An East Sheen printer



In the early years of this century East Sheen was home to a small private press which between 1910-32 producing books and pamphlets which have been collector’s items for many years and are now extremely rare. Several were collections of poems by Arthur Knowles Sabin, Keeper at the Victoria & Albert Museum, who set up the press in a shed in his garden at 14 Palmerston Road. The following is Arthur's account of how he came to setup the press which includes a description of East Sheen in the early nineteenth century:

Printer Mark “ I had been associated with the Samurai Press for several years and doing hand-printing for it at Cranleigh, Surrey. It closed early in 1909 and I came up to London to a post at the Victoria & Albert Museum. In the spring of 1910 I was looking for a place in which to settle down. Wandering vaguely towards Richmond one day, I came to the pleasant roads by the Thames at Barnes, then the ancient High Street at Mortlake and if; riverside houses and, on a slope stretching up to a wooded common and the wall of Richmond Park, the district of East Sheen, only slightly suburbanised then. It was chiefly a place of orchards and market gardens, with a few houses standing apart in grounds surrounded by mossy brick walls. I saw daffodils growing in serried ranks beyond white-starred blackthorn hedges and, as I neared the Bull Inn, the tantara of a horn sounded along the main road and a four-in-hand dashed up on its way from Charing Cross to Hampton Court. Hostlers sprang into sudden activity, unharnessed the foam-flecked horses and led them into the stable yard, while others hastened out with the fresh team and hitched it to the coach, amid a confused jingling and creaking and the trampling of hooves on the road metal. Here was a touch of conventionalised romance, artificially imposed on the present, but attractive withal. It seemed to belong to East Sheen and greatly attracted me. The speculative builder was at work here, however. Small houses were being erected in a road which sloped upward toward Richmond Park. I went inside one Hearing completion. The rooms seemed reasonably commodious for a family like mine, with conveniences such as we required nicely arranged. From the front door I could see over a prospect of fields and orchards to the pagoda in Kew Gardens. In the back, beyond a space for a grass plot and garden beds, a great wych elm stood, with smaller trees and shrubs, part of a one-time stately avenue, still the haunt of thrushes and blackbirds and at night of a visiting owl. I was really attracted to the place, which I learnt was a comer of the grounds of Temple Grove, laid out by Sir William Temple when he came home from The Hague in 1671......and more lately the home of a well-known school. Sir William was said to have introduced tulip culture and built an orangery at Temple Grove, hence the tulip and orange-tree in my press mark.

"I bought this house, found an old hand press at Streatham, purchased it and some type, and started there my press which I named after its location. All the work was done with my own hands, my aim being to set a good standard of craftsmanship with good type on the best paper I could afford. I spent many happy and busy hours in my press room in the garden, early in the morning and late at night, chatting with visitors as I worked. My books when for sale were stocked by Mrs Hackman at her bookshop and library at 304 Upper Richmond Road. Dr Pendred nearby was a friend who spent many hours with me and with whom I played a weekly game of chess. William Kean Seymour, the poet, and Beatrice his wife, the novelist, were intimate friends and Caradoc Evans with his sharp tongue another. I knew Mr and Mrs Monroe at the Vicarage. We were an excellent little company at East Sheen in those days.

"When I first went there the communications with other neighbourhoods were very meagre, a bus drawn by horses ran along the Upper Richmond Road from Putney to Richmond every half hour, but the motor bus from the Derby Arms to Hammersmith started in the summer of 1910. Coval Road was part of the Temple Grove garden with lovely borders in 1910 but was soon built over, and so our pleasant seclusion was soon lost. By the time I left about 1923 East Sheen and its people had, with its growth, changed almost out of recognition. That neither my Press nor I myself are remembered in East Sheen does not surprise me, and only goes to show what ephemeral things we and our works are."