Edward Everard's Printing Works

An amazing Art Nouveau façade was designed in 1900 for the printing works of Edward Everard.

Design for the facade of Everard's

The water colour design for the façade of Edward Everard's printing works, published in A Bristol Printing House by Edward Everard (c. 1902).

The Victorians loved the idea that every picture tells a story. Many a narrative of love, war or adventure was played out a vast canvas. Buildings could have plenty to say too, but few as directly as Edward Everard's printing works. This remarkable building caused a sensation when it was first built. Even today people stop to stare at the stunning tiled facade. The narrow front is set back from its neighbours, invisible until you are nearly at its door. So it springs its surprise upon the unsuspecting passer-by.

Edward Everard was a remarkable man. Towards the end of the 19th century, Bristol was humming with industry. Among its burgeoning trades was the printing industry. Increasing literacy had massively boosted the market for books and periodicals, not to mention advertising. Printers thrived in Bristol, but none was more passionate about the trade than Edward Everard. He was a founder member of the Bristol Master Printers' and Allied Trades' Association.

Everard was highly successful, but he saw printing as more than a business. It was a craft. His ideal was the famous Kelmscott Press, established by William Morris in 1891. Morris produced books influenced by those of the fifteenth century. His Golden typeface was inspired by that of an early Venetian printer. More importantly Morris aimed to create books as a harmonious whole, with compatible type, illustration and layout. The Kelmscott Press inspired higher standards of book design, whatever the style chosen.

Morris was a giant of the Arts and Crafts Movement, which promoted the revival of traditional crafts. Though it sprang from nostalgia, Arts and Crafts design influenced the development of a new style towards the end of the century - Art Nouveau. After a long period in which artists and architects took their inspiration from the past, this confident new movement dared to be different.

Everard embraced both the old and the new. He revered the history of his craft, but absorbed the latest technologies and the new art. His new headquarters at 38 Broad Street was the embodiment of his thinking. It was designed by Bristol architect Henry Williams around 1900 and was far larger than the Broad Street front suggests. It stretched back from the street and behind neighbouring properties to another entrance on John Street.

Everard was deeply involved in the design. In his publication A Bristol Printing House he explained that his imagination was fired by the picturesque piles of Bristol. He aimed to erect a building reflective of the city's history, but ended up with something so novel that Bristolians came initially to scoff. He claimed the nearby St John's Church as the chief influence on the design, but the architectural echoes are distant. The arches of St John's Gate are Gothic, while the arcading of Everard's uses the rounded arches of Romanesque, more like the Norman Abbey Gate, which Everard also admired.

Light and truth in the tympanumThe rear walls were in red brick. A quirky touch was provided by the terracotta dragons supporting rainwater-heads. A part of the rear elevation is still there as no. 1 John Street. The front was originally intended to continue the Celtic theme with grotesque animals in a light biscuit colour. However another idea appealed to William James Neatby. He was the chief artist for Doulton's of Lambeth, who had been approached for ceramics to decorate the façade. Neatby could and did design architectural sculpture in terracotta, but he also had a gift for decorative tile-work, which gave him scope to work in rich colours. He went on to design the tiles in Harrods food hall in 1903.

Angel on Everard's facadeFollowing the interests of his client, Neatby created an Art Nouveau front which told the story of printing. At the top, between charming turrets, a massive figure holds a lamp and mirror to symbolise light and truth. Below a mock-battlement, the story-telling breaks out in force. On either side Johann Gutenberg, father of printing, and William Morris, reviver of craftsmanship, stand each with their characteristic typeface. In between them the Spirit of Light spreads glorious wings over arched windows. Below is Everard's name in the Art Nouveau typeface he designed, above wrought iron gates which incorporate his initials. The whole thing was a superb advertisement for Everard.

When the firm closed down in 1967, the building was nearly lost. There were proposals to demolish it completely for new development. After strong protests, a way was found to retain the façade and front hall as the entrance to a new complex which houses offices of the National Westminster bank.

Further reading