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Boston - The Small Town With A Big Story


John Gray

The printing of tags, labels and tickets has been big business in Boston for more than 150 years. Local companies have played a significant part in the travel industry and a leading role in the evolution of train and tram ticketing for many cities across the world. They also helped to pioneer supermarket labelling as this type of shopping developed and the need for detailed labelling of goods became ever more critical.

A black and white illustration of a label making factory. A table of women are working in the background. In the foreground a long table with small children are also working while seated.

Label making in John Fisher's factory, Sleaford Road in 1857. (used by permission)

It began in 1849 with John Fisher who was a tailor by trade. He had difficulty acquiring tags and labels for his clothing and began to produce his own. By 1855 demand for his product reached such a peak that he opened his first printing establishment in West Street.

A black and white photograph of John Fisher and his wife. John Fisher is sat at his desk. His wife stands beside him. The room they are in is richly furnished, with large windows. A grand fireplace can be seen behind the couple.

John Fisher and his wife. (used by permission)

Things continued to flourish and George Clark bought into the business in 1870 and Fisher Clark Ltd was established with premises in the Market Place. In 1876 John Fisher sold out to George Clark who died two years later leaving an expanding business, now located in Grove Street, to his family.

A black and white birds eye photograph of the Norprint factory. It is a large building with a long row of windows across the side. There are houses, allotments and scrub land surrounding the factory.

The Norprint factory. (Neil Watson Collection)

A black and white photograph of a printing machine. It is operated by a man and two women. The man is dressed in a white coat, while the women wear floor length dresses. The printing machine has a long strip of white fabric fed through it, and there are multiple wheels and belts across its construction.

1963 Printing machine in operation. (used by permission)

In 1902 Fisher Clark acquired a factory in Norfolk Street which eventually expanded to cover 100,000 square feet. The company continued to produce tags and tickets post war, when they also became market leaders in the production of self-adhesive labels. In 1957 production space was doubled by building a new factory off Horncastle Road.

The Norcros Group acquired Fisher Clark in 1960. It subsequently grew to become the largest single producer of tags in Europe. Trading under its new name, Norprint Ltd, the company developed new markets for adhesive labels. They also helped to revolutionise public transport across the world by pioneering the replacement of tickets with prepaid magnetically coated passes, for which they received The Queen’s Award for Technological Achievement in 1989. The company employed about 800 people in Boston making it the town’s largest private employer.

In 1995 it was re-organised into three divisions, Magnordata (later to become Magnadata) specialising in rail and airline travel tickets; Norprint Labels for supermarket labels and Fisher Clark for other trade labels and tags. In 2005 Norprint received a Queen’s Award for its innovative identification tag to combat theft from retail outlets.

After a series of buy-outs, production was downsized to the Horncastle Road factory and in 2015 Norprint went into administration followed by Magnadata a year later. Today Coveris, on the Marsh Lane industrial Estate, still continues Boston’s label printing heritage.