Printing – Fakenham (2006)

Location : Fakenham

When I left school I applied for a job on the railway & also at an electricians but due to their circumstances I didn’t get them.

In February 1952 at the age of 16 I began work at Wyman & Sons Ltd whose printing works was then situated on the west side of White Horse St. I was living at Whissonsett which meant I had a five mile bicycle ride to Fakenham – not excessive at the time. What was not so good was having to bike to work in all weathers, summer & winter The hours we worked were 8 till 5.0 most of the time. It was a job & we were all glad of a job at that time.

I was apprenticed for five years as a Hand Compositor. At that time discipline was such that apprentices were required to address the tradesmen as “Mr.” not to use first names. Also smoking was prohibited, so some of the men took snuff. I found it most unpleasant myself when I tried it. It tended to get all over the place, on the equipment & that, & many of the gentlemen’s aprons & duster coats were stiff due to wiping their fingers after taking it.

My starting wage was 30/- per week. It would be difficult to describe my work as there are many terms in print that would not be clear to laymen. Suffice to say it involved preparing hot-metal type for printing. A visit to a printing museum would make this clear.

In the 1960s my department moved to a new building on the opposite side of the road. Also at about this time the firm was taken over by the Thomas Tilling group and its name changed to Cox & Wyman. In the 1970s the firm was again taken over, this time by Richard Clay of Bungay an old established printing firm. As new techniques Photosetting and Lithographic printing were now well established it was decided to phase out hot metal which meant redundancies and retraining.

I retrained as a Reader which involved checking that work was correct before printing. Then in 1982 Fakenham closed and all were made redundant, which was a bitter blow to all of us.

Six of my colleagues & I bought up all the Photosetting equipment and started our own firm Fakenham Photosetting Ltd. Of course techniques have continually changed over the years but we have always been able to keep up with new technology. Basically nowadays a disc with the authors words & spaces goes in one end and a disc containing a complete book goes out the other, to the printer.

I retired in 2000 but I still remain a director and occasionally do reading at busy times.

What I enjoyed about my working life was actually seeing the finished product, the book on the bookshelves. In my time off I played football & cricket for the village or watched Norwich City or Peterborough United.

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