Our Heritage and Proud Traditions

David RossArticle, Community

Hazell Watson & Viney brought the print trade to Aylesbury back in 1867.  In 1878 the company acquired a site in Tring Road, Aylesbury, a site that had been undergoing periodic expansion since 1885.  By 1939, 1,700 people, or over a quarter of Aylesbury’s working population, worked at the town’s iconic printing works.  The print works continued to flourish after the war and became part of the British Printing Corporation in 1963, a constituent of the FTSE100.  Sadly, the business closed its doors in 1991 with a Tesco, which opened in 1994, now occupying the site where Hazell’s printing presses once stood.

Walter Hazell is perhaps the most famous name in Aylesbury print history, having presided over the main print works in the town for over 50 years, starting in the late 1800s. Our printing presses operate a stone’s throw from where his colossal presses worked all those years ago. Hazell was a social reformer and keen supporter of the women’s suffrage movement, and like Hazell, we champion women in manufacturing.

The end of one era and the beginnings of another

When Hazell’s finally closed its doors, the largest printer in the town was JWL Ltd., founded in 1984.  JWL were enticed to the town, taking advantage of low-cost units on an industrial estate a mere few hundred metres away and within view of the iconic Hazell’s factory.  By this time, Hazell’s was in a rate of decline, meaning that there was a wealth of print talent within the local area, which JWL took advantage of and, within a few years, was employing in the region of 50 people.  While perhaps not on the same scale as Hazell’s, JWL Ltd. ensured that Aylesbury retained its place on the map as a centre for print excellence.  JWL were lithographic printers and continued the Aylesbury print tradition of being at the cutting edge of innovation within the print space, being a test site for Dainoppon Screen, for computer-to-plate print technology, a complete change of process for the industry, meaning that people were travelling from all over Europe and Asia to witness this cutting-edge technology first-hand.

JWL also ran a successful apprenticeship programme for local people, with the last apprentice being employed in 1998.  Apprenticeships are an area that Xpress Labels are actively looking at to once again give young local people the chance to learn their town’s trade.  Sadly, Duncan Print acquired JWL in 2005, by which time Xpress Labels had established itself in the community and had taken up the mantle alongside newer, more specialised print businesses like Mediaport, long-time allies of Xpress.

Xpress move from Wycombe to Aylesbury

Xpress Labels owned a humble warehouse unit in Ministry Wharf, West Wycombe, in 2005, thanks to the hard work of our chairman and now MD, David Ross. The business had expanded to the point where further growth was not possible and a new location was required with more space. Just down the road was Aylesbury, well known for its rich print heritage. It was immediately evident that there was a wealth of printing talent to draw upon in Aylesbury and that this was an obviously attractive place to relocate. The team took a huge risk of uprooting the business and moving it elsewhere in favour of potential growth. The business has gone from strength to strength and, over the course of the last 20 years, has acquired two further units on the same plot, tripling its footprint. The same has happened with the number of local people employed, which has tripled over the same period. With this level of growth and willingness to take risks, who knows what comes next?”

At Xpress Labels, our team members feel empowered by being part of something bigger than the individual, strengthening family and community connections through dedicated collaboration with local partnerships and the attraction and retention of skilled labour.

Neil Marshment Photography

Putting community at the heart of our organisation

Xpress Labels is the proud community partner of Aylesbury United Football Club. The football club is currently without a ground, exiled in Chesham. The club’s roots trace back to the Print Works Football Team. The Football Club is a part of the history of Aylesbury, and we believe it is vital that it be restored to our community. We are working in partnership with the club to “Bring the Ducks Home” and into a new community stadium. Our investment pays for the club’s pan disability and children’s football teams, which are still based within the town, and is the perfect vehicle for us to give back to the local community.

Ultimately, it is a key objective for Xpress Labels to ensure that the printing trade not only survives in our town, a town that has depended on the art of putting ink on paper for hundreds of years, but that it thrives, and that the bounty of its rewards can be enjoyed by future generations. Xpress Labels looks to bring growth, employment, security, and positive social impact to the whole community for years to come.