Printing heritage celebrated with open days

Jo Francis
Friday, September 10, 2021

Historic Norfolk letterpress printer Francis Cupiss is among the industry-related businesses taking part in the Heritage Open Days, which start today.

Grass roots heritage festival involves 5,000 events overall
Grass roots heritage festival involves 5,000 events overall

The Diss-based business is opening its workshop to visitors who will learn about traditional letterpress printing and the firm’s rich history. 

Francis Cupiss was established in 1830 and celebrated 190 years in business last year. Heritage Open Days visitors will be able to experience printing "hands on" using wooden type on the firm’s 20"x30" Columbian Printing Press – its first press – and “to take home a printed item linked to our 190th anniversary and their visit”.

Managing director John Harding told Printweek: “We are the oldest business in the town and we’ve been doing the open days for about five-or-six years. We’ve got people here at the moment – it’s nice to open the premises up and show people how letterpress works.”

Pre-booking is preferred so the firm can organise numbers and allow people to have time on the press. Francis Cupiss has also set up a virtual tour for those unable to attend in person. 

Francis Cupiss is the oldest business in Diss 

Elsewhere, the new Advertising Archive in Stockport is holding its first open days after Covid-19 delayed its plans to open last year. 

Other print related activities include First Impressions: 500 Years of Print in St Albans with St Albans Museum & Gallery curator Sarah Keeling giving a free talk on its rich history related to print and the written word, from medieval manuscripts to the installation of what was the third printing press in the country in 1479 “aiding the spread of enlightenment and knowledge by supplying the University of Cambridge with its texts”.

“From printing now iconic London Transport posters to producing fake Daily Telegraph newspapers as part of the war effort, the printing history of St Albans is rich and surprising at every turn,” the museum said. 

There’s also a separate online talk with a Cambridge connection with Kathryn McKee, special collections librarian at St John’s Old Library in the city, speaking about One Thousand Years of Book History featuring “a whistle-stop tour of the history of the book, beginning in the 10th century and ending in the 21st”.

In Hampshire, the historic P&G Wells Bookshop – the oldest shop in Winchester – features in the “behind the business” series of short films. 

In the film current manager Steve Scholey talks about the history of this bookselling, binding and printing business which stretches back for nearly 300 years.

The Heritage Open Days are England’s largest festival of history and culture, with many events featuring a printing connection, including textile printing at the River Wandle Industrial Museum, a chance to look around the building previously occupied by the Hastings & St Leonards Observer newspaper in Hastings, and printing workshops at Another Angle Studio in Lowestoft. 

Heritage Open Days runs from 10-19 September and includes in-person and online events. Details of all the events are at www.heritageopendays.org.uk.

Separately, the John Jarrold Printing Museum collection has at last found a new home. Its future was under threat due to redevelopment of its existing site and after plans for an alternative site fell through.

Over the summer the Norwich Printing Museum charity – including the John Jarrold Heritage Collection – relocated to the National Trust’s Blickling Estate near Aylsham, north of Norwich. The Historic Print Shop is now open there and features “many of the items from the Jarrold collection with craftsmen and women demonstrating historic printing industry techniques”. 

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