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The story of Waterloo #8: London College of Printing

by Jenny O'Neill

In 1988 I moved into what was once called Princes Meadows – the part of Waterloo around what is now Hatfields and Stamford Street. There was still the remnant of the print trade existing with Mirror newspaper paper lorries leaving what is now the Gym building on the corner of Cornwall Road. In 2007 IPC Magazines moved out of Kings Reach Tower on Stamford Street to the Blue Fin Building on Southwark Street. More recently The Racing Post and Hello Magazine moved from Canary Wharf to Stamford Street maintaining historical links with “The Print”.

The housing co-op I moved into was built on the site of Clowes Print Factory and much later I was to learn that The London Nautical School that had originally been built as a school for the Benevolent Society of St. Patrick was bought by the London County Council in 1921 and became the London College of Printing.

Image: Lambeth Archives

Pupils parading at the Benevolent Society of St Patrick in Stamford Street, Waterloo. The school was established for educating and clothing children born of Irish parents, accommodating initially 400 children

The Benevolent Society of St. Patrick was founded in 1783 in response to the increasing destitution of Irish persons travelling to seek a new life in London. The well heeled founders had a humanitarian cause against the backdrop of political unrest throughout Europe, seeking to work and make the best of their Irish Estates.

You can read more about this via this article on JSTOR, or here.


The London College of Communication was formed in 1990 by the merger of the College for Distributive Trades with the London College of Printing. It forms part of the University of the Arts at the Elephant and Castle campus: a site opened in 1964. Saint Bride Foundation Institute Printing School opened in Saint Brides Lane in 1894. It moved to 61 Stamford Street, now the Nautical School.

The roots of the London College of Printing (LCP) lie in the City of London Parochial Charities Act of 1883, which determined to improve management of these charitable funds, and thereby benefit the people of central London by improvement of education and employment prospects. The need for improved technical education of workforce was clearly felt against a background of changing technologies and foreign competition, and particularly so in the field of printing. THE LCP also had premises in The Cut, probably the site that became Southwark College.

Read more about this here. You can jump to Nos. 59 and 61. You can also access the archives of The London College of Communication here.


Clowes Print Factory on Duchy Street / Applegarth Printing Press

Clowes Printing Firm had been built on Duke St., now Duchy St., close by what would then have been school of the St. Patrick’s Benevolent Society and were involved in the founding of the London School of Printing.

William Clowes (1779-1847) was apprenticed to a printer at Chichester. Early in 1802, after serving seven years apprenticeship, he moved to London to seek employment as a journeyman printer. He found a job but on 21 October 1803 he set up on his own at 20 Villiers Street (off The Strand). Charles Dickens started his working life as a blacking boy at Clowes – his experiences are recorded in Oliver Twist.

Clowes concentrated on jobs with large print runs, such as travel books, biographies, histories, and official reports. Business flourished and in 1823 he expanded to Northumberland Court and employed up to 20 staff to print and bind his books. In 1824 Clowes installed the first Applegarth and Cooper* steam press. The speed of this pressallowed for mass production of books at a price within the reach of the working-classes. The disadvantage was that the steam press was noisy and produced a lot of smoke and in 1825, following a legal dispute with his landlord the firm moved to Duke Street, now Duchy St. off Stamford Street.

Though they did not run the most innovative of companies, the owners did have a sense of responsibility for their staff. When new machines or techniques were introduced they kept on workers when they could. They also set up a sick pay fund and a pension scheme and some almshouses.

The premises at Duke Street were destroyed during the Blitz in 1941 and production for the remaining war years was greatly reduced. Post War they amalgamated with Caxton Press, Suffolk.

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