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Blog Post By Genevieve Lewis

Syd and Newton Press

Newton Press founder: from molten lead to digital print

Newton Press has come a long way since it was established in 1963 in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham by Syd Howarth. Print and design was not what it is today, and the firm have evolved over the last 54 years, but one thing has stayed the same – and that is Syd Howarth himself.

The print veteran, who was awarded an MBE for his contribution to the community, will be celebrating his 80th birthday in October.  And before Syd decided to embark on his adventure in print, he had served his apprenticeship in Nottingham followed by National Service before moving north to work in Newcastle and the Morpeth Herald.

Whilst Syd’s three sons mostly take care of Newton Press, he still has an active role within the company, and is the honorary editor of ‘Newton News’.

Stuart Howarth, Syd’s son, says: “He came out to set up as a printer/bookbinder originally, and then the business quickly evolved into a newspaper. The Newtonian was a monthly magazine which Syd took over and created Newton Aycliffe’s own local community newspaper – now the Newton News – which has run since the 60’s. The new town was in its infancy and Newton News claims to be the first “Free” weekly newspaper financed entirely from advertising revenue and delivered top each home in the town.

“He made it [the paper] a commercial thing so it was paid for by advertisers. We aren’t sure if anyone has beaten that, whether anyone was doing anything like that at the time, so that’s our semi-claim to fame.”
The business began with hand composition and melting hot lead.  The firm started with a Heidelberg Platen and moved to litho printing with a Kord.

Stuart continues: “I think I came into the business not long after that, we moved into litho, the hot lead had gone to the wayside. We still have a letterpress here. My dad was actually the first one to bring a computer into the business, and we were like, ‘really, what the hell do you want one of them for?’.

“Once the computer started, we never looked back and we evolved into digital print as well. Pretty much everything goes through the two Presstek technology machines, waterless and environmentally-friendly. We are also running Ricoh and Konica Mintolta presses – we just put two new Konicas in just before Christmas, a black and white and a colour – just to make things a bit more quick and efficient. We still have a large colour Ricoh as well (large-format) for all the finishing on bits and pieces.”

Syd is still very much involved at Newton Press, and still actively chips in with solutions and ideas for his sons and the firm.

Stuart chuckles: “He’s a crazy man. We still have him here, sitting in the office next to me. He’s 80 in October and we still have a chinwag and chuck things at him and he comes up with things that we never would have even thought of. He’s old school and he sees things differently to how we do.”

He’s a crazy man. We still have him here, sitting in the office next to me. He’s 80 in October and we still have a chinwag and chuck things at him and he comes up with things that we never would have even thought of

On Syd’s MBE, Stuart says that it was not easy to get his father to accept such a prestigious award. He explains that his dad was awarded one a few years earlier, but did not accept it. Stuart explains: “It took us about six or seven weeks into taking it [his MBE] he has been offered one before and refused it a few years back, and it came in the second time, and I was like ‘come on, dad take it, you deserve it.’ He gets it for his service to the communities, like the honorary editor of paper, he turns up to absolutely everything. People don’t go to Citizen’s Advice, they go to Syd. He just sorts it, and that’s the kind of guy he is.

“Many people were saying he should have something, so we thought ‘let’s put it in, and see what happens’ and then when he was offered it, were like, ‘look dad, come one, you’ve got to take it,’ and he said, ‘I don’t do it for any of this, it’s not about getting adoration or getting anything back’. It was really quite emotional, it took us weeks of persuading him to take it. And then, he wouldn’t go to the palace to get his award. He got Sue Snowden, the Lord Lieutenant of County Durham, who he knows very well, to present it up here and he threw a party for family and friends.”

Syd comments: “The award was given for my work in the community so it was right to have it presented here in the presence of my family and friends.”

On the future of Newton Press, Stuart explains that the third generation of Howarth’s are already firmly woven into the family business. There are even younger apprentices, who are still in education, working at the print firm. It is this type of forward thinking and loyalty to family that makes Syd and Newton Press so special.

Stuart finishes: “I’ve got 28 years to match him, I’m hoping I’m still here when I’m 80. That’s my target; I want to beat my dad because I love it here, it’s a great family business. Me and my brothers have run it for the last 30 years, my dad just kind of said, ‘there you go boys, it’s yours, that’s what I did it for,’ he handed us over the business and obviously the three of us were able to take it forward. He did all of the hard work.

“He’s here more than I am. He’ll come in on the Saturday when I’m in the pub. It’s just crazy.”

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