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History and Background


The year 2008 marks the 115th anniversary of the founding of our business in the printing industry. Hunter Penrose traces its roots back to A W Penrose & Co which started a 'Process Chemicals Stores' in Upper Baker St, London in 1893 as a branch of a pharmaceutical chemical company formed in the 1830s.

 A W Penrose grew rapidly with the then newly emerging process engraving industry which mushroomed to incorporate  photographically produced chemically etched halftone blocks instead of hand drawn engravings. Click here for information on Penrose cameras

Arthur Wellesley Penrose was born in 1873 and was a surgeon, when he founded the process stores with William Gamble and A Wybrant in 1893. They established the business using premises owned by Mr Penrose's grandfather, also an Arthur Wellesley, who'd been born  in 1816 (just after the Battle of Waterloo and hence patriotically named after Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington).

The Company was initially based in Upper Baker Street, Clerkenwell. By 1901 the business had grown rapidly and the company moved to much larger premises at 109 Farringdon Road.

The driving force behind the development of A W Penrose & Co was William Gamble. He was born in  1864 and had been    apprenticed to the Scarborough Daily Post as a printer, later becoming a reporter and then a sub-editor. He developed a great interest in the photographic process and set up his own experimental laboratory. The difficulty he experienced in obtaining certain chemicals suggested to him the commercial opportunity for a 'process stores' and hence the business was born.

Apart from developing Penrose & Co into the foremost company in this field, William Gamble was a prolific writer and speaker on all matters to do with the Graphic Arts and founder and editor from 1895 to 1933 of the Process Year Book which became the Penrose Annual. He died in 1933.   

In 1927 the company was acquired by Hunters & Co to become Hunter Penrose. Hunters and Penrose had been in competition with each other since the 1890s and Edgar Hunter then became chairman.

In the early 1960s Hunter Penrose purchased S R Littlejohn, another competitor, to become Hunter Penrose Littlejohn. Later in the 60s it merged with Johnsons of Hendon, a very old established producer of photographic chemicals, to become the Johnsons HPL Group. During the 1970s the company changed ownership twice.  In 1983 the Company was purchased in an MBO led by John Sewell, who had joined Hunter Penrose in 1974 as Marketing Manager and had become Commercial Director.  

Hunter Penrose continues to adapt to rapidly  changing markets. Over the past two decades, in addition to maintaining its position in the pre-press field, it has strongly developed its offering in the pressroom and in finishing.

John Sewell
William Gamble
The Company is big enough to offer a comprehensive and keenly priced product range but prides itself on providing a highly personalised service.


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Last modified:  14/12/2007