Wolverhampton Printers

The Engraving Company

This company did not carry out printing but they did make blocks - the things from which pictures are printed.  This was something of a specialised art and many printers would not have undertaken it themselves - they sent the work out to specialist such as this company.

We can only trace their history through their own entries in the Wolverhampton handbooks. 

 From these entries we find that "towards the end of the nineteenth century Charles W. Harness began in business as a wood engraver, also undertaking copperplate engraving, photography and the making of blocks for the local newspaper The Express and Star." 

Charles Harness was born around 1874 in Hull, and by 1881 had moved to 6 Drummond Street, Wolverhampton, where he lived with his parents, George and  Sarah, and 4 sisters, and a brother.Their various entries in the 1960s refer to their main business interests as being colour engraving, half-tone and line blocks, commercial photography lay-outs, fine art reproductions and commercial artwork.

The company was incorporated in 1919 but was still run by the Harness family, and they seem to have continued in control for as long as we can trace.


An advert from 1915.


An advert from 1914.

This invoice was sent in 1918 to Bennett Clark, the Wolverhampton photographer.  The last line says "Under the management of Charles W. Harness"
This statement was also sent to Bennett Clark in 1918.  The two styles of heading could hardly be more different.

Both documents are courtesy of the late Jim Boulton.


Two adverts from 1925.


Two adverts from 1930.


Two adverts from 1938.

This picture (taken from a company catalogue, by courtesy of David Wilsdon) shows the company's large studio for photographing large items - in colour too.

An advert from 1951.


An advert from 1958.

An advert from 1956.

In the 1967 handbook they say:  "The company has steadily developed until it now finds itself the subsidiary of a group of companies with wide interests in the graphic arts field, and has further developed  Being the only company of its type in the town, it has a wide range of services to offer to local advertisers and printers. A new purpose-built factory is in the course of construction within the town centre, and on completion will greatly improve the services offered."

The demise of the company has been relayed to us by Michael Hubbard whose brother worked there until 1966/7.  He says that the company never moved to new premises but was taken over by Lucas Engravers of Livery Street, Birmingham, who transferred all the business and staff to the Birmingham address.  The Gatis Street site was abandoned. 

The staff of the Wolverhampton Engraving Company in the 1920s.

Third from the right, in the middle row, is George Ireland Mackie. The gentleman in the centre of the front row is believed to be Charles Harness. The photograph was kindly sent by George Ireland Mackie's grandson, Alan Mackie.

George Ireland Mackie was born in Glasgow in1877, and served his apprenticeship as a copper plate engraver in Edinburgh. At the end of his apprenticeship he moved to Wolverhampton, and found employment at the engraving company. In the 1930s he left and set up as a jewellery engraver, with premises on the corner of Princess Street and Queen Street, Wolverhampton. He carried out a lot of work for T. A. Henn, the jewellers in Princess Street.

George had 2 sons who also followed him into the printing trade. The eldest, James, was a commercial artist at the engraving company, and the youngest, John (Alan's father), was a letterpress half tone etcher, working in Birmingham. Alan also worked in the trade as a letterpress hand engraver, and later transferred to litho production.

Third from the right on the front row of the photo above, is Albert Theodore Williams. Albert had completed an apprenticeship as an engraver and was a half tone engraver for copper and zinc. He was conscripted from 1915-1919 and served in the North Staffs and then the14th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers. After demobilisation, he worked at the Wolverhampton Engraving Company. The photograph was probably taken before his marriage in 1924. He worked in Birmingham for around 6 years from 1927 and then returned to the Wolverhampton Engraving Company.

A photo of the staff in the 1960s. 3rd from the left in the middle row is Albert Theodore Williams.. The photo was kindly sent by his granddaughter, Erica Williams.

A sample of George Ireland Mackie's work. Courtesy of Alan Mackie.

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