World-renowned maker of sporting guns
The luxury sporting gun maker is on a par with Bentley and Rolls-Royce, up there with Savile Row and other quintessential British luxury brands. And, as with all these great names, it also holds a story of invention and entrepreneurship.
Founder Harris Holland, son of an organ builder, was a London tobacconist who happened to be good at shooting pigeons - and started a gun-making business in 1835. His nephew Henry Holland joined the company as an apprentice in 1860. He was the, er, trigger for the growth of the company, filing its first patent in 1861 and becoming a partner in 1876 - thus creating Holland & Holland.
The double-barrelled firm started to set the pace, patenting new features and winning competitions. Its rise to global pre-eminence was sealed by the launch of the Royal side-by-side - one of the most influential guns ever made.
Launched in 1883 and perfected with the addition of its patent self-opening system in 1922, it’s regarded as the most widely copied shotgun in the world. Its design remains pretty much the same today - a genuinely enduring classic.
Hundreds of hours of exacting detail and exquisite skill and craftsmanship go into making each H&H gun. This is not just metal and wood; this is a carved, sculpted and engraved masterpiece.
By “conflating mechanical simplicity with an acanthus motif evocative of William Morris’s wallpaper designs,” writes Douglas Tate in The Field, “Holland & Holland created a unique style – more feminine than masculine, it is the sexiest of guns.” Its output...about 80 guns each year - each one taking anywhere between 650 to 1,000 hours to make.
The company has been part of the French luxury goods conglomerate Chanel group since 1989 - yet few products can boast such deep London provenance. The guns are made in Kensal Green - where they have been made for more than 100 years - and the factory overlooks the cemetery where Harris Holland is buried.