Note: The companies appear here in alphabetical order, not in the order in which they came into being.
André & Sleigh Ltd.
This firm was one of the earliest process firms in Britain, producing work of very high quality. Owned by Cassell’s, it was originally formed by Richard André and nephews. David Greenhill became manager after leaving Bemrose Dalziel in 1909, and, together with Charles F. Cook (also of Bemrose) and A.G. Symmons, developed the firm’s gravure printing facilities. When André & Sleigh’s work was exhibited at the Agricultural Hall, London, in 1914, Edward Hunter of Anglo Engraving was sufficiently impressed by its quality to negotiate with Cassell’s for the purchase of the firm. The sale took place later that year.
André, Sleigh & Anglo Ltd.
The company was created in August 1914 upon the acquisition of André & Sleigh and Bushey Colour Press by Edward Hunter’s Anglo Engraving Co. of London. Sir Arthur Spurgeon, of Cassell’s, was appointed chairman, and David Greenhill became a director and the company’s general manager. In 1916, André, Sleigh & Anglo acquired Ashworth, Meredith & Downer Ltd., a small blockmaking company in London. In 1919, André, Sleigh & Anglo acquired Menpes Printing and Engraving Co. and consolidated operations in the Menpes factory on Whippendell Road in Watford, under the banner of the Sun Engraving Company.
Anglo Engraving Co.
The company was founded in 1898 by Edward Hunter and J.A. (Archie) Hughes, both just out of their photoengraving apprenticeships. The firm was launched with a single employee, but grew quickly. In 1901, Anglo moved from its original Farringdon Avenue premises to larger offices in Raynes Park, where a trade letterpress printing department was soon set up. The partners would eventually be joined by two of Edward’s brothers, Hugh (around 1905) and Noel (in 1910). In 1906, Anglo purchased the Croydon firm of J.J. Waddington, acquiring its gravure facilities and expertise. In 1910, Anglo set up a small, separate firm in Barnes, Middlesex. This was the Mezzogravure Co., which concentrated on developing the new process of rotary photogravure printing. In 1914, Anglo acquired André & Sleigh Ltd. and Bushey Colour Press (both of Bushey, nr Watford) from Cassell’s, because Edward Hunter had been so impressed by the quality of the work they displayed at a printing exhibition in London. In the wake of these additions and acquisitions, Anglo was renamed André, Sleigh & Anglo Ltd.
Ashworth, Meredith & Downer Ltd.
Ashworth, Meredith & Downer started as a process engraving partnership in 1901 in Bushey. In 1902, Ashworth made the first colour process engraving, for the cover of Motor magazine. The firm moved to Watford in 1906, and thereafter to London. It was acquired by André, Sleigh & Anglo in 1916.
Bushey Colour Press
Formed by Cassell’s in 1910, the firm was managed by David Greenhill and, in 1914, was acquired (along with André & Sleigh Ltd.) by Anglo Engraving. The resulting company was called André, Sleigh & Anglo Ltd.
Geo.W. Jones Ltd.
This printing firm (which became a subsidiary of the department store Debenham & Freebody in 1904) was established by George Jones in London around 1890. Jones was involved in various aspects of production (including publishing) for a number of trade magazines dealing with the graphic arts, and his activities culminated in 1906 in the construction of a sizeable factory on Whippendell Road, Watford. At about that time, Jones was joined by artist Mortimer Menpes, who became art director of the company. In 1908, Jones left the company, whose name was then changed to Menpes Printing and Engraving Co.
Menpes Printing and Engraving Co.
Mortimer Menpes was an artist who became art director of Geo.W. Jones Ltd. (Printers), probably shortly before that firm moved from London to new premises on Whippendell Road in Watford. When, in 1908, George Jones resigned from the firm he had founded, Menpes seems to have acquired the business, which became known initially as the Menpes Press. Menpes undertook photoengraving and letterpress printing on quite a large scale. In 1918, the company’s assets were acquired by André, Sleigh & Anglo Ltd., which, a year later, consolidated its scattered production operations in the Whippendell Road plant after modifying and expanding it. The consolidated companies were renamed the Sun Engraving Company Ltd.
Mezzogravure Co. Ltd.
In 1910, Edward Hunter and J.A. (Archie) Hughes set up the Mezzogravure Co. in Barnes, Middlesex, and there they ran experiments on, and refined, the revolutionary process of rotary photogravure printing. It was the beginning of the photogravure work for which the Sun Engraving Co., and ultimately Sun Printers, would become famous. The work was done behind locked doors with a small staff sworn to secrecy. There was no unauthorized access. Possessed of a good knowledge of the process for hand-plate gravure, a small master screen, and a 15 in. calico printing machine made by John Wood of Ramsbottom, Hunter, Hughes, and works director John Threlfall (originally of Waddingtons, the Croydon photo engravers) were soon producing fine prints – chiefly calendar subjects and frontispieces for high-quality books – that won raves for their ‘rich velvet quality, the amazing depth of tone, and the inimitable shadow detail.’ The extraordinary work coming out of Barnes had a revolutionary effect on the rest of the trade, and the wider world began to take notice. During WWI the company was hired by the government to print a photogravure background on the nation’s food tickets, to make them hard to copy. The Mezzogravure Co. was absorbed into the Sun Engraving Co. around 1918.