The town of Watford has long been associated with print, once being described as the largest centre of the printing trade in Europe, as well as the birth of many technical printing advances.

Now we know Watford as the home of one of our three printing sites located throughout the UK, teeming with years of experience in production, manufacturing, health, safety, environmental standards, and more.

Join us on a journey through time, as we explore how Watford came to be the world-renowned centre of commercial printing and one of the most prosperous towns in 20th Century Britain, as well as how its printing site came into our possession in the late 80s. 

Print has a rich history in Watford, tracing all the way back to the early years of the 19th Century. During its prime, Watford witnessed the growth of the printing industry, establishing numerous printing companies, such as the Sun Engraving Company and Odhams Press, who both played a vital role in providing printing services to Watford and surrounding areas.  

The Watford premises of Odhams Press became one of the largest and most modern printing plants in Europe, covering over 17 acres and employing almost 2,500 workers by the mid-1950s. It has been estimated that one in thirteen people in Watford were involved in the printing industry, making it the largest printing centre in the world from the 1920s to the 1960s.

It was known for its innovative and technologically advanced printing methods, introducing modern printing techniques such as high-speed rotary presses, which helped to significantly increase production efficiency, as well as rotary photogravure. This was a technique first used in Watford to reproduce very fine, high quality art prints, going on to produce colour magazines such as ‘Woman’s Weekly’.

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In the latter half of the 20th Century, things began to change, as the digital revolution posed challenges to the printing industry worldwide. Odhams underwent several changes, rebranding, extensions, and ownership transitions. Further developments took place to the building and in 1989, it became part of Mirror Colour Print, now known as Reach Printing Services. 

Despite the shift in print, Watford adapted, and we are proud to continue serving the community’s needs.

The historic town of Watford has been home to a thriving printing industry that has contributed to the town’s economy, employment, and cultural fabric. What was once the centre of the printing trade is now the home to one of Reach’s diligent printing sites, with unrivalled capabilities that are second to none. It’s no surprise that with our strong print heritage, we excel in everything we do.

If you’re looking to move to a new print provider, don’t hesitate to contact us on 0345 307 3276.

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