Anyone interested in the manufacturing achievements associated with Ipswich will be proud to recall the great engineering firms, especially Ransome Sims & Jefferies and Ransome & Rapier. But they weren't the only world-class companies working in Ipswich. This emerged very strongly from the talk on Cowells given by Alison Morris, the present company's Sales Director, as one of the Town Lectures on 14 March. Although not an Ipswich Society event, the talk was so interesting I think it deserves a mention in our Newsletter.
Mrs Morris briefly sketched the early days of the company from 1818 when it dealt in groceries, wines and spirits and eventually ran its own furnishing store, but she concentrated on its celebrated core business of printing. She described the production of colourfully illustrated children's books (for Puffin etc.), the top quality art books to satisfy the demanding standards of, for example, Henry Moore and New York's Museum of Modern Art, the printing of six large volumes of American Wild Flowers which took ten years to produce and which American printers fought shy of, and the vast catalogue of the Royal philatelic collection, for which the precious stamps were sent to Ipswich by train and kept in a police cell.
In some ways it was a nostalgic occasion, seeing all those photographs of huge rows of presses of different kinds, but more especially because there must have been thirty or more of Cowells' former employees in the audience. They took a very active part in the Question and Answer session at the end. One man confided in us that a penalty for doing something badly was three month's work on bingo cards! The present company, now in Lovetofts Drive, is appreciably smaller but at least it exists and keeps the famous name alive.