Petty & Sons was officially launched in 1865 by John William Petty at a Leeds base wence from it became one of the UK’s preeminent printers. During the 19th century the strong Methodism and Temperance principles of the Petty family helped the business to grow as they produced print for the Band of Hope and other similar movements.The founders son and driving force was named Wesley and this gives a clue to this lay preacher beliefs. Wesley recalled that the Leeds born painter of moonlight views Arnold Grimshaw was only allowed to sell his paintings on the clear evidence that they were not painted on a Sunday.
The companies early accounts books show that much of the initial printing equipment was bought from local Yorkshire engineers such as Otley based Dawson Payne (& Elliot), James Mann (later to become Geo Mann) Sheffield engineers and type founder Stephenson Blake and fellow printer Geo Pallister. Waite and Saville machines were added later. To some extent the rise and fall of the printing equipment industry followed that of Petty & Sons. By the turn of the 20th century Pettys Southern printers in Reading was in significant production and there were operations in Cheapside London, Belfast and Dublin as well as new extensive premises in Whitehall Road Leeds.
TV Christmas Magazines
During the late 70’s and 1980’s Pettys was the go-to printer for the big run projects for television listings. They coordinated the UK wide printing, binding and distribution of TV Times and Radio times using other printers in BPCC Magazine and Catalogue division
The Radio Times 1988 Christmas edition sold a staggering 11,220,666 copies with all the extra pages for adverts plus the extended holiday programmes.
They even printed The Listener a weekly magazine established by the BBC in 1929 until its demise in 1991. Other regular publications included Woman’s Own, Ideal Home, and Woman’s Journal alongside holiday brochures.
Business Forms at Petty and Sons
In keeping with a Petty tradition a new division to service the needs of retailers with counter checkbooks, sales books and receipts was created. During the war it was converted to the production of petrol coupons and subsequently added the facility to encode cheques with magnetic ink, printing premium bonds and birth certificates.
There were many other developments in this area notably the production of continuous stationery and products designed for key industries. They were a key and active member of an international development group Eforma based in Switzerland that helped develop the ‘Tayo’ printing presses. In the 1980’s they joined with another famous printer Waterlow to form Waterlow Petty Business Forms at a new factory in Dewsbury Road Leeds
Throughout it’s existence Pettys ran the company like a true family concern. Wesley Petty the driving force and son of the founder celebrated his golden wedding in 1921 and died in 1928 having had 13 children, 20 grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.
Ken Petty was the fifth generation of the family to manage the company and his son and family have run their own print management company for the last 25 years.
Sadly the family era came to an end with the sale of the then parent company British Printing Corporation (BPC) to Robert Maxwell and the bank. Maxwell then renamed BPC The British Printing and Communication Group of where the Petty’s Leeds factory continued to be a key production facility.