When David Hunt Lighting first opened its workshop during the reign of James II, lighting meant candles. The technology might have evolved beyond all recognition to include oil, then gas and now electricity but the traditional skills and craftsmanship have endured.
Over three centuries, there have been ten remarkable generations of the Hunt family. In each case the eldest son has always been called John. They’ve adapted the business to benefit from new technology to meet the demands of new customers; the company was selected to exhibit at both the Great Exhibition of 1851 and lit the streets of 19th-century Britain.
When the National Grid arrived in 1926, John Hunt was ready to produce electric lights for its customers. The company was soon renowned for its electric fittings, designed in the new Art Deco style, and installed in the first Odeon cinemas with their spectacular, maritime-inspired lobbies.
Having moved its factory to Shipston-on-Stour in the Cotswolds in the 1950s, the company became known for cutting-edge techniques such as spun metal and resin casting, while maintaining its classic British styling. The 1980s witnessed a new stage in its long evolution as John Peter Hunt, representing the tenth generation of the family, began rescuing Victorian gas lamp designs from the archives. Adapted for 20th-century standards, these collections anchored the brand to its past and have remained best sellers ever since.
‘People love the fact that our lighting is British made and based on traditional skills and materials,’ says creative director, Hollie Moreland. ‘We’ve noticed that with the growing interest in sustainability and concerns about how companies source and manufacture their products, customers want to know more about our traditional workshops and the local people that we employ and train in these centuries old techniques.’
Its classic styling with just a touch of British quirkiness means that today, you’ll see David Hunt lamps in both traditional country homes and hip urban bars and restaurants. Another advantage of being a niche manufacturer is that the company does a roaring trade in bespoke lighting. ‘Working with clients is particularly enjoyable, as it not only encourages mutual creativity but can sometimes open up new avenues for our own design development,’ explains Hollie.
Covid-19 has, of course, been a challenge. ‘Each of our staff has particular skills and our lamps can go through eight different processes, so we’ve had to re-organise working hours and rearrange our workshop to allow for social distancing. We also offer a ‘white glove’ service where by we’ve had to put systems into place so that our lighting installers can visit people in their homes safely.’
Hollie adds: ‘We’re constantly improving our online services, including updating our online product customisation tool. We’re also working on new task lighting to enhance the home office.
‘This year has been challenging for everyone in many ways, but as we have all spent more time at home, it seems people have been really thinking about their interior design, including the lighting – which is positive for us as a classic British lighting brand.’