Alfred Tomes was born on 4th October 1853 at Rouse Lench, Worcestershire. He was apprenticed in his teens to printer and stationer, Edward Adams of Stratford upon Avon, then worked as a printer in Oxford. By the age of 37 he was married and living in Grove Street, Leamington and in partnership with E. Harrison, established as a printer and bookbinder in Bedford Street. Harrison may have provided financial backing, as in May 1883, his arrival was announced in the Leamington Courier as allowing the introduction “of new and elaborate machinery” including a Croppers’ Minerva press driven by a Bisshopp Gas Turbine. Announcements of that kind and advertisements in the Leamington Courier in the 1880s claiming that Tomes and Harrison were the best printers in the town were clearly part of an astute marketing ploy to capture the market.
When Tomes first came to Leamington, the most reputable printer in the town was Edward Foden, a Warwick printer who opened in Park Street in 1838, then moved to Bedford Street, where the works were taken over by George Henry Robinson. Robinson ran the firm with his son until the 1890s, when
Alfred Tomes stepped into the picture, purchasing the printing firm from Robinson. Tomes’ partnership with Harrison was dissolved in 1885, and in 1894, Alfred Tomes became sole owner of both his and Robinson’s works, continuing to develop both until his death in October 1902.
George Henry Budd was apprenticed to the printer J T Atkins of 16, Parade, in 1879. His Indentures, signed by John Atkins, George Henry and his widowed mother, show that he was taken on in June 1879, “to learn his Art and with him after the Manner of an Apprentice to serve from the date hereof until the Twenty Fifth day of November next following, and from that date – unto the full End and Term of Four Years from thence, ….”
The document further swore him to secrecy about his master’s business affairs and forbade him to “contract Matrimony”, or play cards, dice or tables; nor was he to haunt taverns or playhouses, or absent himself unlawfully from his master’s service day or night. GH Budd was also required to serve until 25 November 1879 without wages, thereafter receiving five shillings a week for two years, and ten shillings a week for the following two years (the end of his apprenticeship). By November 1883, he was working for Alfred Tomes, on a salary of £1. 10s. 0d, which later rose further, to £1. 15s. 0d, – not a bad sum in those days.
George Henry gave evidence at the inquest into Alfred Tomes’ sudden death in October 1902, stating that on the day of his death, Mr Tomes had appeared in normal health. This opinion was confirmed by others, including a gunsmith that Alfred Tomes had consulted about a new rifle (he was a keen shot) shortly before he returned to the printworks to lock up for the night. It was just moments after this that as he returned home, Alfred Tomes, aged only 49, collapsed and died at the corner of Regent Street and The Parade, and his doctor who performed the autopsy informed the Coroner that his patient was unfortunately very unhealthy, overweight, with a fatty heart and often suffered chest problems.
George Henry Budd took over the business in Bedford Street and began to expand it by means of a number of astute purchases over the years, including No 46, Bedford Street which had once been Raper and Irwin’s Fern Nursery, with extensive glasshouses. In 1902 he had acquired a piece of land belonging to the Tennis Club next door, which he bought for the knock-down price of £10. Thirty years later, after some judicial bargaining, he expanded into one of the Tennis Club’s redundant rackets courts, and bought premises opposite for warehouses and space for the business vehicles.
Under the direction of G H Budd, “Tomes” became the bookbinders and printers of quality to Leamington and district, producing every kind of business stationery, posters, bills, calendars, booklets and the popular daily Morning News. In the late 1920s, GH Budd bought the Spennell Press in Warwick. Their major client became Warwickshire County Council, whose documentation was printed to order, often well into the night, to ensure that relevant papers were on relevant desks the morning after a meeting. A. Tomes Ltd apprentices were given excellent training, many staying with the firm for the whole of their working lives.
Tomes’ was a family business, run successively by GH Budd, his sons William, Percy and Alfred, then by grandsons David and Richard, from the death of Alfred Tomes in 1902 until the early 1990s, – almost a century in the hands of the same family. The Budds were very much part of local life: G H was a Special Constable in WW1, named as a recipient in a medal ceremony in 1929. William, Percy and Alfred and their sons were prominent members of a number of local societies and clubs: William and Percy were both members of the Warwick and District Motorcycling Club, the latter recording the best time over a course on a Triumph in October 1922.
William was keen on flying, and also played Cricket at Leamington Cricket Club. In the 1920s, A. Tomes & Co were amongst sponsors of a replica silver Town Bowl for the Spring Meeting at Leamington and County Golf Club. The whole firm took part in many local charitable events: along with employees of other well-known local businesses, staff manned stalls at the Warneford Hospital and other Charity Fetes. They collected for the Mayor’s Christmas Fund. They had their own Cycling Club, with organised ‘Runs’ set out in a programme each month, with Lamp Lighting times carefully noted on the back of the membership card. They also had their own special ‘Waysgoose’, – a whole works outing to an interesting venue (a Brewery, one year!), complete with a photograph for posterity. When the annual outing started, the destination was somewhere relatively close, – Stoneleigh, for example, but always well prepared in advance, with transport and meals provided, and a beautifully printed programme of the day. In later years, destinations further afield were popular, – to seaside towns by means of special trains, leaving very early in the morning and returning very late at night!
Alfred Tomes had been a keen rifle shot, and according to the Leamington Courier of October 1901, an enthusiastic member of Leamington Rifle Club, – to the extent of proposing the building of a miniature range, so that shooting could continue during the winter months, so keeping alive interest in the sport and improving the skills of members. He further offered to present a suitable rifle and one thousand rounds of ammunition, should the project go ahead. The Rifle Club agreed in principle, subject to finding a suitable venue, but sadly, within the year, Alfred Tomes was dead. Messrs Tomes Ltd then set up the * annual Alfred Tomes Memorial Shield competition, held at the Wedgnock Range, later providing a miniature silver cup to accompany the trophy and to be retained by the winner.
All images © author’s private collection