One of the great benefits of the internet is to bring together people with a common interest that might otherwise never have met. Peter Maher (see picture) has been recounting fond memories of his time as a trainee foreman between 1967 and 1970 with White Brothers Printers at Offley Works.
White Brothers Printers were based on the ground floor of Offley Works F-Block -the two storey building subsequently occupied by Furniture Aid. Back in the late 1960s, the owner was Fred White and Christopher Davenport the General Manager. Peter recalls that Christopher’s father was a director of Christies. White Brothers printed Christies auction catalogues and other things like ‘long-boat’ holidays on the Norfolk Broads. Peter operated the guillotine, bookbinding and collating machine and ran occasional errands delivering letters and parcels to Christies’ Auction House.
At the time, about 20 people were employed half of which were women. Peter’s foreman Jack had been with the business for many years and seemingly wanted to hold on to his own job so wouldn’t let Peter practise what he was learning at the London College of Printers -Elephant and Castle. He remembers when the computerised guillotine came it speeded up the process for cutting the reams of paper/card. He once burned his hands on a book binding machine and was off sick for a while but was called back by Eileen the forelady to supervise the printers in changing over the guillotine blade as the foreman was off sick and nobody else knew how to change the blade.
Peter left to join the Merchant Navy but remembers his time at White brothers with great affection.
At the time, trainee foremen like Peter would not have been kept informed of the machinations of business and building ownership but its interesting to recount a young man’s perspective. During Peter’s time, he felt that Christies owned the place and the name ‘Offley Works’ was less familar to him. He recalls that Christies had a store room for antique furniture upstairs. Many years later Furniture Aid continued to use the space for storing furniture. One of the neighbouring blocks was a perfume factory. Peter recalls the business being taken over by the owner of a small engineering company which occupied part of F-Block.
White Brothers Printers may have evolved into Christies International Media Division but that’s another part of the story.
The story of Offley Works continues…
On a slightly more contemporary note, Peter can shed a little light on the use of the access road to Offley Works behind the back of the former Belgrave Childrens Hospital (BCH). This has been a source of contention for the residents of BCH and Matching Green – the developers of Offley Works. For Peter that access road, which is off Prima Road – was the main entrance he used to Offley Works. There was no outside gate in those days.