Ref no40145
TitleRecords of J.W. Arrowsmith Ltd, Printers and Publishers
Date1850 - 1973
DescriptionThe collection consists of the business records of J.W. Arrowsmith Ltd. It includes: corporate records, such as Memoranda of Incorporation, minutes and correspondence; staff records, including wage books (1853-1906), apprenticeship records (1840-1891) and other records up to 1956; financial records, comprised mostkly of balance sheets 1950s - 1980s; legal records relating to the publication of titles during the 19th and early 20th century. The collection also includes records of the premises and plant owned and operated by the company, both as Arrowsmith & Evans of Clare Street in the 1840s, and J. W. Arrowsmith thereafter at 11 Quay Street and the modern premises erected at Winterstoke Road inhabited by the company from 5 November 1954. The collection includes a selection of Production records, including registers of books published and royalties paid, and examples of the printing output of the company. In addition to the business records of the company, the collection also includes a selection of the personal records of Isaac Arrowsmith, and his son James Williams Arrowsmith.
Extent11 boxes
Administrative historyThe founder of the firm was Isaac Arrowsmith of Worcester (1802 - 1871), a leading figure in Worcester Political Union in the mid 19th century, also a founder member of Worcester Typographical Society, and a proprietor of the Worcester Chronicle. In 1854 Isaac Arrowsmith dissolved his partnership in the Worcester Chronicle and moved with his family to Bristol, where he entered into partnership with Hugh Evans, stationer and bookseller, of Clare Street. Their first joint venture was a penny Time Table of Steam Packets and Railways, which appeared in July 1854. The partnership ended in 1857, and Isaac Arrowsmith moved to 11 Quay Street. The business expanded, including a great deal of printing work for the Great Western Railway.

Isaac died in 1871 and the business passed to his son James Williams Arrowsmith (6 Nov 1839 - 19 Jan 1913), who developed the publishing side of the business, with great success. Titles published during these years included Three Men in a Boat (Jerome K. Jerome), Prisoner of Zenda (Anthony Hope) and The Diary of a Nobody (George Crossmith). J.W. Arrowsmith was also a leading figure in Bristol public life. On his death in 1913, having no children of his own, his nephew, J.A. Arrowsmith-Brown (d.15 Jun 1937) succeeded to the business.

Arrowsmiths were printers to Bristol University from 1877 and also carried out printing work for a large number of other Bristol establishments, including Clifton College, the Children's Hospital and Bristol Record Society. The publishing side of the business did however decline during the early years of the 20th century, while the printing work continued to flourish. In 1937 on the death of the chairman J.A. Arrowsmith-Brown, the business passed to his nephew, R.H. Brown, as his own children were too young to involve themselves in the business. Under his guidance the business, which had expanded beyond the capacity of the Quay Street premises, took up first additional factory and warehouse accommodation in Southmead and Shirehampton, and then moved wholesale in 1954 to a modern factory in Winterstoke Road.

In 1979 the company built a new extension for the composition departments, keyboards, reading, film, soon after computer output machines, and dark room. It was opened by Michael Cocks, then MP for Bristol South.

In November 1980 Henry Arrowsmith-Brown retired as Managing Director, aged 60, remaining as Chairman, and Victoria Arrowsmith-Brown became sole Managing Director. In 1983 Theo Bacon retired as Finance Director and was replaced by James Arrowsmith-Brown.

The period 1979-1993 had three major disputes, principally over pay, and principally with the composition staff, by far the larger portion of the workforce. The disputes were not helped by inflation, and were partly brought on by an increase of 50% pay in two years, 1978 and 1979, caused by the national negotiators (British Printing Industries Federation and National Graphical Association) not appreciating that the formula they arrived at was punitive for bonus houses such as Arrowsmith. Arrowsmith could not continue to pay such high increases.

At the same time, labour markets in other parts of the world were growing to provide cheaper typesetting, and publishers were asking authors to provide their manuscripts electronically. There was a strike in the spring of 1980, another dispute in 1988 and finally a dispute in 1993 which resulted in the dismissal of 122 people, leaving 40 employed, a number that gradually increased to 60 staff over the next few months. In May 1993 the company derecognised the union.

During the eighties the company's principal market in mathematical composition increased, and a weekly publication for composition only (Nature for Macmillan) was won. It also gained complementary printing and binding work, including a printing weekly for the UK Hydrographic Office, Notice to Mariners, in the latter part of the decade, and UK publishing short-run book printing. The squeeze on prices, however, as a result of increasing labour costs, meant that the mathematical composition became harder to sustain, and by the early nineties the balance of price vs cost was on a knife edge, with the bonus scheme reduced to a group scheme and the company dependent on overtime to meet demand.

Following the 1993 dispute and during the nineties the company reduced its exposure to technical composition, but the market for black and white printing work was increasingly threatened by Far Eastern printing, and suitable large-format printing machines which would give a price edge were no longer available to buy competitively, the manufacturers' energies going into colour and small format. Jacket and cover printing were brought in-house after buying a small colour press, but there was insufficient investment in monochrome printing and in binding. The company opened a modest new market in academic and scholarly short-run work in the period.

In 1999, Victoria Arrowsmith-Brown passed the role of Managing Director to Philip Cave, remaining as Chairman. The company acquired a typesetting-only company,Wyvern Press, which had a similar market in academic societywork, but closed it in 2003. In 2004 a management buyout was effected, with Victoria leaving the company and James remaining. The premises at Winterstoke Road were sold and the company planned to move to new premises in central Bristol, but this fell through. In 2005 the company moved to rented premises in Whitchurch, closing the printing and binding, which were carried out by a partner company. Though its pension scheme had been closed in the late nineties the company still carried a pension liability, and the government levies on the pension scheme, combined with the lack of manufacturing, forced the company to go into administration in January 2006. The pension scheme passed to the Pension Protection Fund. The server and composition files were bought by a group of four ex-employees to continue the scholarly society work.

The name Arrowsmith still survives as a publishing imprint for Arrowsmith’s Bristol Channel Tide Table.

Show related Persons records.

NA594Printers and publishers; J W Arrowsmith and Co of Bristol
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