Sunday, February 6, 2011

Printers


McCorquodales were the big industrial printers in Wolverton, and their story is described here, but there was a demand for printing on a smaller scale and the district has a history of such printing, beginning in the 19th century.

Stony Stratford's earliest printer of record was William Nixon, who had a press on the High Street, set up in the 1840s. He was also a stationer and bookseller and in 1857 he retired and sold the business to Alfred Walford. Newspaper publishing had been inhibited for many years by a government stamp duty. In 1815 the government imposed a 4d tax on every newspaper sold, which made them unaffordable for most. In 1836 the tax was lowered to 1d, and in 1855 was dropped altogether. "The penny dropped!" you could say.

The time was right for Alfred Walford in 1857, who established a weekly newspaper called the Cottage Newspaper. It was later known as the Stony Stratford and Wolverton Station Advertiser. In 1868 it was became the North Bucks Advertiser. It may have been here that the young Oliver Ratcliff, who grew up in Stony Stratford, learned his trade, because he later set up his own press in Olney, The Cowper Press.

The business was continued by Walford's widow, Leah, and was taken over by George Eardley in 1902. Eardley also added a lending library to his range of services at 73 High Street.The newspaper closed down in 1909. It was most likely absorbed by another newspaper, but I am not sure which. It was not, at any rate, the Wolverton Express of the Buckingham Advertiser. The building was taken over by watts and beck who were bakers and confectioners. They also ran a temperance hotel for some years known as the Victoria Hotel. Hazeldine's, the baker, operated here for many years in the mid 20th century.

Wolverton's first small scale printer, as far as I can tell, was Frederick Clarke, who opened his business at 30 Stratford Road c. 1910. A few years later he moved his premises to 11 The Square, underneath what is now the Masonic Hall. Subsequently he moved to a three storey house at 51 Church Street. His son carried on the business but it did not continue into the third generation as newer technology was making life difficult for small printing businesses. The business closed in 1960 and all the machinery was sold for scrap. The house was demolished to accommodate the Agora in the late 1970s.

After WWII the newsagents, Muscutt & Tompkins, decided to expand into printing. They acquired premises at 9 stratford Road with a stationery shop in the front and printing presses in the back. The printing press operation was managed and run by Reg Tomalin.

After that business closed, almost all the printing equipment was donated to the MK Museum which is now on display. The exhibition provides a very good illustration of printing technology in the pre-digital age.

Printers now work with keyboards and computer monitors. Up to about 15 years ago machines like this were still in use. Printers would hand set their cast type into trays, lock them in place, ink the type with rollers and one-by-one print sheets of paper.

The machines on display at the MK Museum date in design from the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.

In the top picture you can see an Albion Press - a 19th century press which had an improved mechanism over earlier flat bed presses. A single lever action could bring the paper into contact with the inked plate.

The press in the second picture is a flat bed proofing press. It is a mid 20th century design. In this model the type can be laid on the flat bed and it can be inked and printed in a forward and backward pass. Printers often used this type of press for posters.


The so-called platen press was activated by a foot treadle and flywheel and has a complicated mechanism for  inserting the paper, inking the type, bring the paper on the platen into contact with the inked type, and removing the printed paper in a single cycle. By the mid 20th century these machines had become motorized, although theye were usually too expensive for the small jobbing printer.


In that era, small "jobbing" printing was divided between Clarke's on Church Street, Muscutt and Tompkins and Line's at Newport Pagnell.Ron Bissell set up a small business in New Bramwell in the 1950s, starting with a hand-operated Adana press.

Posters, particularly if colour was required, were often hand made in the 1950s. There was one chap I recall on Cambridge Street and another on Victoria Street providing this service.

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