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Otley stationery company still moving forward
Current directors of Sinclairs (from left) Paul Howard, John Clough and Andrew Howard are helping to mark the company’s 175th anniversary at its Otley factory
An historic stationery firm that remains one of Otley’s biggest employers is celebrating its 175th anniversary.
Sinclairs has been producing all kinds of paper products, including the famous red Silvine exercise books that were used for decades by millions of schoolchildren, since 1837.
That was the year William Sinclair, of Otley, decided to start his own firm after serving an apprenticeship with printer William Walker, whose business went on to publish what was then the Wharfedale & Airedale Observer, from its premises in Kirkgate.
Originally based at Wetherby, Sinclairs returned to Otley in 1854, and has been located in the town – first in Westgate and, after the creation of a new factory in 1884, at Low Lycks – ever since.
In 2012 the company, now using an expanded factory site, warehousing at Bremner Works and the latest automated machinery, is very different to that started by William Sinclair all those years ago.
It is still, though, owned and managed by the fifth and sixth generations of the Sinclair family, and chairman Andrew Howard is proud of the role the business has played as part of Otley’s community.
He said: “So many people fondly remember using our red Silvine exercise books when they were kids – and I am pleased to say we still make them as part of our Heritage range.
“But we now have many new exciting ranges of stationery, which appeal to people who, despite this age of smartphones and tablets, still love the sensory, creative experience of writing things down on paper, and they probably always will.
“It is very much a family business where, with some of our employees, many generations of the same family have worked here. We are very grateful to all those who have contributed to make Sinclairs the successful business it is today.”
Family legend has it that Sinclairs supplied the early Marks & Spencer when it was still based in Kirkgate Market, Leeds, and that Woolworths was a customer before it moved to the UK, with Mr F W Woolworth travelling over from the US to tour the factory.
Sinclairs is now the only large stationery manufacturer left in the UK. The company, which employs 120 people, recorded a turnover of £16 million last year.
Sinclairs now uses more than 90,000 miles of paper a year – enough to go around the equator 11 times – and each day produces a pile of books higher than Ben Nevis.
A celebration for employees and company pensioners to mark its 175th birthday has been arranged at the Majestic Hotel in Harrogate.