London’s gunsmiths have a long and distinguished history stretching back to the earliest days of gunmaking. Since 1835, Holland & Holland has been at the forefront of the industry, making the finest bespoke shotguns and rifles for its clients.
Its factory opened in 1893 on London’s Harrow Road. It is a purpose-built red brick building with a south-facing aspect to maximise the light in the workshops. It is here that Holland & Holland’s guns are made by gunsmiths employing both traditional and contemporary techniques. Time-honoured gunmaking skills and state-of-the-art machinery combine perfectly to instil quality and artistry into every shotgun and rifle. For many owners these are not just guns, they are works of art.
Each element of the gun – the barrels, the action, the stock and the engraving – is a masterpiece in its own right, requiring many hours of painstaking work to achieve perfection. Kirsty Swan, who has been an engraver with the brand for 18 years, says that the standard Royal Scroll pattern takes 150 hours’ work to complete for each gun and the Classic Acanthus, 240 hours. It is truly a labour of love.
The prestigious Holland & Holland Shooting Grounds, located in West London yet set among 60 acres of stunning open countryside, boast some of the finest facilities in Britain. The Grounds’ instructors have provided world-class shooting tuition since 1939. Here, game and sporting shots of all abilities and experience will find something for them, whether shooting with a shotgun or a rifle. There is a wide variety of clay pigeon shooting and simulated game targets as well as the only private non-military indoor live-round facility in the UK, enabling rifle instruction with a moving target and live ammunition.
Recently, the brand has been looking at the way it manages its land and has taken some initiatives designed to increase biodiversity while at the same time making the grounds more attractive. To that end, the ground staff have planted wildflower meadows and invited local beekeepers to place their hives on the grounds. This has resulted in the added bonus of further colonies of bees arriving to make use of some abandoned bird boxes. The upshot of this apian activity is that the Shooting Grounds are now producing their own local honey and helping the environment by increasing the pollinator population. The brand has also started growing produce on its allotment, the fruits of which are used by its renowned chef, Joshua Hunter, in the restaurant. This ensures not only that the restaurant serves really fresh seasonal vegetables but also reduces its carbon footprint.
The pandemic presented the company with several challenges and some changes had to be made. However, the training of new craftsmen and women is fundamental to the future prosperity of the company so all the existing apprenticeships, both in the factory and at the shooting grounds, were honoured. These employees have now taken up permanent positions with the company.
Perhaps the most exciting development in 2022 is that the famous Holland & Holland London Gunroom will be opening on the third floor of 36 St James’s Street early in the year.