Dennis printworks: Postcard company's HQ demolished

Former Dennis printworks on Vernon Road in Scarborough The Dennis printworks has been demolished. 'ETW Dennis' lettering can still be seen on the brickwork, pictured here before demolition
UK's first picture postcard (North Bay, Scarborough - 1894). Image courtesy of George Webber. Dennis is credited as the first company to print commercial postcards in the UK, in 1894. This image shows North Bay, Scarborough, courtesy of George Webber
A picture postcard of South Bay and Hayburn Wyke in Scarborough, published by Dennis in 1897. Image courtesy of George Webber. An early colour card of South Bay and Hayburn Wyke in Scarborough, published by Dennis in 1897. Image courtesy of George Webber
Seaside postcards published by Bamforth Dennis branched out to bawdy and saucy seaside postcards in the 1980s when it bought up the stock of West Yorkshire printers, Bamforth

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A building said to be the headquarters for the first picture postcard company in the UK has been demolished.

Weeks after the wrecking ball moved in on the old Dennis printworks on Vernon Road in Scarborough, the factory which made scenes and seaside views sent around the world has been flattened.

Postcard historian Steve Hillier said Dennis started the commercial postcard boom in the 1900s.

"Dennis postcards of 1904-5 were the text message of their time," he said.

He added: "Sometimes six a day were delivered to one house."

Edward Dennis moved to Scarborough from London in 1870 and ran libraries, book shops and stationers in the town centre and at Scarborough Spa.

Gap in the market

His business printed commercial art, greeting cards and tourist brochures, but in 1894 Post Office regulations allowed postcards to be mass produced.

Dennis was quick to see a gap in the market and specialised in thousands of topographical scenes and seaside views from around the UK.

"Post Office regulations said the back must only contain the address, and five words on the front, with a picture and space for a message," said Mr Hillier.

Steve Schmuck of Central Property Lettings, which owns the land on Vernon Road, said Dennis printworks operated from a factory on Melrose Street until the company folded in 2000.

Special edition programme to celebrate the coronation of Edward VII (1902) This programme marked the coronation of Edward VII in 1902. Image courtesy of Scarborough Museums Trust

The Vernon Road building was empty for years after having been an ice rink and an Indian restaurant, Mr Schmuck said.

In the 1980s, Dennis branched out to bawdy and saucy seaside postcards when it bought up the stock of West Yorkshire printers, Bamforth.

Then when Dennis folded in 2000, after 140 years in business, these images were bought by a Leeds businessman, Ian Wallace.

'Wacky like me'

Mr Wallace, who works in transport and owns the Beatles shop in Liverpool, has now re-released the saucy seaside postcard images on tea towels, key rings and mugs.

He owns the copyright to about 60,000 Bamforth images, originally produced at a printworks in Holmfirth.

He now wants to recreate the whole archive, because he said the images are so wacky - "just like me".

"When I saw the Bamforth postcards up for sale, I thought the collection just cannot be split up. There was about 30 boxes - postcards all chucked together," he said.

Property developer Mr Schmuck said the future of the Vernon Road site would be discussed with Scarborough Council in early 2014, and it could become housing or a mixed use development.

It is also very close to land earmarked by Scarborough Council for a town redevelopment plan which includes the former Futurist Theatre and the Town Hall Gardens.

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