The First World War was a difficult time for the sporting gun industry and all the makers were struggling to keep their businesses running. Henry Holland had connections in the right places and he managed to obtain various Government work for the war industry – for instance fitting telescopic sights to sniper rifles. However, probably the best known of the firm’s war products was the so-called Zeppelin shotguns supplied in 1915 to the Admiralty. These guns fired a form of chain shot through a barrel with a two-stage choke, the Duplex choke.
In the post-war years there was an increase in the numbers of new game guns ordered. Even so, it was difficult times and the size of the factory staff had to be reduced. The situation was not made better with the world-wide depression that followed and especially its effect on the American market. In 1923, Henry Holland’s eldest son, Harry Robert (known as Hal), who allegedly suffered from some chronic disease, sadly ended his own life. As Hal had been groomed to take over when his father retired, this initially caused problems for the succession and, as a result, Henry continued to run the business himself although he was long due for retirement. Instead, when Henry
died in 1930 aged 85, his younger son, John Edmond David Holland (usually referred to as Jack), took over managing the firm. Jack had been a soldier and retired with the rank of colonel with a plan to take up farming. However, at his father’s death he gave up the idea of full-time farming and was subsequently appointed chairman of Holland & Holland. During World War II, Holland & Holland again managed to keep the business running by securing substantial orders for war work. For instance, the firm manufactured or processed no fewer than 413,301 rifle and machine gun components, and assembling or repairing 55,551 service rifles.
“The Shooting Grounds” There is not much evidence available over the history of Holland & Holland’s shooting grounds. The firm itself believes they were established at Kensal Rise – halfway between London City and Wembley – in the early 1880s. Certainly test shooting was taking place there from 1883. The “Badminton School of Shooting” is recorded at Kensal Rise from 1900 to 1909. From 1910 it was known as the “Badminton and West London School of Shooting”. It appears that both gun and rifle practice facilities were offered at Kensal Rise until 1909. Then the West London Shooting Grounds were used for shotgun practice for a couple of years, whilst rifle shooting facilities were retained immediately behind the factory. When the North Forty Farm Grounds at Wembley were leased in 1913, both rifle and shotgun facilities then moved there. In 1932, shortly after he became manager of Holland & Holland, Jack Holland made a clever investment by acquiring the freehold of 100 acres of countryside at Northwood, Middlesex, for the firm’s new shooting school. At the same time the grounds of the Badminton shooting school at Wembley were sold for building land. At 143 acres, the Wembley grounds were larger than the Northwood grounds, but they did not offer the same possibilities for an interesting layout as the new site. The proceeds from the sale enabled the firm to pay off the preference capital, thereby substantially reducing its overheads during the depression years. Ironically, Jack Holland, who himself had little interest in the shooting school, through this deal laid the foundations for Holland & Holland’s success on that side of the business. Today, the grounds are also home to the corporate entertainment element of Holland & Holland’s overall business, and in recent years the facilities have undergone major developments in both buildings and shooting layouts to accommodate this fast growing business sector.
Published on Aug 9, 2017