• Title
  • Reference
    MS 5347
  • Production date
  • 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 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. Westerham Press – international reputation as fine book printers for the world, specialising in museum catalogues and fine art reproductions. Business virtually closed in 1984. 40,000 sq foot purpose built factory demolished. Land sold for housing. 1964 Westerham Press encouraged by Max Rayne (now Lord Rayne) to examine future developments in printing industry. “I thought that relating what was then called ‘data processing’ to typesetting would be an area to investigate. Team led by Colin Barber, British mathematician. Computer bought.” 1946 RSA found employment with Dr Berthold Ludwig Van Wolpe, German artist and designer. “Thus in 1950 I was able to become a printer.” Westerham press built new factory at Biggin Hill, Kent: “light, flashing through transparent letters onto sensitized film, which is here superseding molten metal. New plant depends on a ‘Monophoto’ filmsetter for its only source of type.” Allows us to set matter in any size font. Letterpress factory in village of Westerham. Press founded Rocappi in 1964 in conjunction with Hazell Sun Ltd (later British Printing Corporation) and Rocappi Inc of Swarthmore Pa. ~Factory leased at Otford, Kent, team under CR Barber est. first plant in Europe designed for full computer typesetting. Used ICT 1500 computer and KS Paul keyboards were used for Tape input. Work produced included Dents Everyman Encyclopedia, The Imperial Calendar, World Crops Directory, Philips Record Catalogue etc. Project subject to financial pressures and commercial pressures proved in the end too great and Press abandoned project in Jan 1968.
  • Scope and Content
    Papers of Rowley Atterbury, Managing Director of the Westerham Press, dating from the 1950s to the 1990s. The largest series of documents in the archive (36 boxes) contains correspondence with contacts and clients of the Westerham Press, many of whom were Rowley Atterbury’s personal friends. Since Rowley Atterbury was closely involved in the day to day affairs of the company throughout his career, and much of its work came through personal contacts, there is no obvious distinction between personal and business records in the collection. There are records of company finance and management including Annual Reports and Accounts; records relating to the printing process including order books, invoice books, job sheets, and proofs; and publicity material such as press cuttings, leaflets and brochures, and company magazines. Personal material includes copies of talks and articles about the history of printing, and correspondence relating to books published by the Westerham Press, which seem to have been his personal projects. There are many photographs of Westerham Press’s visitors, premises, and machinery. Examples of material printed by the Press include concert programmes, company brochures and Annual Reports, book jackets, and postcards. There is also a large collection of reference material about printing including examples of printing by other printers and publishers and journals about printing.
  • Extent
    85 boxes
  • Language
    English, occasional French and German
  • Level of description
  • Content person
  • Conditions governing access
    The correspondence files in the collection may be accessed only with Rowley Atterbury's permission. The rest of the collection is open.
  • System of arrangment
    The collection has been arranged in 12 categories. Correspondence files, which were arranged and listed by Rowley Atterbury's secretary, have been catalogued in their original order. The rest of the collection has been arranged by record type.
  • Related objects
    MS 5053