Presses fall silent at historic Leeds printing firm after 150 years

Former print workers, Kenny Beecroft, Darren Crooks, Dean Davison, John Holmes, Rick Lambert and Mark Broadwith outside Polestar Petty, in Whitehall Road, Leeds. Picture by Steve Riding.
Former print workers, Kenny Beecroft, Darren Crooks, Dean Davison, John Holmes, Rick Lambert and Mark Broadwith outside Polestar Petty, in Whitehall Road, Leeds. Picture by Steve Riding.
0
Have your say

A printing factory that has been part of Leeds for nearly 150 years has closed its presses for good.

The Polestar Petty factory, in Whitehall Road, shut down its printing department for the final time today, having served the city since Petty & Sons first opened its doors in 1865.

The move comes as part of a £50million restructure of Polestar printing nationally, which will see 250 jobs gradually leave Leeds by next summer through redundancy or transfer to sister sites in Sheffield and Wakefield.

Petty & Sons family printing company grew to become the first in the UK to install colour web offset presses in 1963. The business was sold before becoming part of tycoon Robert Maxwell’s British Printing & Communications Corporation empire in 1981 and it has since been owned by several firms and now comes under the Polestar umbrella.

Departing printing staff have paid tribute to both the workforce and the site’s history since the print room’s closure.

Rick Lambert, 51, who finished his last shift on the presses after 34 years this week, told the YEP: “It’s sad to see it go, there is a lot of sadness, but me and quite a few others are treating it with a glass half full approach as we can go on to other things – it’s an opportunity. It’s sadness with a lot of regret but good memories, we’ve got a site on Facebook that people are going on and exchanging photos and stories. The memories will live on.”

Several departed workers and friends and relatives of staff have shared messages of support on the Petty & Sons page.

Chris Carry said: “You will go down in print history. The day they shut the wrong site.”

Ian Mitchell said: “That’s my last shift at Pettys done and dusted and it was quite entertaining.”

While Patrick Marsh said: “Good luck to all the lads finishing today! Said goodbye to some fine people.”

Supplements and magazines are printed by Polestar nationally for titles including Private Eye, The Guardian and The Radio Times. The Leeds plant had the capacity to print 57m 32 printed page sections and 12m stitched magazines per week.

Bindery staff are expected to remain on site until it closes entirely in August 2015. Polestar declined to comment on the closure of the presses.

Mitchell Kezin with veteran film director John Waters. Picture: Jeff Henschel

Film interview – Mitchell Kezin on his film Jingle Bell Rocks! which screens in Leeds