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Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0074 LMA/4682
Held at: London Metropolitan Archives
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Date(s): 1741-2003
Level of description: Collection
Extent: 2.74 linear metres
Name of creator(s): Merchant Investors Assurance Company Ltd | Printers and Stationers xx Thomas Witherby xx Thomas Witherby & Son xx Thomas Witherby & Sons xx William & George Henry Witherby xx W.G and W.H Witherby xx Witherby & Co.


Administrative/Biographical history:

Witherby's was founded in 1740 by Thomas Witherby (1719 - 1797), stationer. He began by copying manuscript documents brought to him by solicitors relating to property leases, wills and marriage settlements, as well as producing pro-forma articles of agreement, bonds and other documents relating to insurance and shipping required by merchants, shop owners and their captains. Many of these transactions were carried out in coffee houses including the Sword Blade coffee house in Exchange Alley which was burnt to the ground in 1748 together with Thomas Witherby's premises next door.

Witherby signed a new lease for a 'new built brick messuage' at 9 Birchin Lane in 1749 where the business remained until 1873.

In 1767 Thomas was elected to the Common Council of the City of London Corporation representing Langbourne Ward. In 1779 the firm became Witherby & Son, and later Witherby and Company becoming a registered limited company as Witherby and Company Limited in 1935 which acted as a parent for subsidiary companies. These subsidiaries included HF & G Witherby Limited, publishers specialising on books on British Birds reflecting Harry Forbes Witherby's interest in ornithology. Publications included the monthly magazine 'British Birds' launched in 1907 and printed at Witherby's Holborn works. The firm also diversified its products range from account books and headed stationery to 'Witherby's Magnetic pen' patented in 1898 and Witherby's Universal Automatic Gum Bottle.

Successive acquisitions (including Bean, Webley and Company in 1925 and drake, Driver and Leaver Limited in 1954) , and the expansion of the printing business, led the firm to settle at specially built premises for modernised printing production techniques at 32-36 Aylesbury Street, Islington in 1965. It was only in 2009, after its publishing arm merged in 2008 with Scottish based Seamanship International Limited, that Witherby's moved to Tottenham Hale.

The Company specialises in litho and digital printing.

Seven generations of Witherbys were involved in the business. Thomas Witherby's son George Henry (1766 - 1805) became a partner in 1778 and was joined by William (1758- 1840) when the business changed to 'Witherby and son', succeeded by William's son William Henry (1793 - 1890) and George Henry's son George (1791 - 1861). The fourth generation comprised Walter (1826 - 1881) and Henry Forbes (1836 - 1907) sons of George; then Harry Forbes (1873 - 1943), George (1878 - 1958) and Theodore (1872 - 1957) all sons of Henry Forbes Witherby. By the twentieth century the company was managed by Harry's sons Thomas and Richard and latterly George's son Anthony. The seventh and final generation joined the business in the 1960's - Alan and David Witherby. The family's association with the business ended when David Witherby resigned as director of Witherby's Limited in 2012.

Trading As
Thomas Witherby 1759-1778 Birchin Lane
Thomas Witherby and Son 1779-1788
Thomas Witherby and Sons 1789-1800
William and George Henry Witherby 1801-1814
W.G and W.H Witherby 1815 - 1830
Witherby and Co.
Witherby and Company Limited 1935


Scope and content/abstract:

Records of Witherby and Co Ltd including Partners deeds, memorandum and articles of association, minutes, acquisition and policy papers, accounts, ledgers, journals, 'precedent' books (specimen forms), staff salaries, photographs, annual outing booklets, premises deeds, rentals, plans, inventories, printed material, history research including Witherby family papers and memoirs.

There are also records of subsidaries including H. F. & G. Witherby publishers of 'British Birds' , Electric Law Press Limited, Greaves Pass & Company and Drake, Driver and Leaver Limited (subsidiaries).

A highlight is the precedent books containing pro forma specimen court documents and forms written in Thomas Witherby's hand and intended for the guidance of his staff of law writers.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Arranged in sections as follows:
LMA/4682/A - Corporate and Administration
LMA/4682/B - Shares
LMA/4682/C - Accounting and Financial
LMA/4682/D - Legal
LMA/4682/E - Operation and Production
LMA/4682/F - Marketing and Advertising
LMA/4682/G - Staff and Employment
LMA/4682/H - Premises
LMA/4682/I - History
LMA/4682/J - Family
LMA/4682/K - H.F and G. Witherby
LMA/4682/L - Greaves Pass and Company
LMA/4682/M - Electric Law Press Ltd
LMA/4682/N - Drake, Driver and Leaver Ltd

Conditions governing access:

These records are available for public inspection, although records containing personal information are subject to access restrictions under the UK Data Protection Act, 1998.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copyright rests with the depositor.

Finding aids:

Please see online catalogues at:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited in May 2014.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Added October 2016.

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