THE 159-year history of one of the North-East’s best known printing companies has come to a sad end with the closure of Ward Philipson in Gateshead.
The company had shrunk in recent years to become a much smaller operation than in its heyday, but had enjoyed a long and illustrious history of providing print services to the region’s business community.
Now the company has ceased to trade and insolvency experts from a Sunderland firm of accountants are in charge of winding it up. A creditors’ meeting will be held next Friday morning.
The litho printing side of Ward Philipson was taken over by Potts Printers in Cramlington several years ago and Robin Ward, the third generation of his family in the company, moved with it.
That left the company with just its photographic printing and graphics divisions, as well as selling felt pens and other stationery items.
After Mr Ward’s departure, the business was run by long time company accountant John Moreels and his son Paul.
Mr Moreels has played a prominent role in the local business community and was awarded the MBE in 1999 for services to small businesses. He is a member of Durham Business Club.
Although Ward Philipson’s workforce had reached 100 staff in recent years, the numbers are now understood to have shrunk to a fraction of that. Several decades ago, Ward Philipson was based in buildings near the Discovery Museum in Newcastle on what is now St James’ Boulevard, but it then moved out to Dunston in Gateshead. Now that headquarters stands empty and the remaining pieces of equipment there are being sold off.
Yesterday, a source said Ward Philipson had traded quite successfully in recent years, following the move of the litho business to Potts, but then a cheaper competitor had taken a substantial amount of custom from the company.
The source said: “Graphics went from strength to strength, along with photographic – which they built up. They were doing really well until the new competitors undercut them.”
Just four years ago, Ward Philipson was looking to the future with confidence and was investing in internet technology.
The web-based “imaging” service allowed photographers to upload images on to a special website from anywhere in the world.
The pictures could then be printed, or transferred to digital media, before being delivered back to the photographer.
But the foresight did not prove enough to save the company in the face of ever tougher competition.