading this wonderful post I noticed in the summery to the story that Simon had never seen the episode that had been filmed at Westley's.
The series it was filmed for was "Clarissa and the Countryman" with Clarissa Dixon -Wright and Sir Johnny Scott, on finding the episode I sent Simon a message telling him that if he was still interested it was on YouTube, I pondered why I hadn't received a reply, it was not like him even with his busy schedule not to reply, now I realise why.
If you are interested Google-- Clarissa and the Countryman
Shotguns and Wildfowling.
You will find Simon and others after 16 minutes.
Please forgive my meanderings.
With Deepest Sympathy.
Diggory Hadoke on December 22, 2016 at 6:25 am
Simon built Westley Richards into the best gun-making firm operating in the UK today, in my opinion; true to its nature and with Simon's class and eye for uncompromising quality built into its DNA. When I first met him, I found him intimidating, which is rare for me.
However, in time he warmed to my presence and became a kind and genuine critic, always forthright and worth paying attention to. He leaves the company in rude health and Trigger will drive it forward with the passion he has always brought to his work.
Simon was in good shape when we exhibited at DSC, just eleven months ago, and I saw him, for the last time, a month ago . Clearly fighting his illness with tenacity but mindful enough of others to have kind words of advice about one of my current ventures. The whole gun trade is lessened with Simon's passing but is better by far for his involvement over the last thirty years.
fritz von sachsenhousen on December 22, 2016 at 10:35 am
this come as a shock for me,my most sincere condolences to mr.clodes family and team westley richards,i meet mr.clode at IWA gun show many time,what a true englander gentleman,allways full with knowledge and funn,this shows life is to short and cruel.over years on IWA show we had great talks on hunting and guns,offcourse we had arguments,but allways parted as friends,our arguments was on what was made where and by whome??
who makes best guns,now i know i had lost a friend,i looked at mr.clode as a friend.
i hope his legacy will go on over many generations,i made what westley richards is today,the finest english gunmakers run by englishmans.i will dearly miss him.
please send my condolences to his family.
rest in peace mr clode.
fritz von sachsenhousen
Sad new for gunmaking: Westley Richard's Simon Clode passes away ... | Dogs and Doubles on December 22, 2016 at 11:05 am
[…] Wow – I can’t believe this: Westley Richard’s Simon Clode had passed away. My condolences to his family. You can read his obit on Westley Richard’s The Explora blog here. […]
Gary Duffey on December 22, 2016 at 11:55 am
I have waited some twenty four hours before writing hoping that some thoughts or words would come to me regarding Simon's passing. It is just simply not getting any better. Of course as time goes on, it will. The pain subsides, but the loss of the uniqueness of a person persist. The thing we all share is of course various bonds, our own mortality, and a very present reality that we have lost someone deeply revered both professionally and personally. Simon encouraged me to write for The Explora, and that meant much to me. He sent back only one article unwilling to print it, and I asked him, why? He replied, "it doesn't interest me". When I emailed him to express interest in the Damascus Pair, he replied, "I would like for you to have them. I know that they are you're kind of guns." With the DSC meeting only a few days away, it has hit me that spending some time with him was a big part of taking time and going to the expense of spending a few days there. He was all of those admirable things previously mentioned by others. His great expectations, and way of doing things so intensely leave a great void to fill. I think he would want that to be a motivating factor, no doubt. Setting a standard for everything daily, I must believe that he understood his mortality. As a cancer survivor we share back and forth concerning the treatment process and he had a number of questions about the effects of chemotherapy. In the parlance of athletics, "he left nothing on the field". He expressed to me that he would like to see the guns I acquired used. So back from South Dakota I sent him off a picture. It gives me both a deep satisfaction and sadness that this was his final post on The Explora. A great example, a good man, and a good friend, is greatly missed.
Sean Delaney on December 22, 2016 at 12:08 pm
This is certainly sad news, and our family's condolences go out to Simon's family and friends at Westley Richards and beyond. While we only met through email correspondence, Simon was generous with his advice, encouragement, and honest criticism of our endeavors, and I always felt flattered by this generosity. The world has not only lost a leader in the world of gun-making, but an example of how bespoke craft manufacturing can thrive in the modern age with best quality as the business standard.
Keith Wood on December 22, 2016 at 2:05 pm
Rest In Peace, Sir. My condolences to the family.
Keith Fahl on December 22, 2016 at 2:56 pm
Our condolences to the family and everyone at Westley Richards. We considered ourselves lucky to have Simon as a friend. He will truly be missed.
Keith & Karen
Douglas Tate on December 22, 2016 at 3:31 pm
I am sorry to hear of the death of Simon Clode. He was a brave and brainy guy who will be missed by all of us. Always courageous. When asked in May if there was a possibility of conquering his cancer, he responded: "There is always a chance in life! I will certainly do the best I can at my end to fight it and I am in very good spirits myself, this sort of thing has never been a fear of mine hence why I used to jump into the North Sea and dive to the bottom of the oceans there!"
After taking over at Westley Richards, Simon played down industry standards such as the Scott toplever and sidelock while emphasizing signature Westley features like the broad toplever and the doll's head rib extension. This led to a distinctive gun desirable to collectors. Simon's clever return to older Westley features allowed his guns to compete on equal terms with Britain's best. Simon's revival of the droplock is the reason Westley Richards are the most influential English gunmaker ever to offer a legitimate alternative to the London sidelock.
Words are relatively easy for me, easy enough that I scrape a bob or two from them, but today I am bereft. May I add my sympathy to that of all of you here.
Peter Spode on December 22, 2016 at 3:53 pm
It was with great sadness that I learned of Simon's passing. I consider myself both fortunate and privileged to have known him and collaborate with him on many exciting projects over the past 25 years. He will be greatly missed by the staff, trade, clients, friends and family. A kind and generous man. I shall miss him. Rest in peace.
John Morris on December 22, 2016 at 5:38 pm
It is with great sadness I read this post today. My prayers go out to Simon's father, daughters, Trigger and the staff at Westley Richards. Simon was one of those exceptionally talented men who made this world a better place and will be missed dearly by all that knew him. I will cherish the memories of our lunches and the storytelling during your Montana visits. Rest in peace friend.
Gale Rice on December 22, 2016 at 5:55 pm
Simon - private, funny, candid, demanding, terse, endearing, firm, generous, kind, fair, but above all a perfectionist, and one of a kind. For so many years he has been large in our lives; part of my late husband John’s and my conversations, voluble on our marketing strategies, silent through our Zimbabwe struggles - always supportive, always there. He was part of our family, and we are heartbroken at his loss.
Simon, may you rest in the peace you so richly deserve.
To Karena and your sisters, Trigger and the WR staff, all of us at Courteney send our saddest condolences at your loss.
paul j. antonino on December 22, 2016 at 6:03 pm
my condolences to his daughters and to the firm,,,tho ive been to just about every gun shop in england , i regret never meeting him in person .someone i ive known for years over the phone ,,always ready to talk about guns ,or cameras (leica that is!!) that we had in common,,he will be missed ....paul j. antonino
Dave Harris on December 22, 2016 at 11:47 pm
What a shock!!! I was planning on meeting with Simon in Vegas next month. I had the awesome and rare opportunity of meeting him last year and visiting with him briefly... He graciously gave me a copy of a Westely Richards booklet that he signed for me.. he is a true gentleman and nothing short of a genius in his craft. He has the artist discipline that is only found in visionaries... he has single handedly preserved and revolutionized the romance and masculinity of of one of the finest industries of the world. I was so looking foreword to spending a bit of time with him in January.... ohh well, I guess he is on to bigger and better projects in the next realm of existence... what a great reunion he is having with family and friends that have gone on before and what a great reunion it will be for his family to see him again down the road..... is legacy, craft, artistry and journalism will live on forever... thank you Simon for your courage and vision... Respectfully,
Harris and Sons
John Sharp on December 23, 2016 at 1:29 am
I am deeply saddened to learn of Simon's passing on the 21st.
I send my sincerest condolences to his family and the company staff.
His passing will be felt around the world amongst the hunting fraternity and fine gun enthusiasts.
Toby Barclay on December 23, 2016 at 3:32 am
I met Simon several times at shows in the USA where we were both exhibiting and although it was plain that it was not his favorite occupation, he was always charming and happy to spend a few moments chatting about the trip or one of the lovely guns he was exhibiting.
I will really miss his 'grumpy old Englishman' image that I came to relish, in contrast to the obsequious sales people on most manufacturers stands!
RIP, Simon, you were one of a kind.
Natalie Duff-Tytler on December 23, 2016 at 10:41 am
As recent neighbours and Africa enthusiasts, we are very sad to hear of the passing of Simon. Our sincere condolences from us at The Drinks Emporium to all the WR team.
Alan & Paul Brown on December 24, 2016 at 9:26 am
What terribly sad news!
We have known Simon since he started at Westley's, and we all know how much he acheived over all those years, with such passion and vision.
Our condolences to the family and all those who were close to him.
Alan and Paul Brown
Peter Loam on December 24, 2016 at 11:35 am
I'm so sorry to hear the sad news. I have been an admirer from afar of what Simon Clode has achieved in making Westley Richards the leading British gunmaker and retailer of fine accessories. Whoever follows him will have to fill some very big shoes. My sincere condolences to his family and all who work at this fine British company.
James Grinyer on December 25, 2016 at 12:09 am
The heavens shine brighter with another star. My deepest and sincerest heartfelt sympathy to Walter, Karena and all the Clode family in their loss. Thank you Simon for your advice, patience, and guidance during my years at WR - without which I would not be the man, husband and father that I am today on this Christmas morning. You will all be in my prayers today. The team at WR have lost a truly extraordinary helmsman. God speed Simon, sleep well, and dream big. James.
Paul Lantuch on December 25, 2016 at 8:53 am
I still recovering from sadness on this bright and silent day of Christmas, the Great Man is gone. He was fighting cancer with incredible bravery, working to the last possible moment and left the Company on the pinnacle of glory.
Six years ago Anthony had picked up the last CD with photos of my works at Reno FEGA show, soon I got a call from Simon and our wonderful cooperation started immediately.
Working on the WR guns is the same, as making a crown jewelry for the most splendid monarch.
My dippiest condolences to Wolter and all family.
I'll miss you, Simon.
Clive Newman on December 26, 2016 at 11:40 am
Sad news to hear the passing of Simon, my heartfelt condolences to his daughters and all the WR team.
Arvey McFarland on December 28, 2016 at 9:39 am
In a few of our email communiques the past two years, Simon commented about his desire to create a new book - a compilation of all his favourite blogs from The Explora. As another memorial to him, I'm hopeful the team at Westley Richards will move forward with his idea and produce that book. I'm hopeful too, The Explora will continue to be a feature at the Westley Richards website.
Kathryn and I will miss visiting Simon at the Vintage Arms Show in Las Vegas, he was always a perfect gentleman. Our hearts go out to his family, friends, and associates during this tender time of his departure from our lives. May he find peace, happiness, and fulfillment in his new life.
Nigel Barker on December 31, 2016 at 4:53 pm
Damn! He'll be truly missed. Among his many other talents, he had a fine turn of phrase that made his blog posts a real reading pleasure.
Chris James on January 1, 2017 at 6:17 am
It is with great sadness that I have heard of Simon's death, and my condolences go to all of his family.
I have been reading and enjoying the explora magazine for quite some time, and I would like to like to suggest that perhaps a further fitting tribute to Simon is that an assemblage of his favoured writings be brought together in a single(?) book so that we may all treasure his words of wisdom and enjoy them over and again.
Bless him and all of his family, he will be missed.