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Discover Frome’s printing past

RIGHT up until November, you can explore Frome’s proud printing heritage at Frome Heritage Museum and learn about the talented folk who really helped to put the town on the map.  

It is believed that the first printing press in Frome was set up in 1797 by Abraham Crocker.  Since then, Frome has been home to a diverse range of printers.  This exhibition tells their story, although there is a particular emphasis on the company of Butler and Tanner. This company was for many years one of Frome’s largest employers and was central to the working and social lives of many families in Frome.

The museum is keen to learn more of the memories of people who worked in the printing trade and has provided a book in which to record your family memories.  Alternatively, why not send a letter, e-mail or message by social media?  If you have any printing artefacts and memorabilia which you think might be of wider interest, please let the museum know.

The museum owns a printing collection which ranges from working hand presses, through a wide range of technologies that the industry has embraced over time and many examples of the types of material that was printed.  The variety is extraordinary.

The exhibition explores changes in typesetting over time, from hand composition and hot metal type to the use of monotype and linotype typesetting machines.  Various printing techniques are explained including simple block printing, letterpress printing, photogravure, lithography and offset litho.

In building these collections, the museum acknowledges their debt to many people who have donated material.  Butler and Tanner have given much over the years and just before the company finally went into administration in 2014 as Butler, Tanner and Dennis a further archive was donated.

Objects also keep arriving at the museum from diverse sources.  Last year, for example, Mr. and Mrs. Dales kindly donated their 19th century Harrild printing press which had been used at the Butler and Tanner works for taking proofs until some 35 years ago.

On Sunday 28th June they, together with a band of museum volunteers, re-assembled this press – but as you will see on the museum Facebook page they needed to recruit some extra help!

The museum is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10am – 2pm.  Admission is free but a donation is much appreciated – since it costs some £42 a day to keep the museum open.

Visits from schools and from other groups are most welcome.  Please contact the museum to arrange.

A book entitled “The Butler and Tanner Story” written by Dr Lorraine Johnson accompanies the exhibition. This draws strongly on researching the museum’s printing collections.  It is published by the Frome Society for Local Study and priced at £12.  It can be purchased from Frome Heritage Museum, Hunting Raven Books in Cheap Street or direct from the Frome Society for Local Study.

For more information, call the museum on 01373 454611 or e-mail You can also visit their website, or visit their Facebook page.