3.1 The Original factory Buildings
3.2 The First years of Production


I am writing this not only to record this part of my life, but also to provide a record of the High Wycombe factory at the time 1956 to 1966.
There does not seem to be a record like this as far as I can find on the Internet, so I bear this in mind as I try to remember the facts as I knew them.
The main printing process at the factory was Rotary Photogravure, called Rotogravure in USA or simply "Gravure".
Existing records mostly concentrate on the postage stamp printing work of Harrisons using the gravure process, but the Wycombe factory expanded the commercial printing side at this time.
General gravure catalogue and magazine printing was expanded as well as specialist printing of art reproductions for the National Gallery and also laminate printing of "Formica" type wood grain surfaces. There was also some limited Letterpress process printing.
All this made High Wycombe an extremely versatile gravure printing works, capable of undertaking any variation of the process. This was particularly important when the first British colour pictorial postage stamps were printed.
It incidentally provided me with a superb apprenticeship to the process which stood me in great stead through my career including R&D and eventually Lecturing.
I hope I can do justice to this wonderful family firm which deserves a special place in the history of printing and the Rotary Photogravure process.
I recently received an email from Daniel Mark Harrison as follows;

    "Dear Mr. Barcock,
    I wanted to reach out to you personally and thank you for putting online your autobiography, particularly the wonderful things you said about Harrison & Sons.
    It was with profound pleasure and interest that I happened to come across your autobiography online the other day while searching for information about Harrison & Sons to show my fiancee,
    when I was telling her about the firm that used to belong to my family.
I am Daniel Mark Harrison, 34 years old, and born on 1st July 1980, I am as such the oldest of the 9th. generation of Harrisons, son of Mark             Ernest Harrison, who is son of the late Ernest Handyside Harrison, with whom personally and/or his generation you will have worked. Ernest was the youngest of his brothers, the oldest of whom was Nigel.
     I am not sure to what extent you have kept in touch with any of the family, but I wanted to extend my personal gratitude to you for the enjoyment I experienced in reading about the perspective of someone who was     not from the family but who had rather trained and worked there. In return I thought it would be nice if I sent you a history of the family in the years after the firm lest you do not know what happened - if only to             quench what might be a mild curiosity".................................
A full transcript of this email is reproduced, with his permission, in my Autobiography Documents Page.
I am very grateful to Daniel for allowing me to do this as it adds valuable information and authenticity to my account and brings it up to date with the Harrison family history.



The firm of Harrisons can be traced back to 1750 and Thomas Harrison b. 1723, d. 1791.
I have this information from a book "Harrison. A Family Imprint" published to commemorate the bicentenary in 1950.
I can't remember exactly how I came to have this book. Whether we were all given copies after I started in 1956, or perhaps my Uncle Jack Barcock gave me a copy as he was in it.
In either case I treasure my copy now as it has pictures of most of the journeymen printers who taught me the trade.
Now I also find that I enjoy reading the history of the firm as I can appreciate the unique place it occupied in printing and the history of London itself.
Most of my knowledge of the firm before I joined comes from that book and my Uncle Jack. I will explain his great contribution to the firm in the coming chapters.
The very first Harrison known to be a printer was Richard who was listed in the 94 freemen in the Charter of the Stationers' Company of 1537.
On a visit some years ago to Stationers Hall I saw that Harrisons were past Masters of the Stationers Company on the wall plaque of past Masters.
The Harrisons certainly have their place in London's history.
Two of the company Chairmen have been knighted: Sir Cecil Reeves Harrison in 1918 and Sir Guy Harrison in 1951. Both served as Masters of the Stationers Company.
I recently found reference to the connection with the Stationers Company in an old Harrisons house magazine, 'Review' of June 1961. An article entitled "A Family Name", apparently an extract from a a Stationers Company article, contains this section;
"Many well known and notable names in the Printing trade are recorded on the Livery Roll of the Company and over many years one name appears rather often, the Family name of Harrison, a family that can justifiably take pride in the knowledge that since the year 1750-the year of foundation of the present firm of Harrison and Sons Limited-seven members bearing the name Harrison have been elected as Master. Their names and the year of office are set out as below;
The article then goes on to name a further 9 family members who are Liverymen of the Company. It continues;
"Apropos of numbers it was stated by the late Ralph D. Blumenfeld  (Deputy Master) at the Livery Dinner of 1934 that if a new Livery Company were created it should be called "The Worshipful Company of Harrisons," a delightful tribute to the family of that name."
Following the first Richard, Thomas Harrison, born in Reading, really started the printing dynasty after serving his apprenticeship with the "Confidential Government Printer" Office in 1738.
He was followed by his brother James in 1743, both serving 7 year apprenticeships. I realise now why I was privileged to also enter the trade as an apprentice with Harrisons and why they treated their apprentices so well. That connection with the Government in positions of trust no doubt secured Harrisons future as Government printers.
It is ironic that the last Harrison in print was also Richard who departed the firm when it was taken over by Lonrho in 1979. In 1997 it was taken over by De La Rue International Ltd., and the High Wycombe factory eventually closed down. It was tragic to see it become derelict and for years I drove by the side entrance I used to go in by in Hughenden Avenue where the main entrance had the "By Appointment" Royal Coat of Arms. Now the site has been razed to the ground and it it just a heap of rubble to become housing I expect.
But the name of Harrison as printers lives on in documents such as this and The National Archive.
We are all come to dust eventually and all we can hope is that, in the words of Longfellow " ... leave behind us footprints on the sands of time". Perhaps what follows might qualify as one footprint.


3.1 The Original factory Buildings
I have found it difficult to find a photograph of the Wycombe factory before it was abandoned but I discovered this aerial view in the Wycombe Library Archive. It appears in the "SWOP" website of WDC and I am grateful for their permission to include it here;
Harrisons Aerial 1
Harrisons is at the right top next to Hughenden Park where the trees and stream can be seen.
The main factory in the view is Broom & Wade, later BroomWade, who built air compressors but most famous for building  tanks  in the WW2. These were tested on the steep slopes above the factory. Harrisons was just the section above where the road divides the factories, Hughenden Avenue.
             The Harrison factory section is here;
             Harrisons Aerial 2
  Not a very clear view, but enough to give an idea of the pleasant location near the Park.

It is stunning to reflect here on the fact that some 2000 workers were employed at BroomWade and around 750 at Harrisons, and now there is nothing left of the factories.
They were protected from bombing by the climate during WW2 as the Valley was often covered in mist. I see that now from my house in Green Hill overlooking the Valley, but not so often now there is no factory smoke. At the bottom of Green Hill a farm, Asperey's, had a farmhouse built over the site of a German or returning RAF bomber crash. Fred Asperey lived on top of an incendiary bomb which was discovered when the farmhouse was demolished! We used to take our kids to see the hens and pigs in the farmyard. They had cows which supplied local dairies.
As a result of searching for these pictures I made contact with Peter Tozer who in retirement has been researching Broom and Wades history and gave me information about the firm and the following fascinating views of the original factories which I include here with his permission.
Wycombe Aicraft Constructors Sheds 1928These I understand from Peter Tozer and some research I have done were the sheds used by the "Wycombe Aircraft Constructors" company. These date from at least 1917 when the company was set up to manufacture parts for aircraft, particularly in WW1, by George Holt Thomas of Wycombe. He set up a company called Airco in Hendon in 1912 and employed the famous Geoffrey de Havilland as chief designer.
I found this information in the High Wycombe Society Newsletter of Summer 2012 in an article by David Scott.
Aircraft manufacture then being of wooden construction could make use of the woodworking skills of the furniture makers. I have discovered that the factory at Wycombe probably never went into production and the sheds were obtained by Broom and Wade.
This photograph shows the sheds eventually obtained by Harrisons at the right hand end. They are the white triangular shaped sheds. The road between them and the Broom and Wade sheds is Hughenden Avenue.
The houses in the foreground are Hughenden Road and Conningsby road.
I look over this view from my house and see the fields and the Disraeli Monument on the far hill in the top centre.
Geoffrey de Havilland was actually born on 27 July 1882 at Magdala House, Terriers, High Wycombe, nearby to where I live.


3.2 The First years of Production
The earliest reference I have to the factory at High Wycombe is from the book "Harrison. A Family Imprint" mentioned above. This was as follows;
" The Company's development of photogravure was so successful that in the year 1933 the Post Office decided to adopt this very modern process for the manufacture of all the British  postage Stamps up to the 1s. denomination"........"A vacant building was secured at High Wycombe and a new industry was established in this ancient borough of chair-making fame".
So Harrisons took over the vacant sheds in the picture above in 1933 and developed them for photogravure printing. My Uncle Jack was there at the beginning because he had joined Harrisons at the Hayes factory and helped set up the photogravure process he learned from his time at Clarke and Sherwells of Northampton. He did most of the process stages but settled eventually as the foreman of the planning department where glass page photos were planned into pages. This was a key job as it had to use schemes to suit the particular printing machines.

This is a drawing of the factory in the 1950s. taken from the family Imprint book;
Wycombe factory 1950

    This drawing shows the factory almost as I first knew it when I joined in 1956.
    It shows the original sheds of the Wycombe Aircraft Constructors and the later added front office block.
    The front entrance with the Royal Crest, which appears in the group picture below, is not yet there.


High Wycombe turned out to be a good choice of location as the war years loomed up, being out of London and safe  from the bombing. My Uncle escaped conscription to the forces as his job in postage stamp production was deemed a reserved occupation, although he was perhaps too old at the start anyway.  I remember in addition to the Stamp printing they must have printed some comics because he brought me some when he came to visit us in Northampton. He had moved to a house in Hazlemere, near Wycombe called Ash Cottage. This was a wonderful house with a large garden. We used to have holidays there in the War as there was nowhere else to go, but it was wonderful for me with the garden to play in and most of all Uncle Jacks Austin 7, laid up in the garage on blocks for the War duration. I spent hours sitting at the drivers wheel pretending to drive it. I remember just everything  about it in graphic detail and can still smell the leather of the seats.
Here is a group Photo from the House Magazine, "Review" of 1958 showing some of the Staff who were with the firm at the start in 1933, outside the front of the factory;
Harrisons group 1958These included most of the men I knew and worked with when I started in 1956 and who taught me my trade craft as a photogravure engraver.
There is no-one who I can ask permission to use this picture, but I am sure no-one would object.
Referring here to the men I knew in the left to right order;
L.(Daisy) Thornton, foreman photographic retoucher.
John Chalmers, Snr., Chief Machine minder I believe.
Fred Hailey, Stamp Dept. manager.
Tom Brownless, a dept. manager.
Charles (Charlie) Cannon. Engineering manager.
George Harrington, Camera Operator, Labour Councillor and Alderman.
George Bastable, Copper Depositing manager.
Harold Cooper, Engraving Foreman, went to NGS School with my father.
J. (Ted) Colclough, Etching Foreman.
Arthur Porter, Camera Foreman.
Stan Pountney, a dept. manager.
Jack Froy, Machine Minder.
John Wiffen, Planner. I stayed with him and his family when my Uncle was on holiday.
E (Pat) O'Conner, Carbon Printing foreman and the Union "Father of the Chapel".
        John King, Engraver and my journeyman for a time. A countryman who went shooting.
        Jack Barcock, my wonderful Uncle.
        R (Tom) Cornish, Etcher
        John King Snr. Machine Minder, seen as always in his working overalls.
        Harold Lancashire, Chief Engineer.
        The others I remember but can't recall their jobs.




My life as an apprentice started at the moment I signed my Indentures. My father came to High Wycombe to do this with me. As an indentured apprentice I would be answerable to my Master so in a sense my father was handing responsibility for me to him. This was the nature of apprenticeships in the historical trades and I'm pleased I have my Indentures as an historical document and record, but not significant in any other sense now. A copy of the Indenture document is in my Autobiography Documents page. I treasure it because it links me to a past tradition of the industrial age.
The first thing I learned was humility. An apprentice must be humble and respectful to the journeymen who must be addressed as "Mr". This might be difficult for a 16 year old who typically knows everything but fortunately I was not bothered by all this and had an inbuilt respect for authority from my Grammar School education and love of Sport which I think teaches respect the most.
So when I was greeted by one of the great journeyman characters, "Mac" with the words "So you are the bloody, effing, sodding boy!" I did not wince at all. The colourful language of print became part of my vocabulary and is I think a harmless way of dealing with the disasters of life.
There was an expression for everything, usually profane but descriptive and sometimes the only satisfactory way to explain the thing in question. For example, we worked to very fine limits, tenths of a thou, being  ten-thousandth's of an inch, so when a small difference needed to be made it would be " A gnats cock" or "Just a fart" being better than "A gnats whisker" or "Just a sniff". If something like an error in the print stood out it would be "Like a dogs bollock" or "you've made a right dog's bollock of that!". The f-word was part of ordinary conversation., such as "Well f-me" and "That's f-ed it!" The Chief Engineer prefaced everything with the work "Faarking", a drawn out form of the adjective! Faarking this and faarking that. The firm put on an exhibition in the Parish Church one time and the engineers set it up. One asked "Where shall I put this Chief", to which he replied, his voice echoing through the Church "Put it by the faarking Font!".
No disrespect was meant, but it was funny to relate because the f-word was never used in general conversation outside of the print environment. Nowadays it is not so shocking and consequently the humour is somewhat lost. Anyway, I shall not include most of the profanities in my account, not wishing to cause the reader offence.

In the first year of my apprenticeship I spent time in each of the sections of the "process" department. Each section requires separate skills and I would have to choose my preference and hope this was accepted. The section operations and skills need some explanation. I include this brief technical explanation for the historical interest some may have in the Gravure printing process.
I will try to avoid using the jargon of the trade as much as possible. Please skip the detail of this part 2.1 it if it proves too boring!

2.1 The Sections , in order of the stages of the process, were as follows:
1. Camera Operating. This had "Gallery" cameras of various sizes and their associated dark rooms for photographic  developing. The cameras ran on rails to enable the original pictures to be mounted on a copyboard and brought into focus by rolling the camera on the rails. I don't want to spend a long time explaining this, except to say the cameras were complex and each camera operater stuck mainly to his own camera. The largest camera could take an original 2 or 3 feet square and was heavy to operate. There were also "Vertical" cameras which saved space. The product of the camera operating was a glass photographic positive and then later films, as these eventually replaced glass, with the correct size picture for the final print.
2. Retouching & Scanning. This was originally an artistic operation, using hand paintbrushing with dyes to enhance the appearance or repair or repair faults in the photographic positives. Then, as the technology advanced they used "masking" by overlaying the positives with negatives to correct the colour balance in colour printing. Later still, electronic scanners were introduced which carried out this "colour correction" electronically. This complex operation made the retouchers the most highly paid craftsmen.
3. Planning. This section assembles the photo. positives into page format and then assembles the pages according to an imposition scheme to print in correct position for the printing machine and folder. This fundamental operation of page assembly according to the printing machine to be used was complicated by the the large number of different machines, folding methods and the particular job requirements. My Uncle Jack was planning foreman and highly respected for his knowledge of the firm's capabilities and his planning skills. These included glass cutting when glass positives were used, and the extreme accuracy required for the "registration" of the four printing colour assemblies in colour printing.
4. Carbon Printing. In this operation the photographic images of the page assemblies are transferred to the copper printing surface, either a copper plate or cylinder. This was done by exposure in contact with "carbon tissue" using Ultra Violet "UV" light. The light source was a carbon arc lamp. This would not be allowed nowadays without shielding, but there was none of that and the Carbon Printers all had healthy looking tans! They were actually very unhealthy. The carbon tissue was a gelatin coated paper sensitised by soaking in potassium dichromate solution Another very unhealthy operation although heavy rubber gloves were worn. The sensitised carbon tissue was dried and glazed on glass plates and cut to the size of the page assemblies for exposure. The exposed tissue was then transferred to the copper printing surface using a "laying machine". All this was done in orange safelight. as the sensitised tissue was only sensitive to UV light. However, it was also very sensitive to changes in relative humidity, rh, so the whole are had to be air conditioned to variation of only + or - 1% rh and 1degree F. An expensive process.
5. Etching. The copper plates or cylinders were etched, through the carbon tissue using ferric chloride solutions. The carbon tissue image had been developed in hot water, the exposure to the photo positives having hardened it to different thicknesses. The thinnest parts would be the dark images areas and the thicker parts the lighter areas. the difference in thickness being only a few ten-thousand's of an inch, microns in metric measurement. The rate of etching was controlled by the etcher using a range of different density ferric chloride solutions, a highly skilled operation.
The result would be an etched recessed, or intaglio, image that would hold ink in the printing process.
6. Engraving & Fine Etching. This is the final operation after the initial proofing of the etched cylinders or plates. It is the section I joined by choice. Hand engraving appealed to me as both artistic and uniquely skilful. The fine etching was interesting too, being the correction of tones in general printing and balancing the variations across the printed sheet in the postage stamp printing. The foreman was Harold Cooper, who my father knew from his schooldays at Northampton Grammar School for Boys. There were some very skilled hand engravers, some had been banknote engravers.
7. Copper Depositing, Polishing and Chrome Plating. This ancillary section to the main process involved the preparation of the copper cylinders for the Carbon Printers, and the finishing of the cylinders by chromium plating to increase the wearing resistance. This involved electro-deposition of copper on a steel base, polishing the copper surface to a perfectly smooth finish. Then, after etching, chromium plating by electro-deposition.

All these operations required great skill and knowledge of the Gravure process and I still wonder at how these skills were developed and how they have mostly disappeared now after existing for so many years.

Perhaps my first realisation of the nature of the firm I was working for came from a  remarkable series of events involving the Christmas Loan Club. Loan clubs were a popular way of saving money and getting small loans when needed. You have to remember there were no such things as credit cards, let alone Pay Day loan companies. It was a way of saving for Christmas usually which involved putting in a regular amount, and if a loan was taken out, paying it back with interest. At Christmas, the interest was shared out among the members with the money they had saved depending on how much they had paid in. Money paid in was by buying shares using a 'paying in' book.
Variations on this were organised by clubs and pubs as well as employees of firms. There were often examples of the treasurers of pubs and clubs being overcome by temptation, debt or gambling, losing the loan clubs money and finishing up in gaol! This happened to Diane's parents when the landlord of the pub Christmas loan club they were in lost them their money.
On hearing this I boldly told them I would take some shares out for them with Harrisons loan club for the next Christmas, which would be as safe as houses.
Of course, the inevitable happened, as follows;
The loan club issued savings cards with Harrison & Sons Loan Club on the front as records of members contributions, but the club was entirely run by by its members having appointed officials to administer the records and bank the monies. I think contributions could be stopped from members wages or paid in cash and the accounts were kept by the appointed Secretary who I believe was an accountant in the wages office. ( I may have some details incorrect here, but the story in essence is not affected by that).
When the end of year accounts were completed a couple of officials who were I think Ted Colclough, the Etching department foreman, accompanied by the aforementioned Mac, who was ex Royal Artillery Captain, acting as bodyguard, went to collect the cash from the bank on Frogmore Square in High Wycombe. Mac sat in the car ready for all eventualities except the one Ted brought back to him from the bank. This was the the money had all been drawn out a few days earlier by the Secretary!
When they returned to confront the Secretary they discovered he was not at work and also was not at home either. Eventually his bicycle and clothes were found abandoned by the Thames at Marlow and everyone feared the worst. People's reactions were a mixture of anger and concern for him and his family. I myself realised I would have to tell Diane's parents their Christmas savings were lost again Something I did not relish doing.
A meeting was called in the works canteen
of all loan club shareholders and we all made our way to there after work. It was a very noisy, somewhat bad tempered and worried congregation.
The loan club officials and some members of the management including Hugh Harrison appeared on the stage. One of the officials confirmed that the money had gone and was lost, but Mr. Hugh had something to say. Hughie, as he was affectionately called, explained, (in his rather high, almost falsetto voice) that, although the name of Harrisons appeared on the shareholders card, the company had no legal responsibility for the losses. This produced a very disgruntled murmur, but he continued ( I paraphrase) "However we feel a moral responsibility and will refund all the lost monies". Wow! A stunned silence seemed to last ages before a cheer and clapping broke out.
I breathed a sigh of relief myself as I now had good news for my future In-Laws.
The secretary was discovered in Ireland to everyone's relief and brought back to Wycombe to stand trial. Harrisons gave evidence of his previous good character and I believe he was released and later re-employed by the Company. Just like the return of the Prodigal Son to the family. What a wonderful happy ending due indeed to the special nature of the firm.

General Jeans was my designated Journeyman for a time which meant that I worked with him to learn his special part in the engraving and revision process.
He was a great character with an almost unbelievable background and when he passed away I visited his wife who gave me his engraver's toolbox which I still have with some of his tools.
He always referred to his wife as "Mrs. Jeans" which explains his character exactly. I never knew her first name. He got the nickname "General" because he had been in the South African Police at one time, not a General, but had some rank of authority. he showed us pictures of him in uniform and with his native servants.

What he was doing in the South African Police I'm not sure, but he had a rather roguish nature and I think he may have used it to escape being called up for the forces. 

He was an ideal target for the jokers who liked to get a reaction from him. One of these who was expert in winding him up had a photo in a magazine we were printing to show him. It was of a group of native Africans. He said "Mr. Jeans, you were in South Africa weren't you?"
The General answered rather proudly, "That is correct, I spent some years in the South African Police".
"Then, do you recognise any of these chaps?" showing him the picture. He took the picture, looked at it, and exploded "You bloody fool, there were millions of them!"
He also lived in Paris for a while, probably working as an engraver somewhere, and spoke fluent French. He came in one day and said " I fooled a caller yesterday who came to the house selling something. I leaned out of the upstairs window and addressed him in French, then went down and opened the door and asked him what he wanted. He looked at me and said",
"Where is that French gentleman I just spoke to?" He was absolutely amazed when I said "I am he!". 
Cue for the Joker to say "Mr. Jeans, is it true you once lived in Paris?"
As expected he replied "That is correct, I lived there some years".
"Then, do you remember a street called the "Rue de Postcard?". The General mused for a few seconds repeating "Rue de Postcard" Then exploded "You bloody fool..... etc. etc."
This formula was repeated over and over with the same result every time!
His main task was fine etching the stamp cylinders. This was to balance up variations in the strength of the printed image across the sheet of 2 x 240 stamps.