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GWASG GEE, DENBIGH

Site Details

© Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey licence number 0100022206

NPRN 41216

Map Reference SJ06NE

Grid Reference SJ0526566225

Unitary (Local) Authority Denbighshire

Old County Denbighshire

Community Denbigh

Type of Site PRINTING WORKS

Broad Class INDUSTRIAL

Period Post Medieval

Site Description Gwasg Gee was an important printing works in nineteenth-century Wales. Founded in Ruthin in 1808 by Thomas Jones, the business was acquired in 1813 by Thomas Gee, whose son, also named Thomas Gee (1815–1889), took over the business in 1845. The press moved to the premises on Chapel Street, Denbigh, in 1837. The younger Gee was a prominent Calvinistic Methodist preacher and liberal politician, as well as a printer, and through the press, and in particular his newspaper Baner ac Amserau Cymru (founded as Baner Cymru in 1857, amalgamated with Yr Amserau in 1859), championed Welsh Liberal causes such as opposition to tithes and electoral reform, as well as supporting Liberal politicians such as Henry Richards, the ‘Apostle of Peace’ (1812–1888). The press also published many other publications of great note in the history of the Victorian Welsh press, including the Calvinistic Methodist journal, Y Traethodydd (from 1845) and the ten-volume encyclopaedia Y Gwyddoniadur Cymreig (1854–1878, 2nd edn 1896), as well as numerous other books and dictionaries. Thomas Gee was in turn succeeded by his son, Howel Gee. Although the family retained close links with the press through the twentieth century, the press was acquired shortly before the Second World War by Morris T. Williams (d.1946) and his wife, the author Kate Roberts (1891–1985), who continued to run the press into the 1950s. The press closed in 2001, at which time it was the oldest surviving example in Wales.

The Chapel Street elevation of the building is a large two- and three-storey structure which angles with the curve of the street. It is constructed mostly of rubble stone supported on cast-iron columns, although the third storey is constructed of brick. The south-eastern end is of three storeys and five bays, with an entrance in the first bay. The north-western end is of two storeys and seven bays, with a slightly higher roofline over the final three bays. The first bay of the two-storey section has a large vehicular entrance leading to an inner courtyard, surrounded by other elevations of similar construction on all sides. The openings have shallowly curved heads, the windows with stone lintels. To the rear of the building complex is a small, single-storey limestone rubble building with a squat black chimney in the rear gable. This was the casting house, where lead type was cast, and contained a cylindrical iron furnace and stovepipe under the chimney.

The premises was greatly expanded in the 1850s owing to changes in technology and greater mechanisation. When the press closed in 2001, the printing machinery dated mainly from the twentieth century and included a Polar-Mohl guillotine, a Brehmer Leipzig book-sewing machine, a Staph folding machine, Heidelberg presses and six linotype machines.

(Sources: Dictionary of Welsh Biography Online, s.v. ‘Gee, Thomas (1815–1898)’ and ‘Roberts, Kate (1891–1985)’; Cadw Listed Buildings database, Ref No 23578; Richard Suggett, ‘Survivors: The Gee Works’, in Peter Wakelin and Ralph A. Griffiths, Hidden Histories: Discovering the Heritage of Wales (Aberystwyth: RCAHMW, 2008), pp. 288–289)
A.N. Coward, RCAHMW, 24.01.2019

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