No Ordinary London Printer

Large downey high  76 credit tom griffiths tomgphoto.co.uk

Downey was established in 1903 and located at that time in London’s Mayfair area (Great Portland Street). In those early years, it was purely an engraving company, supplying the immense printing industry (which it was at that time) with the hand engraved tools for those companies to produce the final work from.

During the next 30 years, that hand engraving studio switched location from time to time but remained in Mayfair. Within this time, a new hand engraving apprentice was brought on board, William (Bill Turner), an eager to learn 14-year-old. After serving his 8-year apprenticeship under Harold Wolfenden (who himself was recognised as one of the finest and most skilled master hand engravers in the country), Bill Turner became a master engraver himself. The company continued to solely engrave printing tools for the industry, and at that time, practically all printing was produced with the die stamping process.

Die Stamping (also known as Engraved print) is the finest process for detail and quality available, you will see it often on social stationery showing Royal Warrants and coat of arms and it is still regularly used for traditional wedding invitations that have a script typeface.

By the 1940’s, the company had moved into a studio just off Soho Square (Carlisle Street) so remaining very much in the heart of London and after the chaos of WW2, the company continued. Things started to change rapidly for the business in the late-1950’s due to a number of economic and industry factors. The company was having problems with debt and was struggling to survive. At this point, Bill Turner decided to buy the whole business and keep it running, with the help of his two hand-engraving apprentices, Barry and Grahame Turner (his two eldest sons) and a lot of very hard work, the business started to thrive once more. Rents started to increase sharply in W1, so it was decided to start moving the business eastwards, to Clerkenwell and Farringdon

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During the 1960’s, a major change happened to the business. We began to print, operating alongside the engraving studio. Chris Turner, Bill’s youngest son, had completed a die stamping apprenticeship and was able to bring his newly learned skills with him to Downey. The first die stamping press was purchased and that was it – we now had the skills to produce printed work from the engraved plates we created. As Chris was based in Suffolk, our workshop was located there. Throughout the years it has moved and now resides over the county boarder in Norfolk. We’re very proud to have been an employer in that region for almost 60 years now.

Throughout the 1970’s the production side grew larger - more machines, more processes enveloped into our range and larger premises sought to accommodate this expansion. Call us control freaks, but our ethos was, and still very much is, to have full control over all aspects of production and finishing. With this level of control, we can produce work to the highest level of quality and not need to rely on outside resources which we have less control over.

With further expansion in production during the 1980’s and Downey’s London office relocating from Old Street into Hackney, change was a constant for this 2nd generation-led family business.  There were signs of what was to come in the digital age as this was when typesetting and photo-etching came on the scene. As early adopters of this technology, we were able to rapidly expand our capabilities in offering our clients and much stronger, cost-effective and efficient service.

Now it was time when the 3rd Generation of the Turner family made an entrance, in the late 1990’s, Joe Turner (now our MD) arrived on the scene and that was followed a couple of years later by Leo Turner. We could all see how the market was changing and developing with technology. As we continued to embrace, grow and bring these changes on board to the business, our level of service and technical knowledge we could pass onto our clients increased dramatically.

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Our creative side developed immensely during these years, strongly led by Joe who has an insatiable appetite for creative design and quality. We started to work a lot more on the visuals for our clients as they required our assistance with how to set a piece of artwork for reproduction with multiple print processes, often working in collaboration with a client’s in-house design lead or Creative Director. The projects started to have an increased level of complexity and this led us to expand into the bespoke packaging side of our business.

There is a recognised trend for the beautiful work we produce. For example, if we produce luxury invitation work for a client, they may ask us to produce an item which we have not created for anyone else before. The challenge is set and we get to work. Once achieved, we see this will drive similar projects to us. The item/process/technique you once saw as a total challenge has become the norm. It has happened so many times for us that we have become welcoming to all challenges. They help us grow and develop so that we can help our clients grow and develop. 

The trend above happens because of our foundations set nearly 120 years ago. Attention to detail, perfection of craft, exceptional customer service and inspirational creativity. Being fearless of projects and constantly developing our own techniques with R&D – we can constantly adapt to the market place and having been working in the luxury for so long, we can identify trends early on, offering our knowledge to our clients from an experienced position.

Large sothebys collectors dinner blind embossed invitation

At Downey, we are constantly working towards offering a first-class service level and desire to be as useful to our clients (and potential clients) as possible. In 2016, we decided it was the best time to return to the Mayfair area, our birth place. So, Joe and Leo chose an office in Berkeley Square which is within 5 minutes of so many of our clientele, thus offering an almost instant access point to advice, samples & face to face discussions about new and exciting projects.

We have kept our location in Hackney too. This is home to our studio where we create many of the artworks and prototypes for client projects. By nature of the change in London, we have an ever-expanding number of clients on our doorstep in East London which is becoming a hive of activity for design led businesses, luxury brands and the technology power houses.

Having our foundations within the hand engraving and master craft industry has given us a huge advantage when working with the luxury brands of today. Some of our clients, we have worked with for multiple decades and you simply cannot achieve that without having the extreme attention to detail and perfectionist mentality being subscribed to by our amazingly talented team. Every single day!

With this approach to our business and the creative printing industry overall, we certainly feel that Downey is no ordinary printing house. We are a team of experts in the luxury, creative field and we have the absolute capabilities of assisting you in developing your printed projects to a superior standard.