Lighting Industry

Holophane celebrates 125 years of the prism

A set of glass high bay reflectors
A set of prismatic glass reflectors for high bay luminaires. Holophane was a pioneer of this type of lighting.Credit: David Thrower/Redshift Photography

HOLOPHANE is this week celebrating an extraordinary 125 years in business. 

The company – which pioneered the famous glass refractor – is one of only three professional lighting companies (that we are aware off) who are still trading under with the same name for over 100 years, and its products are researched, designed, tooled, tested, and assembled in Britain. 

Founded in 1896 in Westminster, London, headed by Alexander Pelham Trotter, it marked the start of a remarkable history.

It was the first company to give practical expression to the principles of the prism in commercial lighting.

The company’s first product was the patented globe in ‘white’ or ‘rose crystal’ that sold for around 2 shilling (10p). 

Its innovations were widely copied and during the twentieth century the company was involved in numerous legal actions to protect its patents.

Stand-out projects included Saint Paul’s Cathedral in 1923, the House of Lords in 1935 and the interior and exterior lighting of Westminster Cathedral for the coronation of King George VI in 1937.

The factory and offices in Westminster, London, left, and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey in 1953, which was illuminated by Holophane. It was the first to be filmed in colour.

During the Second World War – and despite the factory suffering regular bomb damage – Holophane produced special lighting to comply with Air Raid Precaution legislation, as well as portable airfield lighting and luminaires for maps in air-raid operation rooms.

In 1953, Holophane was given the job of illuminating the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, a more complex affair than that of King George, as it was the first to televised and filmed in colour.

Stand-out projects included the House of Lords in 1935 and the exterior of Westminster Cathedral for the coronation of King George VI in 1937.

Additionally, the luminaires had to fit aesthetically into the interior of Westminster Cathedral. 

The company’s research and development director received the Queen’s Coronation Medal for his work on the event.

Other major projects included the Concorde Hangar at Filton in Bristol (at the time the largest in the world), Gatwick Airport, Battersea Power Station in London and Ham Hall Power Station near Birmingham, and the Shell office and Shell Tower on the south bank of the Thames.

Holophane was also a pioneer of colour-changing lighting in the 1930s, specifically for the spectacular organs used in cinemas at the time to entertain the audience during the changing of film reels. 

Some early designs of street and amenity lighting.

In 1967, Holophane outgrew its previous premises and moved to a purpose-built factory and office on Bond Avenue in Milton Keynes, which has since been expanded and is now the European headquarters.

Holophane US was also commissioned to relight the exterior floodlighting of the Empire State building and their Metal Optics company supplied all of the internal office lighting.

In 1973, in recognition of Holophane’s excellence in exporting overseas, the company was renamed Holophane Europe.

During the 1980s, Holophane secured the largest-ever single lighting order in the UK of 65,000 fittings, covering 186 miles of tunnels in the London Underground. Holophane has provided some 80 years of service to the London Underground.

The CityMax, winner of a Lux Award in the exterior luminaire category.

In 1999, Holophane became a part of the Acuity Brands Group which is the largest luminaire manufacturer in the world, with net sales of over $2.6 billion. The group employs 7,000 associates.

Holophane Europe’s laboratory, located at the Milton Keynes premises and working to ISO 17025 quality systems and ISO 9001 certification, is home of the largest multi-cell goniophotometer in the UK.

It boasts an impressive 8 m arc, and possibly the largest photometer of this type in Europe.

The addition of a 4-metre diameter integrating sphere means Holophane’s photometric test equipment supplemented by EMC, UMSUG, thermal and safety compliance testing delivers one of the leading test facilities by any luminaire manufacturer.

Holophane’s expertise in developing state-of-the-art luminaires still stands strong to this day.

Since 2014, Holophane has developed numerous international award winning products in the CityMax, the Haloprism, the V-Max and the HMAO.

In 2017, Holophane received the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in recognition of its lighting product development.

The PrismPack 3, another Lux Award winner.

The Covid pandemic has required Holophane to scrap its original celebration plans and instead, celebrate virtually with a charity event, raising money for the British Heart Foundation in memory of Mark Field, a valued member of its staff who recently passed away from a heart attack. 

To raise money, Holophane staff and family members are individually aiming to run, cycle, walk or swim their way to 125 miles of Covid-friendly exercise during the lockdown. 

The company has started a Just Giving page to allow anyone of their friends, staff, and businesses partners or customers to donate. 

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