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Baileys Printers

Baileys Printers is a 140-year-old company spanning five generations. Carys Evans spoke to Chris Brandon, managing director, about fond memories and the future

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Baileys Printers has passed through five generations over 140 years

Generations of print

Established in 1881 by Methodist lay preacher, William Bailey, Baileys Printers has spanned five generations. The company is now believed to be the oldest printers in Derbyshire, producing a wide range of print and wide-format print products including print for fairgrounds.

Chris Brandon is the current managing director of the company having taken over the business in 1991. He is also the great, great grandson of Bailey. Brandon explains how a preacher came to establish what would go on to become a successful 140-year-old printing company.

“He was a Methodist lay preacher and started out printing hymn sheets and service sheets. The demand grew and a hobby became a business. He had a small hand-fed press and a few cases of type. His sons William and Thomas were the next to run the business, followed by Thomas’ children George, Fred, and Evelyn (my grandma), then Fred’s son Gordon, and now me.”

Until the late 1970s, all staff members at Baileys were family members. At its largest, the team was made up of 13 members of staff around 20 years ago. Today, Baileys is made up of seven staff members.

Small beginnings

Bailey set up the business from a spare bedroom and in 1914 he moved into a house in Somercotes, Derbyshire. “He built a shed at the back. Then we built another one, and a factory behind that,” Brandon explains.

The company remained here for over a century and this year, the team made the decision to move into new premises due to difficulties operating at the site and getting vehicles in and out of the premises.

“Our new site is around 2,500 square foot and is a purpose-built unit. The old place, although it had more square feet, was a bit of a labyrinth behind a house. Everyone said it was like the Tardis – much bigger inside than it looks.”

As most people will well know, moving house is difficult enough, let alone moving an entire business after 100 years, during a global pandemic. “The old place was up for sale before the pandemic struck and we were very close to getting a buyer. Had that have gone through we would then have had a year to move, nice and easy, nice and steady. It didn’t work like that.

After 100 years, Baileys moved into new premises

“The original buyer had to drop out because they couldn’t get the funding and pretty much out of the blue, we managed to sell the place. Then we looked for a new one and it took a while to find the right location and size.”

Brandon adds: “It’s great if you want one that’s one million square foot. You can find plenty of places. But for something small and in the right place, we needed to get something right. By the time that happened, the fair and other places started to open up, so we were busy. Trying to operate normally and move factories was extremely difficult.”

For Brandon, the move is one of the biggest challenges the company has had to face in recent times for logistical and sentimental reasons.

As you can imagine, after over 100 years we had lots of old treasures which I had to part with, which for me was tough

“As you can imagine, after over 100 years we had lots of old treasures which I had to part with, which for me was tough. Moving was the end of an era, but also the start of a new one. We all love our new place, it’s exciting and feels like a fresh start.”

Changing times

Print technology continues to develop every day, and this is something that Baileys has had to keep up with over the decades. Initially the business grew from hymn sheets to the more traditional printed products such as letterheads, invoices, and compliment slips. As demand changed, so did the options Baileys offered as it moved into letterpress posters.