The Story of North Light by Anne Godfrey  

1978 -1985

North Light was founded in 1978 by Guy Pocock (left) and Anne Godfrey (below), joined soon after by Philip Beckwith.  All three were artists, and provided work to the early inventories. Guy and Philip were obliged to move to administration in due course, while Anne continued as artist throughout North Light’s history, to its closure.

The first premises were rented from the Hamilton Brush Company in Harrow, Middlesex, a small unit, with a production workshop force of 6, plus 2 office staff. A small mobile sales unit travelled to various craft, dog and horse shows around the country during the summer months, usually manned by Philip and sometimes by Anne, taking time out from the studio. Much research was done during these trips, receiving feedback from judges and breeders of dogs and horses, which led to the improvement and refinement of the original artwork.  During this period, North Light developed its specialisation in the breeds’ range of dogs, including the Best in Show Crufts champions, and the miniatures. North Light pioneered the incorporation of the Kennel Club breed standards in the artwork of dog figurines. The Mountain and Moorland pony range also had its beginning during this time.

Madeleine Dinkel, a highly skilled calligraphic artist, created the distinctive North Light logo, which identifies North Light’s best work.  The smaller figurines were marked usually by the copyright sign and NL with a date.

As the brand became known and sought after, other artists approached North Light with a view to adding their work to the rapidly expanding inventory, or having their work produced at North Light’s workshop, which was known to be a highly skilled unit; among them were Richard Sefton, Alan Harmer, Leila Symington, Harriet Glen, Sheila Black, Iris Nichols, John Stanbridge.

In 1982  John Stanbridge joined North Light as artist and worker. In this capacity he was asked to develop methods of painting on resin figurines, using the airbrush. This became the foundation of all the high quality painting work that together with its fine modelling set North Light apart. He remained connected to the company for several years,  and then left to develop his own studio/workshop.

1985 As the result of a chance meeting at the Horse of the Year Show, North Light came to the attention of Clare Beswick, whose family had a connection to the original Beswick figurine company. Clare saw the possibilities of sales development of the painted figurines, and it was agreed to trial a sub-workshop in Congleton, Cheshire, not far from the Potteries of Stoke on Trent, where there were a number of skilled painters available. A unit was rented in an old woollen mill and a staff of about 12 employed on production of painted resin figurines to be marketed in shops. Meanwhile the Harrow workshop continued, producing painted work, resin and bronze work, and foundry bronzes, selling at shows.

1986 -1990 The two workshops became one large one based at Dane in Shaw Mill, on the outskirts of Congleton, a former 19th century Silk mill acquired by Guy Pocock for North Light, accommodating a workforce of 200 or more, a devoted sales and office team promoting nationwide and export sales. A sophisticated show unit, designed and manned by Robert Beswick maintained North Light presence at all the major dog and horse shows. During these years the brand became known world -wide.

North Light never fully recovered from business difficulties after the financial crash of 1990 that affected not only the firm but the whole country. In support of the jobs of local employees, who had by now achieved high level of skills and workmanship, North Light did not follow the trend of taking production to the Far East, but kept it in-house, in the locality.   The years that followed were to say the least, not easy in terms of stability; nevertheless, the most important part of North Light - the heart of it so to speak, namely the work coming out of the studio together with the continued development of highly skilled in-house decorative paintwork – pushed forward, producing some very fine work, among which are counted the later North Light horses.

The workshops and offices moved to smaller premises in Biddulph, and the production workforce reduced to key highly skilled members. An in-house artist, Paul Smith, highly skilled technically, was by this time in residence, working closely with Anne Godfrey and others on the development of the definitive North Light horse series, along with other well executed projects. As ever at the North Light studio, work was preceded by thorough research including hands-on examination of the breed, accompanied by instruction and comment from the breed owner, during the making of each figurine, not to mention the close commentaries from an artistic point of view from Anne during the process; while on the shop floor the painters were also researching various paint-ways and producing some remarkable work.  Paul Smith also left in due course, to develop his own workshop and production.

2005-2009 North Light was acquired by Wade, becoming North Light @ Wade.  Some studio work continued, but for economic reasons, most production moved to China, with very little in-house closely supervised work. There was consequently a marked difference and decline in refinement and quality. Inevitably trading ceased in 2009 and North Light closed down.


Anne Godfrey
31 March 2014 

Dane in Shaw Mill, on the outskirts of Congleton was once a former 19th century Silk mill. Picture taken circa 1990.
The mill still stands today and has had now been converted into residential properties.
Here is a link to an
Advert on RightMove for one of the property's. And I quote "An imaginative and stunning refurbishment concept has been undertaken by Conran Homes to convert this circa 1784 cotton mill (reputed to be the oldest cotton mill in Cheshire) into nine dynamic homes. The mills location overlooks the feeder pond and is in a wonderful rural setting"