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How envelope-making family The Baddeley Brothers put their stamp on Hackney

PUBLISHED: 12:00 01 October 2016

Baddeley Brothers Ltd Hackney. Chris Pertwee stands next to one of the machines in the print room

Baddeley Brothers Ltd Hackney. Chris Pertwee stands next to one of the machines in the print room

Archant

The Baddeley Brothers, a family of printers, have been at the heart of Hackney’s industry for more than 150 years. We take a look at the family tree.

Baddeley Brothers' centenary dinner, 1959Baddeley Brothers' centenary dinner, 1959

“Hackney has changed” are three words you’ll hear whenever you speak to someone who has been in the borough for more than 15 years.

But there are some things that haven’t. Like The Baddeley Brothers, who have been trading here since 1853.

That was when engraver John Baddeley Jnr and his wife Frances Beresford moved from their home in Goldsmith’s Row off Hackney Road to The Triangle, Mare Street, and set up a workshop.

Business was booming on account of Rowland Hill’s Penny Post, which was introduced in 1840, boosted trade for notepaper and envelopes in London and opened up the possibility for personalised stationery.

Roger Pertwee at the Baddeley Brothers' factory (Picture: Baddeley Brothers)Roger Pertwee at the Baddeley Brothers' factory (Picture: Baddeley Brothers)

And just a stone’s throw from The Triangle is the Bayford Industrial Centre, where the company now operates – more than 150 years later.

Before becoming printers in Clerkenwell in the early 19th century, the family made clocks and watches up in the Midlands as far back as 1652.

A book by blogger The Gentle Author detailing the Baddeleys’ history even won this year’s Drum Design Award for the best print design. The book is fantastically put together, as you’d imagine, and the pages are filled with black and white photos, pop-ups and illustrations.

There are also detailed accounts from family members. One is Sir John James “JJ” Baddeley, Baronet, son of John and Frances, who worked as an engraver for his dad at 14 and later became Lord Mayor.

Baddeley Brothers Ltd Hackney. Checking the foil pressBaddeley Brothers Ltd Hackney. Checking the foil press

JJ went on to set up his own workshop in the City and brought two of his brothers in to help. There were 13 siblings who all worked in the company at one point or another, and William Henry Baddeley was the one who took over from JJ in 1909.

The company nearly went under during the Great Depression but managed to survive. But on December 29, 1940, the building – then in Moor Lane in the City – was completely destroyed in the Blitz.

William’s son David Baddeley took the reins after the war, and signed a lease for a workshop in Paul Street, Shoreditch. His nephews David and Roger Pertwee then came on board in 1956, when Bill Steer was factory manager at both Paul Street and the Tabernacle Street premises.

“He was a small man, a bit like a ferret and a little brow-beaten by my uncle I think,” David recalled. “My uncle relied on him but, as he grew older, he grew less reliable and there were three pubs in between our Paul Street and Tabernacle Street factories...”

Baddeley Brothers Ltd Hackney. Charles Pertwee stands at the door to the print roomBaddeley Brothers Ltd Hackney. Charles Pertwee stands at the door to the print room

Today the business is run by Roger’s sons Charles and Chris. So how do they deal with the tendency of brothers to bicker?

“There’s a huge element of trust, and that’s a real advantage,” said Charles. “It means you can focus on getting on with the work. The downside is that we can turn up to Sunday lunch at our parents’ and there is a temptation to talk work...”

“...We just don’t talk to each other at Sunday lunch,” added Chris.

And never mind 150 odd years, Charles says the business has changed a huge amount in his time, as self-employment has created a nation of people more concerned about their business cards than Patrick Bateman.

“The time we spend consulting with customers has increased massively over time,” he said. “In the past, we did mostly letterheads and corporate stationery but now, more than ever, the creativity invested in the design carries its own message.

“People want to really stand out with distinctive business cards or folders so the jobs are much more complex. Most are one-off jobs, whereas in David and Roger’s time it was about maintaining a constant supply of stationery to long-term customers.”

Baddeley Brothers’ book is available at baddeleybrothers.com/book.

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