Lighting the Past and the Future

Lighting the Past and the Future

As Thorn Lighting celebrates its 90th anniversary year, we learn more about how the company has become a major force in the global lighting industry.

The Thorn story began in March 1928, when Jules Thorn started with a simple mission: to make great lighting easy. Born in Austria in 1899, Jules Thorn first came to Britain as a sales rep for a company making gas mantles. But he soon decided to set up his own firm, the Electric Lamp Service Company, where he would prove himself to be an innovative businessman with a remarkable ability to see opportunities where others couldn’t.

Lou Bedocs, Lighting Applications Advisor at Thorn, and one of the company’s longest-serving employees, recalls: “Everybody thought Jules was mad when he decided to build a 30-million-a-year capacity lamp factory. But he went ahead and built more than 70 factories around the world – not just for lamps but also for luminaires, control gears and lighting accessories. Now 90 years later we can look back on a true pioneer who left his mark on the world of industry.”

The company quickly went from servicing lamps to manufacturing them, and later diversified into luminaires, domestic appliances, TVs and radios. In 1936, under the new name Thorn Electrical Industries, the company floated on the London Stock Exchange. By 1959 it was the tenth biggest company in the UK, and its new purpose-built head office at Thorn House (today’s Orion House) was one of the tallest buildings on the London skyline.

In the 1980s the company continued to grow, acquiring a number of other lighting manufacturers in Europe and Australia. By the time a management buyout separated the lighting business from the rest of the group in 1994, Thorn was a major global player in the lighting industry.

Popular products

One significant success came in the shape of PopPack, which has gone on to become the best-selling batten luminaire of all time with around 90 million sold pieces until today. The production of the 60 millionth PopPack in October 1995 was even honoured with a visit from the Queen to the Thorn factory in Spennymoor. In 2000 the company joined the renowned Zumtobel Group, positioning it for further global growth and strengthening its’ outdoor and sports lighting portfolios.

Thorn’s insistence on quality and its dedication to making effective lighting simple has helped to establish its reputation as a dependable performance brand. Thorn’s lights are installed on the iconic arch at London’s Wembley Stadium, Arco della Pace in Milan, City University London and the streets of Copenhagen. Over the years the company’s products have illuminated major sporting events such as Muhammad Ali’s match against Joe Bugner in Kuala Lumpur in 1975, and several of the venues for the 2016 European football championship in France.

Today Thorn is a globally trusted and multi-award winning lighting supplier, developing and designing solutions that provide the right lighting for offices, shops, schools, universities and industrial sites all over the world. Thorn luminaires have transformed sports arenas, guided millions of vehicles safely over roads and through tunnels, improved safety and helped cities become smarter and more liveable, by combining lighting with connectivity.

As a trusted partner of smart city initiatives including DOLL (the Danish Outdoor Lighting Lab) and LUCI (Lighting Urban Community International), Thorn is playing a key role in supporting cities with efficient solutions that can incorporate intelligent sensors and antennas. Digitalisation is transforming Thorn’s indoor lighting solutions too, with new smart product ranges, including IQ Wave for offices or HiPak for industrial applications.

Paul Coggins, SVP Northern Europe, commented: “We’re immensely proud of our heritage at Thorn. Since Jules Thorn set up the company 90 years ago we’ve been pushing technology forward to produce the very best solutions for our customers.

“Our 90th anniversary is not only a time to look back on all the inspiring moments and stories in our history, but it’s also a brilliant opportunity to look ahead.”

For more information about the range of lighting available from Thorn visit:

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