Stony Stratford’s earliest printer of record was William Nixon, who had a press on the High Street, set up in the 1840s. He was also a stationer and bookseller and in 1857 he retired and sold the business to Alfred Walford. Newspaper publishing had been inhibited for many years by a government stamp duty. In 1815 the government imposed a 4d tax on every newspaper sold, which made them unaffordable for most. In 1836 the tax was lowered to 1d, and in 1855 was dropped altogether. “The penny dropped!” you could say.
The time was right for Alfred Walford in 1857, who established a weekly newspaper called the Cottage Newspaper. It was later known as the Stony Stratford and Wolverton Station Advertiser. In 1868 it was became the North Bucks Advertiser. It may have been here that the young Oliver Ratcliff, who grew up in Stony Stratford, learned his trade, because he later set up his own press in Olney, The Cowper Press.
The business was continued by Walford’s widow, Leah, and was taken over by George Eardley in 1902. Eardley also added a lending library to his range of services at 73 High Street.The newspaper closed down in 1909. It was most likely absorbed by another newspaper, but I am not sure which. It was not, at any rate, the Wolverton Express of the Buckingham Advertiser. The building was taken over by watts and beck who were bakers and confectioners. They also ran a temperance hotel for some years known as the Victoria Hotel. Hazeldine’s, the baker, operated here for many years in the mid 20th century.
Wolverton’s first small scale printer, as far as I can tell, was Frederick Clarke, who opened his business at 30 Stratford Road c. 1910. A few years later he moved his premises to 11 The Square, underneath what is now the Masonic Hall. Subsequently he moved to a three storey house at 51 Church Street. His son carried on the business but it did not continue into the third generation as newer technology was making life difficult for small printing businesses. The business closed in 1960 and all the machinery was sold for scrap. The house was demolished to accommodate the Agora in the late 1970s.
After WWII the newsagents, Muscutt & Tompkins, decided to expand into printing. They acquired premises at 9 stratford Road with a stationery shop in the front and printing presses in the back. The printing press operation was managed and run by Reg Tomalin.
After that business closed, almost all the printing equipment was donated to the MK Museum which is now on display. The exhibition provides a very good illustration of printing technology in the pre-digital age.
The machines on display at the MK Museum date in design from the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.