Celebrating 150 years of charity and Royal Charters


It’s clearly a huge honour for a charity to be given a Royal Charter – and one Crawley company has been honoured three times.

The Printing Charity, which is based in Three Bridges Road, Three Bridges, received its first Charter from Queen Victoria in 1865.



In those days it was known as the Printers’ Pension, Almshouse and Orphans’ Asylum Corporation. Something of a mouthful.

It became the Printers’ Charitable Corporation in 1972 when a supplemental Charter was granted by Queen Elizabeth II.

The UK’s second oldest occupational charity, it was founded in a pub as the Printers’ Pension Society in 1827 by George and Charles Searle and their employer, John King, who was an independent printer.

The aim of the society was “to grant pensions in the decline of life to such infirm and afflicted journeymen printers and their widows as may be thought most deserving”.



In those days there was no state pension and very few employers offered pensions, so the society was a vital lifeline to those in need.

According to the charity’s official history, the process to determine who was “most deserving” was not for the faint-hearted.

Applicants nominated for election as pensioners had to attend a public meeting and present their case. Those in the printing industry and members of the general public who contributed to the pension fund would then vote for those they deemed most deserving.

Long before the days of data protection, the details of those to be elected, including their age, address, financial circumstances, and number of votes received were duly printed and published in the charity’s Annual Yearbooks, which today are housed at St Bride Library in Fleet Street, London.



The journey from the Printers’ Pension Society to The Printing Charity was a long one, which saw it launch and then consume two other charitable organisations along the way.

The Printers’ Almshouse Society, which was set up in 1840, and the Printers’ Orphan Asylum, launched in 1863, were spin-offs from the Printers’ Pension Society.

In 1865, as Victoria picked up her pen to sign the Charter, the three groups merged into one – the aforementioned Printers’ Pension, Almshouse and Orphans’ Asylum Corporation.

The organisation finally became The Printing Charity in 2010 and, in 2014, Her Majesty granted a second supplemental Charter.

This one gave the charity the flexibility to help more people as well contributing towards the educational costs of young people who intend working in the industry.

To mark the 150th anniversary of their first Royal Charter, staff were invited to a reception held at St Bride Foundation last month.

The reception included a walk through history with scenes presented by actors in 10 of the Foundation’s rooms.

The historical snapshots of the printing world included the charity’s founding at the Kings Head Tavern; a dinner with a reading of an extract from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol; the signing of the charity’s Charter by Queen Victoria; the London Blitz; and the 1980s’ printing dispute in Wapping.

An Adana Printing Press was set up at the reception so guests could print their own pledge of support, from fundraising ideas, cash donations or simply guiding those in need to contact the charity.

Chief executive Stephen Gilbert said: “We’re not going to disappear because we know there are people out there who need our help as much as they did in 1865 when our first Royal Charter was granted.”

Source: www.theprintingcharity.org.uk