Click the image above, once, to run the video
Mark and Graham Pressman
The Bungalow Cart Gap Road
Happisburgh, Norfolk NR12 0QL
Telephone 01692 582 292
Mail us by clicking here
We are honoured to have been given many of the presses in, what has become known as, "The Arber Collection", which used to belong to printer, Mr. Gary Arber ex-of Roman Road, London. Mark and I extend our deepest gratitude and thanks to Gary. We shall put the presses to work with those we already have in due course. We now have all of the parts of all the presses here in Happisburgh. Those interested are welcome to visit by appointment (by which I mean, just give me a ring to let me know you are coming). Accomodation is usually available at our local pub, The Hill House Inn, in the village of Happisburgh (Telephone 01692 650 004 to book your holiday or short break) and are happy to show folk around our collection.
We have a small composing room of some 6 frames (randoms) and, by the time the "Arber Collection" is set up, 21 commercial letterpress printing machines, including our Albion iron hand press.
Last edited 30/12/2013
If you are having a problem with
weak suction, we have a limited number of
these plastic suckers ready for you from about 07/01/2014
Cost £150.00 a set
Please phone for details.
We had 6 sets made and we need 3 of them. We can have more made quickly.
We will soon have a donor machine here. as result, we will be offerring parts for sale when it has arrived.
If you own one of these presses, I would be grateful if you would please complete the form at the bottom of this page, so that we can add information to our knowledge base.
This is a work in progess, being written in the hope that, in time, it will add to the rather limited pool of information available in general about this machine. The author makes no claim to expert knowledge beyond 40 years of being a time-served Thompson Platen operator.
There seem to have been two previous designs for auto-platens to be designed by T. C. Thompsom. Only one of them went into production and that seems to have found itself a focus for a patents claim by Heidelberg. I understand that all those sold were recalled for destruction in due course, bar one, which is now long-gone.I have an advertising page for it.
Size: Crown folio, 15 1/4" x 10 1/2" inside chase
It was available from agents:
T. C. Thompson & Sons Limited applied for patent number 426804, which was registered in October 1933 in respect of a feed mechanism for a platen printing machine. This design had a gripper arm, mounted on a pivoted platen, it oscillated about an axis perpendicular to the platen and took a sheet from the pile and transfered it to the platen during the upward movement thereof by rotating across the platen to the vertical position and was constructed so that the gripper arm, releases the sheet before the printing operation, whereby a registering device registered the sheet on the platen clear of the gripper arm before the impression. The arm is oscillated through 90 degrees; The flying gripper only fed the machine. The delivery gripper carried by a slide, which is reciprocated on guide bars, delivered the sheet. However, the machine in the above picture is shown as having a pair of feed-delivery flying grippers not unlike the Heidelberg in general appearance - even if the press itself is, structurally, different. The 'British Printer"' of Nov/Dec. 1931 had an advertisement and editorial support. I wonder if that advert were not for an earlier or later model, rather than the one pictured above?
Patent number 480587 was granted in February 1938, following application on May 23rd, 1936. This was for the new feeder, which we all now know as the type used on the Thompson British Automatic Platen.
Patent number 490661, which relates to a Sheet-delivery apparatus we expect to see on all Thompsons today, was granted in August 1938 following application in November 1936.
From the facts above, we can see the date of the new designs. It seems that production of the new press did not start untill after WWII.
I do not know what happened at T. C. Tompson's factory between 1939 and 1945. However, I did doubt that many printing machines were built, as I believed it was all hands to weapons manufacture in those bad old days. I have since heard from a member of the family, who confirms that she too believes that the factory was set to the production of armaments during that war. T. C. Thompson advertising from the period did state in 1948 that they had 'built 1000 mchines since 1946'.
Production of the new design started at Buxton Street, Manchester either in 1946. By 1948, they had produced nearly one thousand machines and were showing three press at the British Industries Fair.
Alvis started to make Thompson Automatic Platens, from June 1948, for T. C. Thompson, and the first was demonstrated on 1st june of that year. I do know that many engineering shops had to agree to certain export quotas in order to get a good supply of hard-to-get raw materials after the war and I now read that it was the Ministry of Supply which connected T. C. Thompson with Alvis. The paperwork, for which I have a copy, claims that T. C. Thompson had orders on the books, at that time for some 1500 presses (worth £750,000 according to World Press News 24th June 1948). That would make the cost of one of these in 1948 some £500, which is now worth £15,385 in today's money. I see another reference to price is £275 in 1931 for the earlier design, which equates to £14,124.00 (December 2012) according to http://www.thisismoney.co.uk. The press, in 1948, were reporting great export demand for the machine. According to The Guardian (Manchester) on Wednesday June 2nd 1948, output at that time was planned to be 1,500 presses per annum, by the end of the year and aimed at 1 every hour soon thereafter. The Guardian also remarks that a firm called Heidelberg of Germany had monopolised the market for machines of this type, before the war. There was a clear expectation that a British made press would prosper, in the light of events between 1939 and 1945.
At the same time Worlds Press News reported that Thompson's output had been 1 per day up till Alvis started production. The Guardian reported that Alvis intended to achieve an output of 1500 presses per year by the end of 1948.
Serial numbering of machines is notoriously unreliable as dating evidence, on it's own. It is well known that companies could and would, sometimes, advance or retard numbering to suit their own goals. However, I have seen nothing to say that this happened in this case. Having said that, it does appear that numbering of machines made by Alvis started at either 10,000 or 10,500. I am inclined to look towards 10,500 being my favourite at this time, but reserve the right change my mind if a surviving machine is found with a number twist the twain.
We have presses with the following serial numbers in our collection
T. C. Thompson were advertising re-conditioned platens in the mid-70's and they were not promoting sales for new ones by then.
I am now certain that pretty well 10,000 of these printing machines were sold worldwide and it may have been many more.
Changes and Improvements to design
Our presses numbered 596 and 1341 has a rheostat and none of the changes listed below.
Our press numbered 2941 has the fittings for a rheostat and none of the changes listed below.
I now have an earlier and a later Parts List and early and late Instruction Books. I also have an Installation Manual; all in pdf format.
Our press numbered 13559 is Vee-drive
Our press numbered 13953 is Vee-drive
Our press numbered 16402 is wildly different.
It has Vee Belt Drive
It has a little tool tray above the switch
It has a bakelite wheel on the speed control and the duct roller has one at both ends.
It has operating controls for the duct at the front of the machine.
It has a "stop" lever at the back.
It has a shaped slot through which to view the wash-up trough (how I wish we had the rest of it) (Right click the image and open in a new browser or tab, to see it larger)
It does not have electrical delivery gripper cut-off. See the patent at (Right click the image and open in a new browser or tab, to see it larger)
It does have the adjustment screw for sucker-bar to platen gap (Right click the image and open in a new browser or tab, to see it larger)
It does have off-side lays
If you have one, or more, please complete the machine details questionnaire (about the presses only - no personal stuff will be published without your permission) and I will publish it here in an effort to increase knowledge and understanding about Thompson Autoplatens. In particular, I would love to see numbers higher or lower than we have here. Who has the newest, or oldest Thompson? It cannot be me!
Thanks to all those who have completed the form. That brings more detail to the thought process and it is very important to know. Also, I very much want to know the most recent numbers.
|Serial Number||Little tray||Rheostat / Vee Belt||Rounded counter - weight||Electric Delivery Gripper cut-off||Front duct control||Rear STOP control||Washup blade||Bakelite hand-wheels||Hand wheels 2 ends of duct||Left hand lays||adjusting screw for sucker-bar gap||Another special or advanced information||Reported Date||Country||My current best guess|
|262||No||VS 1ph||Yes||No||No||No||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||unknown||USA||Early 1946|
|Catseye Press||596||No||Rheostat||Yes||No||No||No||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||1946||UK||Aug 1946|
|Science Museum||834||unknown||UK||Feb 1948|
|BPS Member||938||No||Rheostat||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||Available||Uncertain||UK||April 1948|
|Alvis 1st machine||10500||No||Rheostat||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||Available||01/06/1948||UK||01/06/1948|
|Catseye Press||10515||No||Rheostat||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||Available||??/06/1948||UK||June 1948|
|The Portland Press||10533||No||Rheostat||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||??/06/1948||UK||Aug 1948|
|BPS Member||11893||yes||Vee Belt||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes||yes||Available||1949||Scrappe||May 1949|
|Catseye Press||1341||No||Rheostat||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||Available||Ord'd 1948 Del'||UK||Feb 1950|
|From Web Form||1433||No||Rheostat||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||Uncertain||UK||Aug 1950|
|Troglodyte Press||1538||No||Rheostat||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||Available||Uncertain||AU||Jan 1951|
|Catseye Press||1626||Spare Parts Donor Machine. Arrived with major missing parts|
|In use||13012||No||Rheostat||Yes||No||No||No||Yes||No||No||No||No||Available||Unknown||UK||May 1952|
|Catseye Press||13498||No||AM Vee Be||Yes||No||No||No||Yes||No||No||No||No||Available||Uncertain||UK||July 1952|
|Catseye Press hoping t||13527||No||Rheostat||Yes||No||No||No||Yes||No||No||No||No||Available||Aug 1952||UK||Aug 1952|
|Troglodyte Press||1935||No||Rheostat||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||Available||Uncertain||AU||Nov 1952|
|Troglodyte Press||2167||No||Rheostat||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||Available||Uncertain||AU||Dec 1953|
|From Web Form||2361||No||Rheostat||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||Available||Uncertain||UK||Uncertain|
|J Jarrold Print Museum||2377||No||Converted||Yes||No||No||no||No||No||No||No||No||Available||30/03/1950||UK||Uncertain|
|BPS Member||13670||No||Vee Belt||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||Available||Uncertain||UK||1953|
|Catseye Press||13953||yes||Vee Belt||No||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Available||Uncertain||UK||1954|
|Bentley Printing||14004||yes||Vee Belt||No||No||No||No||Yes||No||No||Yes||No||Available||Aug/Sept 1955||UK||1955|
|From Web Form||2573||No||Rheostat||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||Available||Uncertain||Ireland||Oct 1955|
|From Web Form||2617||No||Rheostat||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||Available||Uncertain||Ca||Nov 1955|
|Catseye Press||2941||No||Rheostat||Yes||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||No||Uncertain||UK||July 1957|
|For sale till 24/10/2014||16077||Yes||Vee Belt||Roller arms||No||No||Yes||No||No||UK|
|In use||16097||Details||Working but i|
|Catseye Press||16168||yes||Vee Belt||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Available||Uncertain||UK||Uncertain|
|Shanks Printers||16182||yes||Vee Belt||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Available||Uncertain||UK||Uncertain|
|In use||16201||yes||Vee Belt||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Available||Uncertain||UK||Uncertain|
|Catseye Press||16402||yes||Vee Belt||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Available||Uncertain||UK||Uncertain|
|In use||16405||yes||Vee Belt||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Available||Uncertain||UK||Uncertain|
|Troglodyte Press||16441||yes||Vee Belt||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Available||Uncertain||AU||Uncertain|
|Heron Press||16479||yes||Vee Belt||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Available||1957||UK||1957|
|BPS Member||16528||yes||Vee Belt||No||unknow||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Available||Uncertain||UK||Uncertain|
|Tilley Printing||16609||yes||Vee Belt||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Uncertain||UK||Uncertain|
|In use||16538||yes||Vee Belt||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||1968||UK|
|For sale till 24/10/2014||16745?||40||a/m vee be||yes||No||yes||UK|
|Troglodyte Press||16807||No||Vee Belt||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Available||Aug 1961||AU||Aug 1961|
|From Web Form||17010||Missin||Vee Belt||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Available||Uncertain||UK||Uncertain|
|By Telephone||17041||Vee Belt||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Uncertain||UK||Uncertain|
There have been at least 9 views in the last hour or so of 19/01/2020