Lagonda Platen. Catseye Press Letterpress Collection

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Catseye Press

Mark and Graham Pressman
The Bungalow Cart Gap Road
Happisburgh, Norfolk NR12 0QL

Telephone 01692 582 292
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Albion Iron Handpress
Thompson Platens
Wharfedale Stop Cylinder
Lagonda Platens
Autovic Platens
Supermatic Stop Cylinders
Mercedes Glockner Stop Cylinder
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The Catseye Press letterpress collection

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.

Lagonda Auto-Platen S/no. 535

Gary Arber's Lagonda Platen
This our 1947 Lagonda Auto-platen.

This is a picture from advertising in 1945.

Some time ago!
I have been reading the work of others and find myself fascinated by the efforts of Messrs. Lagonda, Mr. F. W. Clarke and G. A. McBean . It appears that they designed and built a very fine and much advanced machine for the period. Indeed, I can remember watching the odd 10,000 run passing through my Thompson, as an apprentice, dreaming about the sort of innovation already developed for the Lagonda, whilst being completely ignorant of it.

Here is a question, was this press made by or for Lagonda? Kent alloys Limited seem to be the ones advertising it at British Industries Fair in 1950. Lagonda seem to have been using Kent Alloys to cast car parts for them in the period. On the other hand, British letterpress have quoted British Printing in 1945 as saying "The “Lagonda” the name of the new machine, is being manufactured by the Lagonda Company, the world-famous auto­mobile makers at Staines, Middx."

It seems that the Lagonda 10" x 15" (crown folio) platen was either well in planning or already available by 1945, and had glowing references in British Printer. One cannot help but wonder how T. C. Thompson felt about such advanced competition? Thompsons had not long past been proudly advertising speeds of 3,500 per hour (although by 1946 their machines were certainly doing 4,500 an hour, at a full tilt.) and Lagonda were aleady boasting speeds of 5,500 per hour in 1946 with push-button control (unheardof elswhere in the industry). As things stand today, I cannot even see a flywheel on pictures I can find of Lagondas. Wow? Now that we have one here. I can confirm there is a flywheel on the left side. It is of small than expected diameter and very wide - thus heavy.

We have just (Friday 7th February 2014) agreed to collect one (Serial number 535) of these from London very soon.

As far as I can determine, the following was publicity published by the manufacturer and printed in The British Printer in 1945.

The Impression. A fullsize crown folio forme, 15 in. x 10 in. can be printed without throwing any extra strain on the machine. A very strong semisteel platen and specially reinforced ribbed main casting. Micrometer adjustment of the impression is provided. The check action of the platen is controlled by electric Solonoid and pushbutton by the operator. There are no levers to fiddle with. The type bed and platen are ground finish.

Inking Mechanism. Every detail of the inking mechanism from ink duct to the forme roller has received very careful and scientific design. Double reciprocation for perfect milling of the ink is introduced so that the ink on the rollers is never in a stationary state. The ink drum carrying the supply to the forme rollers is large enough in diameter to carry surplus unused portion, therefore virgin ink is always available. Runners on the ends of the forme rollers are Vshaped to prevent skidding over the forme, and the circumference of the forme rollers will carry sufficient ink to roll a fullsize forme. Ink checking device is incorporated. All rollers on machine are covered with a dust cover which can be pushed back for cleaning.

Feed and Delivery. This is entirely a new idea embodying a straight fine feed and delivery, both driven by one common member taking a sheet from the pile on the left side of the platen and delivering it on to the moving lays on the platen and after impression has taken place, the sheet is delivered by grippers from the forme to delivery table, at the right side of the platen. The main idea of this is to make one machine a unit of a multicolour machine, several of which can be coupled up and operated by a master switch, four or more colours can then be printed at one loading. Many of the mediumsize printers have felt the need for a twocolour machine of small size. The Lagonda autoplaten will give him the same result, and he can still use his two machines as separate units when desired. There are no cumbersome parts in front of the platen, the operator can get over his platen for makeready.

Main Drive. The machine is driven by electric motor and V belt, and provided with three speeds (standard equipment) or (variable speed control extra), the belts are moved by simple arrangement from larger to smaller V pulleys, all attached to the machine. Push buttons are used for operating the clutch and brake, these are conveniently placed both in front and back of machine on a control panel.

Capacity of Work. From a visiting card to crown folio size, in thickness of stock varying from 7lb. bank paper to 12sheet board. Small formes of cutting and creasing can be done and a special steel plate provided to be secured to the platen surface. Spraying the printed sheet to prevent setoff can be supplied with each machine at small extra cost.

Equipment. A full set of spanners and screwdrivers. Two chases, one full size and one card chase. One set of clothed rollers and one set of stocks. Two sets of rubber suckers for use with thick card.

Simple Operation. The aim has been to provide a first class machine to run at very high speed of 5,500 prints per hour without vibration and with simplicity of operation. Any printer can operate this machine after a few minutes’ instruction. Service depots will be established in every district.

British Printer seems to have said of the machine:-

The “Lagonda” the name of the new machine, is being manufactured by the Lagonda Company, the world-famous auto­mobile makers at Staines, Middx. This, their very first entrance into the field of printing engineering, was prompted by the wish of the directors to maintain their greatly augmented war­time staff in full post-war employment.

With this determination in view, the Lagonda Company secured the services of Mr. F. J. Clarke, the well-known printing engineer, whose first design for them resulted in the production of the new auto-platen.

The “Lagonda” is undergoing very exhaust­ive tests and immediately following their successful completion, the machine will go into general production with a view to marketing them comparatively early next year. We give below full details of the construction, range and performance of the “Lagonda” –

The incur­sion of the Lagonda Company into the field of print­ing engin­eer­ing is not going to stop at the intro­duc­tion of the auto-platen. We are informed that they have sev­eral pro­jects in view, and from the long conversation we had with Mr. Clarke and two of his associates, much of it we regret “off the record” at this early stage — we gather that the com­pany will be spring­ing one or two more sur­prises on the print­ing industry before very long.

The sole distributors of the “Lagonda” for this country and over­seas are The Victory Kidder: Printing Machine Co., Ltd., Clifford’s Inn, Fleet Street, London, E.C.4.

The following patent numbers apply, as do others that I am unable to trace:-
The principles of the feed and delivery system
The principles of coupling 2 or machines to create a multi-colour press
Anti-skid forme rollijng
The unusual controls
Delivery grippers

I bought this advert for the machine the other day.

We are told that this Lagonda cost over £1200.00 in 1947. In today's money that would be nearly £40,000.00 (according to the Bank Of England web site). That feels like a quite fantastic cost, but having said that, we bought a small digital press, made from plastic and pressed steel, a few years ago and that cost over £18000.00. The Lagonda would, surely, cost more than that machine to produce, being of cast cast semi-steel and of old-standard engineering quality. How things change over the decades! I am told that it was bought instead of a Thompson because there was a long waiting list for Thompsons at that time.

We have begun to learn a little about the design and operation of the Lagonda from the parts book:-

The Romac air compressor (providing both pressure and vacuum) and main mechanical drive do not share a power source. There are two motors, one for the compressor and one for the main drive.

This machine has variable speed control. The speed control wheel is of cast iron and is mounted, in direct line with the main drive motor pulley, under the delivery table, on the right. Alternative manual speed-change was available.

Impression on/off is operated from the control panel, using a rod and cable device.

Suction on/off control is via a Teleflex-style cable from the control panel using a push/pull knob.

Ink check is controlled from the control panel via a Telefex-style system and a push/pull knob.

The clutch is operated from the control panel, using a push/pull knob.

Also, on the control panel, are mounted a speedometer and an impression-counter.

The central oiling system is operated from a hand-lever pump, mounted on a tank at the rear-left side of the machine, behind the feed pile.

Forme rolling employs a vee-track to reduce forme-roller slippage.


This Lagonda Seial Number 535 left Roman Road, London after 67 years of service at 11:30pm on 17th April 2014 for sunny Happisburgh, Norfolk. We wish it a happy and productive retirement after many years of redundancy.

25th May 2014
Our Lagonda has now had it's main castings cleaned and re-assembly has begun. The feed side has all been re-instated and work is about to begin on the delivery side. We sincerely hope to have the machine ready to wire in during the next week or two.<

To some extent, time is dependant upon events at The Dancing Men Brewery over the next few days. Mark is busy brewing "After The Storm" (a reference to last year's storms off the east coast of England in which the brewery plant was damaged and had to be moved th The Hill House Inn at Happisburgh) and "Red Headed League" (a reference to the Conan Doyle episode of the exploits of Shirlock Holmes) . Both beers are selling a storm, so to speak.

25th June 2014
It has now got all the delivery assembly in place; with only the timing to do before final tightening of the bolts.The only thing left todo then is to bolt on the motors and the compressor.

To some extent, time is dependant upon events at The Dancing Men Brewery over the next few days. Mark is busy brewing "After The Storm" and "Red Haaded League" . Both beers are selling a storm.

You can find an article from British and Colomnial printer, supplied to me by St Bride Library & Archives at this link. I am extremely grateful to Bob at St. Brides for all the work he has put in to finding this for me.

2nd July 2014
We now have this Lagonda Auto Platen more or less complete, all except the main drive motor. We hope to have this installed soon.

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