WH Smith

Henry Walton Smith (1738-1792) and his wife Anna Smith (nee Eastaugh, c.1756-1816) first established a news vendor's business in around 1790 in Little Grosvenor Street, London. Successive generations of the family, including William Henry Smith (1792-1865, the first W.H. Smith) and his son William Henry Smith (1825-1891), who went on to be a leading political figure, developed the business to become the UK's foremost newsagent and bookseller, and familiar high street name.

The company is noted for its development of news distribution (including the use of railways as the network expanded), the establishment of platform bookstalls (and later at motorway services and airports), and its position as a bookseller and stationer. Diversification (into printing, publishing, recorded music, DIY and even television) also characterise the firm's long history. Family involvement in the business continued to 1992, although it became a private company in 1929 and a public one in 1948.

The archive consists of commercial, legal, accounting and other business records, minutes and correspondence, photographs, staff records, building plans, press and publicity material. There are long runs of in-house journals and magazines, as well as other publications.

The University of Reading acknowledges with thanks the donation of these valuable records and documents by The WH Smith Archive (a charity) and WH Smith PLC. Substantial family papers (the Hambleden Manuscripts, reference HAM), estate papers (reference SEP), and the archive of Bowes and Bowes (reference BAB) also formed part of this Gift.

More information

  • Much of the archive has been catalogued and appears on Enterprise
  • A handlist is available at the Special Collections Service
  • Archive reference: WHS
  • A full description is available from our online database
publishing history correspondence, business records Y Smith, WH

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