‘Thompson-Brit­ish Auto­mat­ic Platen’, made in Bux­ton Street, Manchester

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