Thursday, 3 November 2011

Letterpress in Wolverhampton and Dudley

One of the closest places to experience letterpress printing is at the Black Country Living Museum, who have their own print shop, producing bespoke items for use in the Museum.
“You might be expecting a high street jobbing printers, but actually 'our' exhibit was operated from an ordinary garden shed. Besides a small Cropper 'Peerless' clamshell type press, all we have is a small proofing press, a couple of the ubiquitous Adana tabletop presses (see a label maker. Even so, I think the range of work produced over the past five years, since the exhibit was opened, will impress you.” said Stephen Howard Assistant Curator Black Country Living Museum.

The print shop at the Museum  was originally located behind an ordinary house, 1 Laburnam Road Bilston, the workshop was built in 1936 by Mr Robert James to house some type benches and a press he bought second hand . For nearly 60 years he used his home and this shed as a base for printing, photography, poster design and sign painting, supplementing his wage as a compositor at Wilkes Ltd printers in Bilston. He was 80s he was still going out to meet his customers on a battered old bicycle.

Mr James had trained at Bilston Art College, then, he served a traditional apprenticeship at Wooley’s (est 1913), another Bilston printers still trading to this day.

The shed and its contents were donated to the museum by Mr James’ family in 1998 

“Ken Dworak, our printer, has benefited from expert tuition by a local printer in Gordon Street Wolverhampton, John Neave, who was taught traditional typesetting at Wolverhampton College of Art. John is still in business today and does letterpress work from time to time using his beloved Heidelberg” Stephen Howard continued.

To find out more about Wolverhampton printer John Neave visit: 

Images from 

The Museum is offering Visual Communication students reduced entry fee of £7.10, on production of student identification card. The print workshop is open on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.
For more information about the museum visit:

At time of posting, The Black Country Living Museum is investigating the possibility of running a specialist letterpress workshop for Visual Communications students. More detail to follow. 

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