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  • Title
    Rowley Atterbury from Rocappi Ltd Archive
  • Reference
    MS 5053
  • Date
    1964-1992
  • Creator
  • Creator history
    Rowley Streatfeild Atterbury was born in Eastbourne in 1920. He left school at 17 and volunteered in the Royal Air Force (RAF), where he trained in the engineering workshop. In 1940, a medical downgrade prevented him from becoming a fitter armourer so he spent the rest of the Second World War writing and supervising the production of Air Ministry technical manuals. He left the RAF after the War, and worked in the Production Department of Faber and Faber. At weekends, he experimented with a small printing press. In May 1950, he left Faber and Faber to found his own business, the Westerham Press. He aimed to do sound, well-designed work for customers in commerce and industry, not just limited editions for amateurs. He believed that printing, even small press printing, should be run as a business. The Westerham Press began in a lock-up garage in Westerham, near Sevenoaks, in Kent, which belonged to Rowley Atterbury’s aunt, Sylvia Streatfeild, and then moved to a building on Westerham High St. Atterbury quickly gained a reputation as a printer/typographer and designer, not simply an owner of machines. In its early years, the Press was financed by a group of investors which included Joyce Boosey, who guaranteed its overdraft and invested in shares; Berthold Wolpe; Michael Vlasto; Ellic Howe; and Westerham Press employees Leonard Turley, Herbert Bowles, and Bernard Burt. The Press’s work included brochures, catalogues, and reports; high quality colour printing; commercial and private stationery; and technical and scientific work in the principal European languages. Customers included the City Music Society, Canchu Tea, Boosey and Hawkes, Killick Martin, Marley Tile Company, Rainbird McLean, the British Council, Penguin Books, Bromley Building Society, Geoffrey Dunn, and the Folio Society. Rowley Atterbury was keen to acquire and experiment with new technologies and machinery. In 1952, the Press purchased a Heidelberg Cylinder machine for colour printing. In 1955, it bought its first Monotype machine and purchased a considerable range of classic ‘book’ typefaces. In 1957, filmsetting was installed. By the end of 1957, the Press employed 35 people and worked for 150 clients. In 1957, Max Rayne (later Lord Rayne) was introduced to the company by the artist Charles Mozley, who was producing a book about the proposed development of St Paul’s. Max Rayne gave considerable financial support to the Press and it was with his help that the company moved into the 1960s. In 1958, it was decided that the future of the Press lay in lithography. A Lithography Department came into being in 1959 and in 1960 a sheet fed four colour press was purchased and new premises were acquired to house the Lithography Department on the old RAF station at Biggin Hill. These premises were intended partly to increase production facilities but also to obtain experience for a major new factory. The new factory, on the London Rd in Westerham, covered 3600 square metres, was completed in 1966 and brought all manufacturing processes under one roof. Sales and employee numbers continued to rise: in 1960, 100 people were employed and turnover was £65,000 and by 1963-64, turnover was £370,000. Rocappi In 1964, Westerham Press was encouraged by Max Rayne to examine future developments in the printing industry. It was thought that it would be worth investigating how to relate new developments in ‘data processing’ to typesetting. A team, headed by the British mathematician Colin Barber, was assembled, and the press acquired the latest computer technology. A company named Rocappi (Research on Computer Applications to the Printing and Publishing Industries) was formed, owned jointly by Hazell Sun (later the British Printing Corporation), Rocappi Inc, and the Westerham Press. The firm also developed methods of using computers to sort and analyse the data in the text, and an important breakthrough was achieved when the index for the British Imperial Calender and Civil Service list for the year 1966 was produced by computer. Despite the technical achievements made by Rocappi, it was judged not to be financially viable. Rocappi Inc. pulled out in 1967 and the Westerham Press share was bought by the British Printing Corporation, who proceeded to dismiss the staff, including Atterbury and Barber, and bring in their own replacements. The company was then wound down. Westerham Press in the 1970s and 1980s By 1970, the Press owned 16 lithographic and letterpress printing presses and employed 190 people. Turnover had risen again to £924,000. By the early 1970s, 90% of shares in the company were held by London Merchant Securities. On 1 April 1972, the owners bought LMS’s 90% share, thereby regaining control of the company. George Rainbird became Chairman in 1972. In 1980, the Press operated in three separate divisions: fine art; reports and accounts; and general printing. Turnover was £3 million. In 1984, Westerham Press was sold. Its factory was demolished and the land sold for housing. Hurtwood Press After the sale of Westerham Press, Rowley Atterbury set up a printing company, Hurtwood Press. Hurtwood Press was set up by Rowley Atterbury and a number of friends, and published a limited edition book, John Piper’s Stowe and A Golden Adventure: The First Fifty Years of Ultramar in 1985. A book of war drawings by Edward Bawden was planned but never published. Today, Hurtwood Press is a fine art printing consultancy, run as a partnership between Francis Atterbury and Jo Hilton. It produces books for specialist publishers, and work for artists, printers, and galleries. Hurtwood Press's web site is www.hurtwoodpress.com. Hand Press In a letter to Derek Nuttall, Rowley Atterbury wrote that when he sold Westerham Press in 1984, he saved as much of the older equipment as he could. The Hand Press was set up at Westerham Heights Farm and work provided for several members of staff who had been made redundant. The equipment saved included a Heidelberg Cylinder, a Heidelberg Platen, plus a vast Monotype collection. Sources: company histories in MS 5347/G/7; Colin Barber's obituaries in 'The Independent' and 'The Times'; talks given by Rowley Atterbury in MS 5347/E.
  • Scope and Content
    This collection chiefly covers the period 1964-1967, when Rowley Atterbury was working at Rocappi. The bulk of the collection consists of his incoming and outgoing business correspondence of from May 1964 to April 1967. In his role as Managing Director he had taken on responsibility for the public relations and promotion of the firm, and many of the letters reflect this. There is also correspondence dealing with the relations between Rocappi Ltd and the parent firms of Rocappi Inc., Westerham Press and Hazell Sun/British Printing Corporation. The collection also contains press cuttings; samples of material produced by the Rocappi process; promotional leaflets and press releases; minutes of directors' meetings; lists of enquiries from potential clients; proposals for projects; overseas proposals and enquirires; material relating to attempts to hire out the computer for typestting jobs to other firms; marketing reports, and draft contracts. In addition, there are a few of Atterbury's papers from the period after he left the firm. These consist of some correspondence 1968-1970 with government bodies about obtaining government funding to support a computer typesetting business, and also accounts of the founding of the company and Atterbury's time there, the last dated 1992.
  • Extent
    Four boxes containing c. 3000 items
  • Language
    English
  • Level of description
    fonds
  • Content person
  • Content Subject