T C Thompson and Sons sold the grandly-titled ‘Thompson-British Automatic Platen’, made in Buxton Street, Manchester. While the machine competed with Heidelbergs, it still has a group of enthusiastic followers. One particular feature is that the inking rollers have a cog at one end which links into a bike chain on the runner – this guarantees that there will be no slur — ink being dragged, rather than rolled, over the forme.

In 1929 the Sales Director of Thompson’s — Mr Holt — saw the new Heidelberg; and suggested that the firm should switch from their hand-fed ‘Gem’ platens to an automatically fed machine. The new machine was first exhibited in 1937.

Bernard Bennett of Coventry offers the information that the machine pictured is not the original Thompson. The first version was effectively a clone of the Heidelberg – Heidelberg didn’t like this and were successful in a patent infringement claim and almost all of those original Thompsons were destroyed. By 1940 around four remained. Bernard also says that post World War 2, Thompson platens were made at the Alvis car plant in Coventry.

The company made the modest claim that theirs was ‘the best auto platen in the world’, and supporters say that handling of paper stock is unparalleled. Publicity showed that 0.04mm (bank) to 0.94mm (board) paper could be automatically fed.

Testimonials from Holland stated “…The satisfaction exceeded our expectations; particularly the feed and delivery. We consider this a great improvement on the…(German machine).” Thompson must have been acutely aware of the challenge from Heidelberg.

In the 1980s platens were built by two men, being built in batches of two.  A third man inspected them.

The firm traded until the early 1990s having made 6,000 platens, spares and parts being sold to a firm in Birmingham.  The premises were demolished shortly after.

Bill Elligett has posted a page about the Thompson at his site

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