William Clowes and Sons

RA Collection: People and Organisations

Official printer to the Royal Academy of Arts.

Traded as: William Clowes from 1803-1834; William Clowes & Sons from 1835-1879 and Willimas Clowes Ltd from 1888.

William Clowes, (born Chichester, 1779 – died, Marylebone, 1847), moved to London in 1803 and in October that year founded his own printing business at 22 Villiers Street with just one employee. Through his wife's cousin, William Winchester, Clowes was able to gain access to government printing work which enabled the firm to develop rapidly; moving to Northumberland Court in 1807.In 1823 Clowes installed a steam-powered printing press designed by Augustus Applegarth (1788-1871) and Edward Shickle Cowper (1790–1852). In 1826 or 1827 the firm took over premises in Duke Street, Blackfriars which had previously been occupied by Applegarth and Cowper. The site became the world’s largest printing works, employing over 500 workers.

Three of his sons, William (the Younger, 1807-1883), Winchester and George, ran the business which had become William Clowes and Sons in 1835.

In 1873, William Clowes the younger's eldest son, William Archibald Clowes (1843–1904), and his nephew William Charles Knight Clowes (1838–1917) entered a partnership with William Moore, who operated the Caxton Press in Beccles, Suffolk. Although Moore suddenly disappeared, leaving a considerable debt, the firm survived and was re-established as Clowes and Clowes. It grew from operating four presses to 15 in just three years. In 1880, Clowes and Clowes merged with William Clowes & Sons to form William Clowes and Sons Ltd.

The company continued operating into the 20th century, but suffered a setback during World War II, when the Blitz destroyed its Duke Street offices. Following the war, the firm decided to concentrate on expanding its presses in Beccles. The company sold its old Beccles premises in 2003 and moved to a new, custom-built factory at Ellough on the outskirts of Beccles in 2004.

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