The Secret History Of: The Bestlite Robert Dudley Best
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Friday 25 June 2010
designed in 1930, this classic desk lamp counts Winston Churchill among its famous users. His stood on his desk in his air-raid shelter beneath Whitehall and was presumably witness to many conversations about strategy while the sirens wailed outside.
The Bestlite was created by Robert Dudley Best, heir to the largest lighting factory in the world, and was first produced at the end of that revolutionary period in design Bauhaus. This movement sought to bring function and simplicity to the fore of all its designs and broke the barriers between industrialisation and works of art. Although it began in Germany, it was largely influenced by the leader of the Arts & Craft movement in Britain, William Morris, who famously declared that one should have nothing in one's house that one did not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. The Bauhaus school was closed by the Nazis in 1933 and many of its designers moved to the US where they dominated art and architecture for years.
Dudley Best, whose factory was in Birmingham, had worked as an industrial designer in both Paris and Düsseldorf. While there, he made close friends with Walter Gropius, the founder of the Bauhaus movement, and it was during this time that he made the first sketches of what would become this iconic light. "He returned in Birmingham in 1930 determined to put the Bestlite into production," said Matthew Giles, of nest.co.uk, where the lamp retails at £319.
"But it was so different from the factory's traditional designs that it took a while before he could persuade his father into a trial production. Then, when he eventually did start making them, they didn't end up in homes as he had expected, but were sold to car repair shops and to the Royal Air Force, where they were appreciated for their functionality."
However, a few of the lamps ended up on the desks of architects and a feature duly followed in the Architects Journal, where it was proclaimed the first British Bauhaus production. Suddenly everyone wanted one and when Winston Churchill put one on his desk, icon status followed. It is unclear, however, if Winston a) bought it himself, or b) was aware of its German connection when he put in on his wartime desk. Giles said: "I have been told that Winston Churchill chose it himself and that it didn't just stay on his desk but that he took it around the world with him when he travelled."
In 2004, the company was taken over by Gubi, a Danish firm, but the lamps are still designed and manufactured in Birmingham. Eighty years on, the Bestlite has retained its industrial feel and, unlike many other designs, has resisted the temptation to market itself in hot pink or mellow yellow. You can buy a floor, desk or pendant version but it comes only in black, white or ivory.
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Katie Hopkins on LBC: Listen to caller taking The Sun columnist to task over migrant comments
Migrant boat disaster: Ukip candidate mocks victims in sickening Twitter post
Nigel Farage wants the BBC to stop making programmes like Doctor Who, Strictly Come Dancing, and Top Gear
Global warming: Scientists say temperatures could rise by 6C by 2100 and call for action ahead of UN meeting in Paris
Rupert Murdoch berated Sun journalists for not doing enough to attack Ed Miliband and stop him winning the general election
- 1 'We're not heroes, just tourists': Swedish police officers on holiday stop vicious assault on New York subway
- 2 Black Mass trailer: Johnny Depp might have started making good films again
- 3 Jacob Lescenski and Anthony Martinez: Straight student asks gay friend to High School prom and makes a million Twitter friends
- 4 Buckingham Palace guard who attacked passers-by in 'most most violent piece of CCTV footage' police officer had seen walks free
- 5 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...
£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst...