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OCTOBER 2008

IMPORTANT FIND IN AUSTRALIA

When The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney published a picture of a Wharfedale Printing Machine on their website, it attracted the attention of Brian Aldred, one of our experts, who was planning a tour of printing museums in Australia and New Zealand.

The Wharfedale was invented by David Payne of Otley whilst working for William Dawson. They produced the first Wharfedale in 1858. A stop-cylinder machine with a travelling bed that could deliver print without having to be stopped, it was a crucial step forward in the history of the printing press and revolutionised the printing industry. Dawson and Payne did not take out a patent with the result that the machine was widely copied. By the turn of the century Otley had seven firms manufacturing Wharfedales and exporting them all over the world. Production continued into the 1980s. One of the earliest machines is on display in Otley Museum.

The Powerhouse Museum was keen to show Brian their machine and pick his brains. Unfortunately it was not a Wharfedale. But when he looked closely and polished up the nameplate, he discovered a treasure. This was an Ulverstonian, even older than the Wharfedale but also with important connections to Otley. 

In 1854 Stephen Soulby of Ulverston in Cumbria invited Dawson and Payne to manufacture his patented printing machine. They produced over 50, during which time David Payne modified and improved the design. The machine in Sydney is thought to have been sent there by Furnivals of Redditch in Cheshire and the museum acquired it in 1981. The nameplate is undergoing further conservation work and photographs will be sent to us in due course. 

The Ulverstonian Printing Machine in The Powerhouse Museum, Sydney

Among other museums visited were:
Penrith in Australia
Queanbeyan Printing Museum
The Bedplate Printing Museum in Wellington New Zealand, which is moving in order to expand. It will be accepting two Cossar Presses and Brian is sending them further information on these. The Cossar Press was originally built on a Wharfedale bed.

During his tour Brian viewed twenty seven machines and was allowed to print on three of them. Two had been made in Leeds and one in Halifax. 

In one museum in New Zealand a John Kay Diadem printer similar to the one in Otley Museum was on display. Small printing jobs - letterheads, cards - required smaller machines, usually treadle operated. The Diadem is an example of this type of machine. Here the print and press move towards each other, operating on a different principle from the Wharfedale which was ideal for printing large sheets of paper for newspapers, posters and books,

Contact with several museums in Australia and New Zealand continues as Brian shares his expertise and follows up leads in this country. He has also contacted the Science Museum in London because he thinks they have an Ulverstonian in store. 

Otley’s significance in the Printers’ Engineering industry is recognised around the world. A major archive – still growing – is conserved and maintained by Otley Museum.

Brian Aldred is a volunteer at both Otley Museum and the Industrial Museum in Bradford. He is a Friend of the National Printing Heritage Trust.