The Typographic Hub

Watford’s printing past

This collaborative research project has been established with Watford Museum and the University of the Third Age to document the social, aesthetic, technical and educational aspects of Watford's printing past.


This year sees the 50th anniversary of the official opening of the School of Printing in Watford and in celebration we will be staging an exhibition at the Watford Museum in November 2013. To help us put together an interesting and inspiring show we are currently seeking people to contribute to the project with memories, material and photographs. So if you were involved with the Watford School of printing between 1953-99 please get in contact:

From the mid-15th century when Hertfordshire issued its first printed book, to the late-20th century when Robert Maxwell’s newspaper empire came to the region, printing has been the county’s main industry. Printing in Watford started in 1832 when John Peacock set up his press, and by the turn of the 19th century the town’s printers had started the work which was make Watford into major international printing centre. Throughout the ’50s and ’60s Watford had the greatest concentration of printing in the UK (and perhaps the world) with an estimated 70% of the town’s population involved in the industry and its allied trades.

The project

In 2012 Dr Caroline Archer was invited by Watford Museum to review its current printing exhibitions and to examine its archive of material relating to the history of printing in Watford. After an initial survey of the exhibitions and archives it became clear the collection contained material of both local and national significance and the task of reviewing, cataloguing and re-displaying this material would be a lengthy process, which would require both local knowledge as well as a understanding for the social, aesthetic, technical and educational aspects of printing. The gallery also requires re-working to enable the history of printing to be told alongside the particular development of Watford’s printing past.

In addition, the history of printing in Watford is of such international significance it merits the attention of a full-scale academic study. To which end the Typographic Hub, and the Watford Museum have agreed to work together to prepare the ground-work for a full-scale study of the collection and the telling of the history of printing in Watford.

However, given the size of the task members of the Watford Branch of the U3A are being invited to assist with this primary research, the results of which would be used to inform further research. In addition it is intended the initial project would result in a small exhibition/booklet/oral history collection which would be housed for posterity at the Museum.


U3A - is the national representative body for the Universities of Third Age (U3As) in the UK.  U3As are self-help, self-managed lifelong learning co-operatives for older people no longer in full time work, providing opportunities for their members to share learning experiences in a wide range of interest groups and to pursue learning not for qualifications, but for fun.

Watford Museum tells the story of Watford past and present through on- and off-line exhibitions, events and other activities.