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The Historical Names of British Stamp Printers

First published on the 1st of April, 2021

What’s in a name? When it comes to British Stamp printers were all guilty of shortening their “official” names. A quick look through our own archive and you’ll probably see. However if we wish to be pedantic - or historically accurate - we should at least try to get them right.

However it can often be difficult to find a list of these official names, so hopefully I can correct that now. Below is a quick guide to who was called what, and when!

Harrison (and Sons)[1]

In 1997, Harrison and Sons Ltd. was purchased by De La Rue plc., and the name changed back to Harrison and Sons.

In 2002 De La Rue announced it was planning to close the Harrison and Sons factory in High Wycombe[2] and simultaneously purchase another printer, The House of Questa. In 2003, De La Rue plc. followed through with their plan, and closed the Harrison and Sons factory, effectively abolishing the company.

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Thomas De La Rue (and co)[3]

De La Rue was privately incorporated in 1896 (thus the change in name), however when the family left the organisation in 1921 it fell into public ownership. This continued up unto 1947 when it was listed on the London Stock Exchange and became a public limited company.[4]

Bradbury Wilkinson, and Waterloo

Lady working a press at Bradbury WilkinsonAs far as I'm aware, since it's establishment in the 1850s Bradbury Wilkinson and Company or "... & co" has always been called just that. As with many of the British printers, it was eventually aquired by The De La Rue Company Limited in 1986, and the factory was closed in 1990. With it another historical printer was effectivly erased from the British landscape. A brilliant range of images (such as the one to the left, of a lady working a B.W. press) are avaliable from the Maldens & Coombe Heritage Society[5].

Waterloo was established in 1810 but wasn't stylised as Waterlow and Sons until 1849. It went on to be incorporated in 1876 and thus became Waterlow & Sons Limited,, and then split in two in 1877 to become Waterlow Brothers and Layton and Waterlow and Sons, before remerging under the later name in 1920[6].

Waterloo and Sons were sold to Purnell and Sons in 1961, and then sold onto The De La Rue and Company in the same year. Finally the company was dissolved in 2009, and thus disappeared.

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The House of Questa & Waddingtons

The House of Questa, often abbreviated to simply Questa, was established in 1966 as The House of Questa Colour Limited but was quickly renamed to The House of Questa Limited in 1969. For the most part its history is… complicated.

In 1984 it was absorbed by John Waddingtons Security Print, although many would say it was the other way around. It had strong, shades links to the disgraced Format International Security Printers - which was unofficially located directly next door. At many periods both the former companies were dormant, yet still making money. For a more detailed and expert look at this strangeness I can only defer to J. Lowe of Golowe Stamps with the link in the footnotes.[7]


As a final piece of note, I suppose it's worth mentioning that accuracy when it comes to naming is probably not high up the list of every stamp-collectors agenda. But if we attempt to get it right most of the time it can only help, and not hinder, future research (as links will be easier to find, rather than having to search a dozen different variants).

On such a comment, if I have got anything wrong with the above I would greatly appreciate being made aware, for my own and others benefit, of course. In either case, I hope what has been presented has come in some use thus far.

Best wishes.


[1] Harrison & Sons Ltd A Timeline from King George II to King George VI, Glenn H Morgan FRPSL, 2012 | ( mirror)

[2] Bucks Free Press, 7th October 2002, "Up to 350 jobs to go at printing firm"" | ( mirror)

[3] De La Rue plc, "History", | ( mirror)

[4] "History", De La Rue| ( mirror)

[5] "Bradbury Wilkinson Images", Maldens & Coombe Heritage Society

[6] "Waterloo and Sons", Graces Guide

[7] The House Of Questa And The Format International Security Printers - Golowe Stamps (J. Lowe) | ( mirror)

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