Our History

Our History

When Walter Newbury, in 1895, decided to follow the career of bookbinder he choose as his motto the word "Thoroughness", for bookbinding is indeed a craft where that word particularly contributes to ultimate success, as has been the case with the firm Walter Newbury, where the three essentials of good bookbinding, solidity, elasticity and elegance have been carried out with the greatest thoroughness.

A piece of work executed by the late Mr. Newbury as a young man, and embodying his motto, remains as a tribute to his expert craftsmanship and serves as a constant reminder of the tradition of careful workmanship upon which he based the prosperity of the firm bearing his name.

Under Mr. Newbury's active and personal supervision the business steadily expanded until, in 1914, its position as a firm specialising in public and private contracts was firmly established, and in addition to holding contracts with many of the public library services in London and the Provinces, valuable connections had been made throughout the U.S.A. and Canada.

Upon the outbreak of World War I the departure on military service of all the elegible male members of the staff caused a dislocation of activities, which was further aggravated by the death of Mr. Newbury in 1916. To meet the situation, Miss Dorothy Newbury, who had for some years assisted her father in the conduct of the business, assumed control, and by dint of sheer personality succeeded in bringing the firm through a very difficult period.

The cessation of hostilities saw the inauguration of a comprehensive scheme of re-organisation, which directed towards overtaking, with as little delay as possible, the time lost between 1914 and 1918.

Withal the management aimed at keeping alive in its most virile form the firm's tradition of craftsmanship, it being an accepted principle that the machine is but the servant of a good workman. The firm was also incorporated as a private Company under the sole control of members of the late Mr. Newbury's family.

Dorothy Newbury then married Thomas Cawthorne, a chief librarian's son. The relationship was encouraged by both parties' fathers. Thomas Cawthorne was a qualified accountant and he eventually took over the Company. During the World War II the premises' roof was blown off during an air raid.

Mr. Cawthorne thought that the business would not survive, but manager Ted Beer and foreman finisher Mr. Dace and the rest of the staff too old for military service approached Mr. Cawthorne and told him that they would carry on working. They draped tarpaulin across the building and worked until the roof was replaced.

Eventually Thomas and Dorothy had an acrimonious divorce and the estate was split. Thomas got to keep the company and Dorothy the premises. After this arrangement Mr. Cawthorne told manager Ted Beer that when he retires he would hand the company over to the employees.

Mr. Beer was managing director until 1968, when his assistant George White took over as managing director. These were the times George inherited HMSO contracts, which he increased, with the turn-over with HMSO moving from 65% towards 80%.

George ran the business until he retired in 1995, the year of our centenary. Mr. Steve Brown took over as managing director after being assistant manager to George since 1983. The privatisation of HMSO in 1997 caused the Company turn-over with HMSO to plummet to around 25%, a considerable drop.

Fortunately the Company had already gained revenues from other areas, such as manufacturing of high quality social books and photograph albums and it is now in a very secure position and looking forward to the future.

It's Steve's opinion that it's thanks to the adhesion to Walter Newbury's motto "Thoroughness", with its values of Quality, Craftsmanship and Knowledge, that has seen the Company through over one hundred years of business.