Unlocking Stourport's Past

15 Bridge Street

Audrey Cooper, a Society member, tells the story of George Nicholson, printer at Stourport from her meticulously researched book.

The booklet pays homage to Nicholson one of Stourports famous sons, a prolific printer who had decided views on important issues of the time. He was a committed vegetarian, formidable opponent of cruelty to animals and related sports, supporter of the movement to abolish slavery and believer in free day schools, all of which found expression in his works.

George Nicholson, nationally known printer, settled in Stourport in 1808. Until his death in 1825 he produced a prolific number of works, including The Cambrian Traveller’s Guide,probably the best known and most popular work of his own time. Other notable titles from the Stourport years were  'The Conduct of Man to nferior Animals', 'Advantages of a Vegetable Diet' fourth edition 1819 and 'The British Orpheus (an anthology of songs and ballads with music) c.1816.

Throughout Nicholson's career, the quality of his printing skills and book production in whatever format was of a very high standard. An innovative tiny pocket sized series was well praised. He commissioned designs for wood and copper engraving from some of the best artists and craftsmen of the day for frontispiece, title page and vignette illustrations, and was one of the earliest printers to use the new techniques of lithography, and to experiment with title pages in colour.  He commissioned famous artists and engravers, including Thomas Bewick, to produce designs for his books.

Photographs and information about Nicholson, his books and also about his premises in 15 Bridge Street are still being sought.

Priced at £2.00 the booklet is still available from Stourport Civic Society

George Nicholson's signature

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Nicholson took No 15 Bridge Street on the corner of Raven Street to set up his press and open up his bookshop. Today 15 Bridge Street languishes in need of conservation work and recognition as an important historic listed building.

George Nicholson's 'Cambrian Traveller's Guide'
In the early 1800s, George Nicholson, printer of Stourport, brought out two editions of 'The Cambrian Traveller's Guide' his collection of tours throughout Wales by selected travellers. The copies were printed at his Bridge street premises, sold by booksellers around the country, most notably in London through the agency of several named influential publishers of that time, and it seems the guide was very well received. The first edition of 1808 concentrated on Wales and the immediate environs, but the 2nd edition in 1813 delved further into the Marches of the border country, reaching home ground here in Worcestershire, even stretching so far as to take in that unlikely border town, Birmingham. a persevering spirit. It passes through Woofferton in the parish of Richard's Castle.'

This is Nicholson' s own contribution on Stourport in the Guide, in 1813:

‘To Tenbury, pursue the former route to Kidderminster thence to Stourport 4m.; a place which has risen out of fields since the year 1770 to a mart of considerable business, a market and a Post town. It is situated on the East bank of the Severn, abounds with docks and basins for the reception of Trows, barges etc. from Worcester, Gloucester and Bristol, and for canal boats from various quarters. The quays are covered with warehouses for the reception of goods, with large stocks of coal, piles of timber, iron, alabaster etc; it is in every respect a river port or emporium of inland navigation. Through this medium a direct and ready communication is formed between the N. and W. of England, as connected by the Duke of Bridgwater's canal which joins the Mersey at Runcorn, the Grand Trunk canal and the River Severn, with their collateral branches, and by a branch of the Grand Trunk which also joins the River Trent at Shardlow, a regular conveyance is established to and from Gainsborough, Hull and the eastern coast, including many of the midland counties. There is a very extensive trade carried on here with coals £ran the Staffordshire and Worcestershire collieries, and recently in corn, hops and fruit; the place is indeed well calculated, in every respect, for carrying on, with facility, any extensive business. The population is upwards of 2000.’

This obviously explains the reason why Nicholson chose Stourport as a centre for his own extensive book trade. Kidderminster Reference Library owns a fine, handsomely bound copy of the 2nd, 1813 edition of The Cambrian Traveller's Guide.

See also Raven Street entry for side elevation information.

This page researched by Audrey Cooper
This page last updated 8 January 2007

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