A history of Higgs & Co Printers Limited

The shop front of Higgs and Co Printers Limited

Higgs & Co. (Printers) Ltd., printers, stationers and publishers of the local weekly newspaper, the Henley Standard, was incorporated on 10th May, 1979, although its roots go back a hundred years before that.

A gentleman call Thomas Octavius Higgs started a printing business in Henley in 1877 and built premises at Caxton House, on the corner of Reading Road and Station Road in 1885. At this time he also became the official printer for the Henley Royal Regatta programme.

In 1892 he gained the contract for printing the recently re-named Henley and South Oxfordshire Standard, which had started life as the Henley Free Press in February 1885.

Charles Luker, the grandfather of the current president, joined Mr Higgs’s firm in the autumn of 1894, when he was not quite 18, in order to learn the printing trade, as his father printed the Faringdon Advertiser.

On Thomas Octavius Higgs’s death in 1896, the business passed to his widow Eliza, who sold it to a partnership from the Hobbs family, the local boatbuilders. Charles Luker also became a partner and eventually became sole proprietor in about 1900, from whence the firm was known as Higgs & Co.

At about the same time, the proprietors of the Henley and South Oxfordshire Standard (who included representatives of well-known local families, Brakspear and Mackenzie) had decided to close the paper. However, for Charles Luker, the loss of his largest printing contract just as he had become sole proprietor would have been disastrous. He therefore persuaded them to let him take on the publishing as well and, for about 20 years, the imprint of the Standard read “printed and published for the proprietors by Higgs & Co.” In 1919, the paper passed into the ownership of Higgs & Co., where it has remained ever since.

Charles Luker was joined in the business by his elder son Tom in 1926 and his grandson John in 1955, and they both became partners after a few years as employees. The business was run as a partnership until 1976, the death of Charles occurring in 1968 and Tom retiring from the firm in April 1976, only to die a year later.

After a short time as a sole proprietor, John Luker formed a limited company with the share capital divided between his wife Anne and himself and the company started trading on 1st April 1980. The premises at that time remained in family ownership and the company paid rent. A third Director, Mrs Sally Gammack (John Luker’s sister) was appointed.

The Henley Standard expanded greatly during the 80s under the leadership, for the first time a professional editor and managing director from outside the family were appointed, John Luker who had until then combined the posts of managing director and chairman, continued in the latter post.

Subsequently, John and Anne’s children were appointed to the board in July 1994 and a new managing director, Neil Ratcliffe, was appointed on John Bridgman’s retirement in December 1995.

Acquisitions in the general printing and office supplies field were made In March 2007 when the freehold and goodwill of Wallingford Business Supplies in Castle Street, Wallingford were acquired.

John Luker continued as chairman of the Board until his 75th birthday in June 2008, when he retired and was given the honorary position of life president. His wife Anne continued on the board until September 2009, when she also retired.

John and Anne’s children now share the chairmanship of the board.

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