By Dan Thompson
A new book celebrates the Isle of Thanet’s historic printing industry, through the stories of just three of the more than 100 printing houses based in the region.
It was completed after the Kent Appletye arts organization received a grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The book, Print In Thanet, is based on the archives of Margate The Thanet Press and Martell Press, and the stories of the people who worked there. It also includes the story of Magic Ink, a more radical printing press run by local man Ian King. The book examines not only the work of the industry, but also the clubs, social societies and the lives of families involved in business.
Founded over 100 years ago as part of the Bobby & Co group, The Thanet Press was acquired by Eyre & Spottiswoode when their London factory was destroyed during WWII. It has grown into a nationally significant printer with clients including the royal family, national galleries and museums, and the government. The Thanet Press site in Union Crescent, Margate is currently under redevelopment, as Tracey Emin’s new studio, artist print studio and gallery space.
Martell Press, founded by brothers Charles and Henry, was a commercial printer active at the height of the island’s tourism industry and serving many tourism-related businesses. The company carried out work on the Pysons Road estate. In the later years of the business, Martell Press was based on Northdown Road, Cliftonville. This building is now a cafe.
The Print Works project, launched in 2019, brought together young people from Jo Jo’s School of Dance to explore the archives and learn more about printing. He also collected stories from people who worked for The Thanet Press and Martell Press. The special collections team at the Templeman Library at the University of Kent collaborated on the project. And Appletye used the project to bring people together from local museums and heritage attractions, to discuss ways to work together locally.
The Print Works project aimed to help young people respond creatively to the history of printing and use their responses with archival materials in an exhibit at the Templeman Library on the University of Canterbury campus . Unfortunately, Covid 19 made the workshops, a festive event and the final exhibition impossible, so the book Print In Thanet was produced as an alternative.
In addition to examining the history of the local printing press, the book documents the work done on the Print Works project and shares his expertise on how to explore archives and local history creatively.
The book can be read online on the Appletye website from today (July 12) and printed copies are deposited in the local history collection at Margate Library, University of Kent , Margate Museum and Marine Studios, Margate and local high schools. . Copies will also be sent to museums and archives across the UK which focus on printed and industrial heritage, to ensure that the history of the Isle of Thanet is no longer forgotten.
“As we discovered the amazing personal stories of people who worked in print media, we worked with ideas of memory, attachment and loss,” says Lorna Dallas-Tale of Appletye, “and when we started as of May 2019, we weren’t sure how much more resonant these themes would have by the time we were done.
“This industry was not only important to skilled workers at companies like Thanet Press and Martell Press,” says project manager Dawn Cole, “but also to their families. It’s great to see all of their stories recognized and recorded now, and to think that the people who worked in this important industry are no longer forgotten.