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Pocock Street Memories

St Stephen’s Parliamentary Press was opened by the Speaker of the House of Commons on 23 October 1961. The work previously undertaken by the Abbey Orchard and Drury Lane Presses were transferred to it. It took up 114,000 square feet and was built at a cost of £400,000 on the site of the former SO Warehouse, next door to the old Parliamentary Press in Pocock Street, which had been destroyed in the war. At its peak, some 700 staff were employed there, producing Commons and Lords Hansards  overnight by traditional hot-metal Linotype and Monotype and hand composition; also London Gazette  Bills, acts of Parliament, the Vote Bundle etc. The Press is no longer, however: the building has been completely renovated and now continues its awe-inspiring life in the guise of Blackfriars County Court.

Inevitably, staff who worked in the Press have become far-flung. One email we have received is from Michael Terry Harrington, who says ‘. . . last week I met Bob Allder, who told me about HMSOldies. We had both worked at SSPP. I was apprenticed at the War Office as a Compositor in 1958 and came out of my time in 1964. I moved to SSPP in 1961 and worked in the Security Department upstairs. I have been trying to find Allen Harris who was an apprentice with me, but no luck so far. I have found two other apprentices — Michael Prestidge and Jan Dee. The former lives in London and the latter in Canada. Since then I have received a letter from Barry Palmer, also Apprentice Compositor and also living in Canada. The three of us met in London last year for an enjoyable evening reminiscing. I remember another apprentice downstairs in the comp room called Michael John Harrington (no relation, although we both lived in Erith at the time, half a mile apart).’ Michael now conducts his own typesetting service — MATS — from home.

Philip Marriage also worked in the ‘S’ Department at SSPP, from February 1964 until he finished his Compositor apprenticeship in 1965, when he moved to Layout Section (later GD) under John Westwood. He recalls his first weekly wage  — £2 15s 4d  — which he tried not to lose at lunchtime solo whist sessions. Other names of apprentices recalled by Philip are Malcolm Rosenthal, Brian Sawyer, Jack Duppon, Norman Grimes, Brian Bloodworth and Peter Felgate (who worked in Technical development, Norwich, until retirement. Philip Marriage and Michael Terry Harrington, (and maybe some of the other apprentices?) attended the wedding of Allen and Brenda Harris in 1964.

Barry Palmer also wrote in from Canada (where he still misses a decent pint of Young’s Special). He is living in Ajax, just outside Toronto, and would be interested in contacting anyone who knew him. Just send an email to HMSOldies and we will put you in touch. And any more reminiscences are, of course, most welcome.
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