Print Works: Part Four – Working in the Print Industry

Special Collections & Archives has been working with Appletye – an artists’-led organisation based in Margate – to support their mission to record the Isle of Thanet’s rich printing heritage. In lieu of a physical display in Spring 2020 these guest blogs by Dan Thompson and Dawn Cole are our virtual equivalent – we hope you enjoy!

There were a variety of jobs in the pre-digital printing industry, meaning works like the Thanet Press employed large numbers, and needed specialist suppliers so supported small printers, bookbinders, and other trades locally. The key jobs, as a compositor laying out type, proof reading pages, or working with the machines, were highly skilled. 

A printer’s apprenticeship lasted seven years, and involved study at an approved college as well as practical work at a print works. Locally, apprentices studied at Thanet School of Arts and Crafts, Canterbury College of Arts, or Maidstone College of Arts where they learned layout and design, typography, and to lay out lead type letter-by-letter.

From the 1950s, the print industry underwent radical changes, from traditional ‘hot metal’ letterpress printing to lithographic, and then computer typesetting and digital printing.

For print workers, that meant constant adaptation and learning new skills.

Things Caxton probably wouldn't understand: the evolution of the printing press

Things Caxton probably wouldn’t understand: the evolution of the printing press

“Printing’s changed more than any other trade. It’s changed from a room full of hot metal to an office job, but you need the same experience and expertise.” Jim Bellamy, Thanet Press

A larger print works like The Thanet Press was inevitably about more than the job: it became a place where couples met and got married.  Workers joined amateur theatrical groups, footballs teams, or showed with the horticultural society. And people created their own welfare state, through strong unions and paying into the ‘sick club’. It was common to find siblings working alongside each other, or generations of the same family working in print together.

We'll claim the record for being the first blog to mention printers and football in the same post

We’ll claim the record for being the first blog to mention printers and football in the same post

However, the print industry was old, established – and very male. The unions wouldn’t allow women to operate the printing presses, and they were kept to jobs in the bindery, finishing and stitching or stapling print jobs. 

“The bindery had about twice as many women as men working in it … It was a very companionable environment.” Pat Davies, Thanet Press

About the Print Works project:

Print Works is a year-long project from Appletye, an arts and heritage organisation. The project explores the history of the print industry on the Isle of Thanet, taking inspiration from two former companies and the heritage of the sites they occupied at Thanet Press, Union Crescent, Margate and Martell Press, Northdown Road, Cliftonville. At the heart of the project are archives from the two Margate firms, recording the stories of the people who worked there and the work they did.

Using the Print Works archive:

The Print Works archives include hundreds of examples of material printed in a pre-digital age, including much related to Margate, Broadstairs, and Ramsgate. It includes print for seaside hotels, entertainment venues, and tourism businesses.

The archive also includes documents relating to working in the print industry in the 20th century, from apprenticeship indentures to certificates from a print factory’s Horticultural Club. There are documents relating to design, typography, and the move from analogue processes like typography to digital design and print.

The archive is new, so includes primary material not used before in academic research. It is held at a studio in Margate. For more information email dawn@appletye.org

Print Works: Part Three – The Martell Press

Special Collections & Archives has been working with Appletye – an artists’-led organisation based in Margate – to support their mission to record the Isle of Thanet’s rich printing heritage. In lieu of a physical display in Spring 2020 these guest blogs by Dan Thompson and Dawn Cole are our virtual equivalent – we hope you enjoy!

Two Thanet schoolboys had already caught the addictive whiff of printer’s ink, oil, and paper that you find in any pre-digital printworks, from their father Norman, co-founder of publishers The Graham Cumming Group and owner of printer Westwood Press. Norman Martell printed town maps for councils, and diaries for clubs and societies, selling advertising in them to cover costs and generate a profit. 

So when his sons Charles and Henry Martell found a printing press at their school, St Lawrence College in Ramsgate, they started to print for themselves.

And when they unwrapped their Christmas presents in 1962, they found that their dad had bought them an Adana which could print an area up to about 20cm by 12cm. Adana printing machines were made between 1922 and 1999. Aimed at the hobby market, they were widely used by small, commercial printers and thousands of their vertical platen presses are still in use, often in the hands of artists and designer-makers.

Charles & Henry Martell’s original Adana, seen here in situ but now in the Print Works archive.

Charles & Henry Martell’s original Adana, seen here in situ but now in the Print Works archive.

From that small Adana, the Martells got to work printing calling cards, letterheads and other ‘social stationery’ and were paying tax by the age of 16. They learned as they printed, rather than through a formal apprenticeship.

In 1967, the Martell brothers had built enough business to move from working at home to opening their first print works, in Fitzroy Avenue, Margate, and in 1969 they took over a stationery shop on Northdown Road, Margate.

Advert printed by the Martell Press

Advert printed by the Martell Press

35 years later, the brothers employed around 30 people. The printworks had expanded into three units at Hopes Lane, Ramsgate and the shop had more than doubled in size after being destroyed by a fire in 1982.

For both sides of the business, local guesthouses, hotels, and tourist attractions were essential.

“I used to zig zag down the road collecting orders from all of the guest houses,” Henry remembers, “We did everything from menus and business cards to theatre programmes and postcards.” 

Advert for Goodwin Sands Fashion Show, printed by the Martell Press

Advert for Goodwin Sands Fashion Show, printed by the Martell Press

As tourism faded in Thanet, so did Martell’s trade until only the Northdown Road shop remained, selling stationery and offering basic design, printing and copying services. The shop closed in 2017.

Using the Print Works archive:

The Print Works archives include hundreds of examples of material printed in a pre-digital age, including much related to Margate, Broadstairs, and Ramsgate. It includes print for seaside hotels, entertainment venues, and tourism businesses.

The archive also includes documents relating to working in the print industry in the 20th century, from apprenticeship indentures to certificates from a print factory’s Horticultural Club. There are documents relating to design, typography, and the move from analogue processes like typography to digital design and print.

The archive is new, so includes primary material not used before in academic research. It is held at a studio in Margate. For more information email dawn@appletye.org

Print Works is supported by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

10 things you probably didn’t know about windmills

Did you know that Special Collections & Archives hold not one, not two, but four collections relating to windmills and their history? To celebrate National Mills weekend (being held virtually over the bank holiday, 9 – 10 May 2020) we thought we’d put together some interesting facts based on our marvellous mill material! (Alliteration encouraged but not necessary.)

We challenge you not to find windmills awesome after this post

We challenge you not to find windmills awesome after this post

1. Windmills are important sources of local history

We’re so used to living in an age with electrical everything, but before the industrial revolution happened mills were vital sources of power across the UK and Europe. They didn’t need to be near water sources to generate energy and were used for all kinds of work, especially grinding wheat to make flour – vital in a world before mass imported food.

Because mills could be found almost everywhere until the 19th century, they’re a unique source for exploring local history and a great starting point for archive research: who owned the mill? What was it used for? Where was it in the community and how long did it operate for? If it’s no longer around, what’s replaced it on the site? Who worked in mills and how much did they earn? Mills are a great resource for economic, local and art historians alike.

2. Know your mill types: tower mill

Lots of tower mills: note the brick and cylindrical body

Lots of tower mills: note the brick and cylindrical body

If you’ve been following our #WindmillWednesday hashtag on Twitter, you’ll notice that there isn’t just one type of windmill to explore. We traditionally associate windmills with tower mills – they’re fairly cone-like in shape, often brick-based and the sails are attached to a wooden roof that can rotate in the direction of the wind. Tower mills have existed since the 13th century but they became popular from the 16th century onwards; however they’ve always been more expensive to build than other types of mill. In the UK, the tallest existing tower mill can be found at Moulton in Lancashire.

Moulton windmill's workers must have been extremely fit to get all the way to the top (image taken in 1938)

Moulton windmill’s workers must have been extremely fit to get all the way to the top (image taken in 1938)

3. Kent has so many windmills there’s an entire book about them

At one point, Kent had over 400 windmills – with Deal and Sandwich hosting 6 each! Today 12 still exist; Kent County Council look after 6 of them. The definitive work about Kent’s windmills was written by historian William Coles-Finch (1864 – 1944) in 1933. Windmills and Watermills was republished in 1976; we have several copies of each edition. We often get asked “why do you have things relating to windmills anyway?!”; our answer – alongside the local history and generally awesome elements – relates to the creators of the three main mill collections we hold. Keep reading for more information…

4. Know your mill types: post mill

Post mills, not to be confused with post boxes

Post mills, not to be confused with post boxes

Post mills are the earliest known type of European windmill and generally the most affordable to build. They can be recognised easily – they have a blocky, boxy structure that sits on top of one post, often hidden by a cylindrical base. Architecture aside, the main difference between tower mills and post mills is that in post mills the mechanisms are enclosed within the box of the mill (around a single post, hence the name) and it’s this part that turns. In comparison to a tower mill, this is a huge difference – in tower mills it’s only the top of the mill that rotates. Sometimes you’ll see post mills without the cylindrical base, but as it’s pretty useful for storage many are built with this area included as part of the design. In the UK, the longest working post mill can be found in Outwood, Surrey; the oldest non-working mill is in Great Gransden, Cambridgeshire.

Great Gransden windmill shows off its best side (1979)

Great Gransden windmill shows off its best side (1979)

Miller Stanley Jupp looks mighty proud of his Outwood windmill, as he should (1961)

Miller Stanley Jupp looks mighty proud of his Outwood windmill, as he should (1961)

5. The Muggeridge family really liked windmills

The Muggeridge family - father and son

The Muggeridge family – father and son

The largest collection of mill material we look after belongs to the Muggeridges. William Burrell Muggeridge (1884 – 1978) started taking images of mills in 1904 and continued for most of his life; we hold his glass plate photos. William passed his love of all things windmill onto his son, Donald (1918 – 2015) who spent much of his spare time cycling around the UK with his wife Vera. Vera and Donald were interested in all things heritage-related and windmills formed a large part of that interest. Donald’s photographs also reside with us. You can read more about the Muggeridges here.

6. Know your mill types: smock mill

Smock mills in all their finery

Smock mills in all their finery

Like tower mills, smock mills only rotate through the top of the building where the sails are attached. The main difference between smock mills and tower mills is that smock mills are generally constructed of wood and have 6 or 8 sides, whereas tower mills are made of brick and generally cylindrical in shape. Because of their multiple sides smock mills resemble smocks traditionally worn by farmers. In the UK you can find the oldest existing smock mill in Lacey Green, Buckinghamshire.

Lacey Green smock mill looking mighty atmospheric (1934)

Lacey Green smock mill looking mighty atmospheric (1934)

7.  Not just the UK: windmills across the world

The majority of our mill collections focus on UK windmills, but they’re well documented across Europe and beyond. The Netherlands is particularly famous for milling – in 1850 they had 10,000 windmills in operation out of Europe’s 200,000 total! After the Second World War Donald Muggeridge moved to North America (Canada then California), so his collection contains many photos of American mills and others across the globe from his travels. You can explore the listing of Donald’s adventures here.

8. C.P. Davies was also a big mill fan

Our other significant mill collection belonged to C.P. Davies, a Kent based librarian in the 20th century. The Davies collection differs from the Muggeridges’ in that it is much more text and ephemera based – you can find newspaper cuttings, articles, pictures and handwritten notes amongst its c.100 boxes. Davies was primarily focused on mills along the south coast (Kent and Sussex), but there’s information about a wide variety of mills across the UK and Europe. You can browse the listing of the collection here.

9. One final Kent name to remember: the Holman family

Two of the scrapbooks from the Holman family. There's at least one cute sheep photo within.

Two of the scrapbooks from the Holman family. There’s at least one cute sheep photo within.

If you’ve visited Special Collections & Archives on an open day in the past few years, you may well have seen one of our gorgeous windmill scrapbooks. These scrapbooks were made by John Holman; his collection also includes engineering notebooks and many other memorabilia relating to mills. The Holmans were a famous milling family in Kent; they built twelve wooden smock mills across the county between 1793 and 1928, of which six still stand. The Holman milling business (which included engineering and designing mill parts too) ran for 150 years. If you’re interested in finding out more about them, The Mills Archive have a wonderful biography of the Holmans online.

10. Mills have switched from practical structures to heritage buildings

Nowadays most mills aren’t in use for power generation as there are far more efficient methods, and the number of buildings that still exist are far fewer. As you might expect given their structure and components, windmills are at risk from bad weather, neglect and occasionally fires – there are a lot of photos across all our mill collections that record the damage time does to these marvellous machines. However many mills now are managed either through county councils (Kent County Council looks after eight of twelve remaining) or via volunteer charities. They often open for visitors in the summer months, and initiatives like the National Mills weekend help to raise support and awareness.

If you’ve read this far…congratulations! You may now call yourself a molinologist, aka someone who studies mills! Maybe one day you will find yourself seeking out windmills far and wide, like the author of this blog:

Zaanse Schaans windmills in 2018 and 1982.

Windmills: guaranteed to make you happy!

Resources and references:

Kent County Council have a fantastic resource pack to teach children (and adults) about windmills: https://shareweb.kent.gov.uk/Documents/Leisure-and-culture/heritage/heritage-education-packs/windmills-education-pack.pdf

The Mills Archive is a fantastic site for molinologists of all ages but we particularly like their biography of the Holman family: https://millsarchive.org/explore/features-and-articles/entry/158534/holman-bros.-millwrights-of-canterbury-a-history/6817 

For much-needed reading, the Wikipedia pages on windmills are a great place to start (and very thorough): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windmill

The majority of our windmill collections are catalogued; you can view details of their contents here: https://archive.kent.ac.uk/TreeBrowse.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&field=RefNo&key=MILL 

We are continuously cataloguing our library of mill-related books, and you can view up to date listings on LibrarySearch: https://librarysearch.kent.ac.uk/client/en_GB/kent/search/results?qu=windmill&qf=LOCATION%09Location%091%3ASCA%09Special+Collections+and+Archives&if=el%09edsSelectFacet%09FT1&ir=Library&isd=true

All photographs used in the hybrid images in this post are from our Muggeridge collection: https://archive.kent.ac.uk/Record.aspx?src=CalmView.Catalog&id=MILL%2fMUG

Print Works: Part Two – The Thanet Press

Special Collections & Archives has been working with Appletye – an artists’-led organisation based in Margate – to support their mission to record the Isle of Thanet’s rich printing heritage. In lieu of a physical display in Spring 2020 these guest blogs by Dan Thompson and Dawn Cole are our virtual equivalent – we hope you enjoy!

In 1887 Frederick J Bobby, who had been running a small store in Bedford, moved to Margate and took over the Smeeds store, on the junction of Margate High Street and Cecil Square. With business booming, over the next few years Bobby’s acquired neighbouring premises to expand the business. In 1907, he bought a nearby stationers, and print works in Well-close Square. 

obby & Co’s Union Crescent works, depicted on a 1970s Eyre & Spottiswoode Christmas Card. The original print works were in the building to the left.

Bobby & Co’s Union Crescent works, depicted on a 1970s Eyre & Spottiswoode Christmas Card. The original print works were in the building to the left.

In 1909, Bobby demolished the old Smeed’s building, and the other shops he had acquired, to build Margate’s first department store, which would trade until 1972.

And in 1913, the Bobby’s printworks were moved from Well-close Square to a new, purpose-built factory in Union Crescent which still stands today. Next door was Bobby’s furniture factory and a trade showroom, and behind the works was Margate’s old Theatre Royal, which Bobby & Co used as a warehouse. The 1920s and 1930s were good years for Bobby & Co, and they employed famous commercial artist F Gregory Brown to design posters for the stores, as they expanded to other seaside towns. Bobby & Co’s presses worked until the end of the Second World War, printing material for the department store chain as well as for other commercial clients. 

In 1947, publishers Eyre & Spottiswoode took over the former Bobby & Co works. Their three London printworks had all been bombed, leaving them with a three metre deep pool of lead in the basement, so they moved their letterpress works to three new sites – Portsmouth, Chiswick and Margate. 

Advertisement for The Thanet Press

Advertisement for The Thanet Press

From 1953 to 1962, they expanded the Thanet Press and added a range of new buildings, creating almost 4500 square metres of floor space. By 1977, they had over 260 staff and were moving from traditional letterpress to digital typesetting. They printed exam papers, guides to buildings owned by the Ministry of Works (now English Heritage), academic magazines and journals, the order of service for the Queen’s coronation and Prince Margaret’s wedding programme. and packaging for high-end brands like Wedgwood.

For 30 years, Christopher Bradshaw was chief designer for Eyre & Spottiswoode. Passionate about traditional skills and craftsmanship (he was a founder of the Printing Historical Society) he was also an early advocate of computer design. He wrote Design (1964), on the theory of design, and commissioned Michael Twyman’s Printing 1770-1970 (1970), still a definitive book about the print industry.

Advertisement for Bobby's at Margate and Cliftonville

Advertisement for Bobby’s at Margate and Cliftonville

But by 1985, the print industry was facing radical disruption from new technology and Thanet Press was in trouble. Waddington & Co took over the struggling business and the 200 year connection to the Eyre family was lost. 

The company changed hands a few times but by 2011, now owned by the Graham Cumming Group and with staff reduced to just 85, Thanet Press was pushed into administration.

After being left derelict, and nearly being demolished to build social housing, The Thanet Press site has been split up. Part of it is the Carl Freedman Gallery, another will soon be Tracey Emin’s new studios. Upstairs, in the old bindery, is Counter Editions – producing limited edition prints for artists including Anthony Gornley, Bridget Riley, David Shrigley, and Juergen Teller. Printing has happened here for over 110 years.

 

About the Print Works project:

Print Works is a year-long project from Appletye, an arts and heritage organisation. The project explores the history of the print industry on the Isle of Thanet, taking inspiration from two former companies and the heritage of the sites they occupied at Thanet Press, Union Crescent, Margate and Martell Press, Northdown Road, Cliftonville. At the heart of the project are archives from the two Margate firms, recording the stories of the people who worked there and the work they did.

Using the Print Works archive:

The Print Works archives include hundreds of examples of material printed in a pre-digital age, including much related to Margate, Broadstairs, and Ramsgate. It includes print for seaside hotels, entertainment venues, and tourism businesses.

The archive also includes documents relating to working in the print industry in the 20th century, from apprenticeship indentures to certificates from a print factory’s Horticultural Club. There are documents relating to design, typography, and the move from analogue processes like typography to digital design and print.

The archive is new, so includes primary material not used before in academic research. It is held at a studio in Margate. For more information email dawn@appletye.org

Print Works is supported by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Print Works: Part One – Forgotten Industry on the Isle of Thanet

Special Collections & Archives has been working with Appletye – an artists’-led organisation based in Margate – to support their mission to record the Isle of Thanet’s rich printing heritage. In lieu of a physical display in Spring 2020 these guest blogs by Dan Thompson and Dawn Cole are our virtual equivalent – we hope you enjoy!
Map of the Isle of Thanet from a tourism magazine printed at Thanet Press

Map of the Isle of Thanet from a tourism magazine printed at Thanet Press

Each town on the Isle of Thanet is distinct. Ramsgate has its Royal Harbour, and is still an active port for pleasure craft, and the rugged boats that service the offshore windfarms north of Margate. Broadstairs is the quintessential seaside town, a curve of beach at the break in the chalk cliffs, with the town piled up picturesque behind it. 

Margate is brash, East London come to the seaside, proud of its egalitarian spirit and reinventing itself through art and culture. Turner Contemporary opened just shy of ten years ago, and the Old Town is now a jumble of small galleries, vintage shops, and quirky cafes. 

While the story told about the Isle of Thanet over the last twenty or so years has been one of tourism (Margate rebranded itself in 2011 as ‘The Original Seaside Resort’), there’s an untold history of the island. From the 1920s onwards, it became a centre for a set of light industries, based mainly on former farmland around Westwood, in between Margate, Broadstairs and Ramsgate. 

After the Second World War, the government recognised this and gave it assistance as an industrial area. 

Hornby made their model trains and Airfix soldiers at Westwood for 50 years. 

The UK’s first cable television was piped from the Isle of Thanet to homes across England by Rediffusion, who were at the sharp edge of innovation until the 1990s – they invented a precursor to the internet in the 1980s. 

In 1954, Pfizer opened research laboratories at Sandwich, at the edge of Thanet, inventing a way to mass produce penicillin and winning numerous awards over the next 60 years. 

Until the turn of the millennium, industry employed more people on the Isle of Thanet than tourism ever did.

And with both industry and tourism to service, the Isle of Thanet became home to a concentration of printing companies, employing hundreds in skilled, secure, well-paid jobs – some of the best printers in the country. 

 

About the Print Works project:

Print Works is a year-long project from Appletye, an arts and heritage organisation. The project explores the history of the print industry on the Isle of Thanet, taking inspiration from two former companies and the heritage of the sites they occupied at Thanet Press, Union Crescent, Margate and Martell Press, Northdown Road, Cliftonville. At the heart of the project are archives from the two Margate firms, recording the stories of the people who worked there and the work they did. 

Using the Print Works archive:

The Print Works archives include hundreds of examples of material printed in a pre-digital age, including much related to Margate, Broadstairs, and Ramsgate. It includes print for seaside hotels, entertainment venues, and tourism businesses.

The archive also includes documents relating to working in the print industry in the 20th century, from apprenticeship indentures to certificates from a print factory’s Horticultural Club. There are documents relating to design, typography, and the move from analogue processes like typography to digital design and print.

The archive is new, so includes primary material not used before in academic research. It is held at a studio in Margate. For more information email dawn@appletye.org

Print Works is supported by a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.