In early 1900, a young 23 year old man called John Wright exited a bank feeling very pleased with himself. He had just persuaded the Bank manager to loan him £76.00 (a large sum of money in those days) in order to buy a Blueprint copying machine and start a new business based from an upper floor at 5 Market Street, Nottingham.
Previously, all copies were made by hand which took days to complete or were made using sun frames, not a very effective procedure given the British climate! John’s cousin, T Wallis Gordon, soon to become the City Engineer, informed John Wright of the new electrically powered feroprussate (Blueprint) process and this is the machine he presented to the Bank that memorable day. The business commenced on March 25th 1900 with a staffing of one person.
The Word Spreads
His first week was quiet with a number of entries in his diary “nothing to do”. However, as word spread that a new machine was now available to the City Architects and Engineers, work picked up. He noted in his diary “I would run down to the Council House or the Nottingham Corporation Water Department, collect a tracing, copy it and rush back with it”. He would do tracing and colouring work at home after work. John married Florie Dunn in 1905 and she helped him in many ways and was largely responsible for keeping the business going during the First World War as John Wright worked the day shifts at the Chilwell Shell Filling Factory. This was just as well because the night shift was largely wiped out by the huge explosion in 1918; a sobering thought for the author who might not be here otherwise!
John Wright aged 20, a young man about to start a business.
Bob Crudgington demonstrates the True to Scale Process
Stanley Rushton operates an arc lamp blueprint machine c.1939
A family Affair
The business expanded after the First World War and in 1918, John & Florie were joined by their eldest daughter Janet (only 13) and the first non-family recruit Bob Crudgington, who you will see in many of the attached photos along with Stanley Rushton who went on to become Lord Mayor of Nottingham in 1974. The business owes a huge debt to these three who served a total of nearly 180 years between them and were the engine of growth in those early post war years.
Also joining the business in the mid-1920s were John’s two younger brothers, George & Leonard. Not long after, they would leave to start their own businesses in Norwich and Leicester, respectively. It is interesting to note that both these businesses are now back in the fold after being taken over in 1988 and 2021
In 1926, the business moved to 29 Forman Street and can still be seen above the Blue Bell Inn. The business just about survived the Second World War before expanding again in the 1950’s. Sadly, John Wright passed in 1950 and was survived by his daughter Janet and his son-in-law Harold Crew.
The two of them pushed the business forward and in 1963, the business moved to 115 Huntingdon Street (also known as Blue Print House) where it remains as Head Office to this day.
Technologies changed but the end customers didn’t. The company’s constant focus on innovation and investment in the latest technologies served the Architectural, Engineering & Construction (AEC) customers well with fast copying at competitive rates.
Coronation Day 1953
Little has changed except the speed in which this could be achieved. The Blueprint process was improved with the arc lamp blueprint machine. Then in the 1940s dyeline printing was invented and then the dry dyeline process and eventually in the 1970s the Xerox copier was launched. In 1982, Canon launched their first colour copier and Harold (now in his 70s) famously said “colour will never catch on”. Happily for the business, the two Johns, John Barnett, only son of Janet, and John Wilkinson, son-in-law of Harold, were now well entrenched in the business and outvoted him. Time to retire but a tremendous innings all the same.
Graham Turrill with the new Xerox 9400 which copied at 120 A4 pages per minute c.1980
Simon Watson operating the Xerox 2080. In the background is the Shacoh 920 and no less than four powerful ammonia diazo machines (1983)
The business expanded again with the acquisition of DOR (the business that Leonard had set up in 1928) in Leicester and the greenfield development of Derby branch in 1990. However, as the country crashed out of the ERM in 1992, the Company faced a severe recession and changing technology. The Company turned to the next generation once again and asked Tony Barnett (son of John) to return from the West Coast of the USA where he was the Managing Director of an industrial minerals business supplying coating products into the paper industry.
Although still relatively young, Tony had enjoyed meteoric career progression. After obtaining two Masters Degrees, the first at Oxford in Chemistry and the second an MBA at London Business School with a scholarship attachment to Wharton, Philadelphia he went on to senior management & Directorial positions in the UK, Spain and now the USA.
The first colour apparatus, the photographic Visual
Graphic machine 1984
He was now ideally qualified to put together a professional management team to move the business forward into what was fast becoming the Digital Age. Remaining family members retired or were bought out over the next 5 years and huge investment was made in new digital printing equipment.
In 2005, the company decided to make a significant statement by moving to large premises on Queen’s Drive and fill it with flatbed and roll-to-roll graphics printing & finishing equipment. In some senses the management team since then has totally transformed the business into a leading Signage, Exhibition and Display printing business with operations throughout the Midlands, North East and East Anglia. On the other hand, it has not forgotten its roots, the business of providing quick prints & copies to its core AEC & Design customers with excellent customer service.
Tony Barnett, Managing Director (right) with Technical Director, Alan Edwards, checking the quality on one of the new Canon Colorado printers
Our History Continues...
Now a £7 million business with 70 employees the business stands ready for its next chapter which will include a heavy focus on the environment. Certifications in ISO9001 (Quality) & ISO14001 (Environment) have underpinned the company’s strategy for some 12 years.
However, further efforts in energy saving, recycled products, electric vehicles and waste reduction are just part of the Company’s new Sustainability Plan which is audited by Nottingham Trent University annually.
Tony Barnett, current Chairman and MD said “we are aiming to be carbon neutral by 2030. I think future generations would think that’s the least we could do”.
The powerful 100sq metres/hour latest generation Vutek H5 flatbed
and roll-to-roll printer.
John E Wright Norwich – the Company’s latest acquisition
Blue Print House,
115 Huntingdon Street,
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Accredited for ISO9001:2015 & ISO14001:2015.
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