Odhams Press was a British publishing company. Originally a newspaper
publisher, founded in 1890, it took the name
Odhams Press Ltd in 1920
when it merged with John Bull magazine. By 1937 it had founded the
first colour weekly, Woman, for which it set up and operated a
dedicated high-speed print works. The company also owned Ideal Home
(founded 1920) and acquired the equestrian magazine Horse and Hound.
Later, Odhams expanded into book publishing, for example publishing
Winston Churchill's Painting as a Pastime, Rupert Gunnis's Dictionary
of British Sculptors 1660–1851, and an edition of the complete works
of William Shakespeare.
Throughout the 1960s, Odhams Books Ltd (likewise founded by Odhams
Press) operated the Companion Book Club (CBC). This published a large
series of hard cover novels.
1.1 Odhams' proprietorship
1.3 Close of business
According to Susan M Penn's history of Long Street at Sherborne,
Dorset, as verified by Harrop's historical house survey and by local
census information, the house known since 1968 as Mistletoe Cottage
was occupied in 1834 by John Odhams. His eldest son, William, grew up
to be a compositor: possibly serving his apprenticeship with Langdon
and Harker at the
Sherborne Mercury Printing Office in Long Street,
according to his great granddaughter, although there is no evidence to
support this. However, at the rear of Mistletoe Cottage is a
substantial brick-built shed. The flat flooring of this shed is very
solid, completed with thick oak planking, well able to support and
withstand heavy items of machinery such as a printing press.
Earthworks next to the shed in or around 2002 revealed evidence of
many coloured printing inks still visible in the soil.
In 1834 William Odhams left for London, where he initially worked for
The Morning Post. In 1847 he went into partnership with William Biggar
in Beaufort Buildings, Savoy, London; and in the 1870s he started the
business known as 'William Odhams'. He sold the business to his two
sons, John Lynch Odhams and William James Baird Odhams, in 1892.
Odhams Limited, created in 1898, in turn became
Odhams Press by
Odhams Press Hall was built in Watford, designed by Yates,
Cook and Derbyshire, and this was later protected by the local
council because of the innovative clock tower, which houses a water
tank for use in printing.
In 1960 Cecil Harmsworth King, chairman of the
Daily Mirror newspaper,
made an approach to Odhams on behalf of
Fleetway Publications Ltd
(formerly the Amalgamated Press). Odhams' Board found this too
attractive to refuse and, in 1961, Odhams was taken over by Fleetway.
In 1963 its holdings were amalgamated with those of the George Newnes
Company, Fleetway, and others, to form the International Publishing
Corporation (known as IPC).
Between 1964 and 1968 Odhams operated as a subsidiary of IPC,
diversifying into boys' comics. During this period, it was publishing
a range of titles known as the Power Comics, which included Wham!,
Pow! and Smash!.
Close of business
In 1968 Odhams encountered financial problems, partly due to
unfavourable economic conditions in Britain. As a result of this, and
of IPC's desire to rationalise its titles and eliminate duplication,
the comics published by the
Odhams Press imprint were closed or
transferred to IPC Magazines Ltd, another IPC subsidiary. This
contained the losses on the
Power Comics range within Odhams, which
was a limited company with separate liability, but, in consequence,
Odhams became financially unviable. On 1 January 1969 it effectively
ceased to exist as a publishing business, when publication of its last
surviving comics title, Smash!, was transferred to IPC Magazines Ltd.
Odhams Press Limited, a limited liability company registered in
England and Wales, was incorporated on 17 April 1914, and survived
until 7 January 1998, when it changed its name to Formpart (No.11)
Limited, which still exists today as a dormant private company.
^ "Locally Listed Buildings in Watford".
Watford Borough Council.
2010-12-13. Archived from the original on 29 September 2013. Retrieved
Howard Cox and Simon Mowatt. "Technology and Industrial Change: The
Shift from Production to Knowledge-Based Business in the Magazine
Print Publishing Industry" (Research Papers in International Business
no. 27). Paper presented to the 2001 Association of Business
Historians Conference, 2001. Available online.