Our History

The Printing Charity Royal Charter

The Printing Charity is the UK’s second oldest occupational charity. Founded by George and Charles Searle and their employer, John King, an independent printer, we started life as the Printers’ Pension Society in 1827, ‘to grant Pensions in the decline of life to such infirm and afflicted Journeymen Printers and their Widows as may be thought most deserving’. At that time there was no state pension and very few employers offered pensions.

The process to be selected as the ‘most deserving’ was not for the faint-hearted. Applicants nominated for election as pensioners had to attend a public meeting and present their case. Those in the printing industry and members of the general public who contributed to the pension fund would then vote for those they deemed most deserving.

Long before the days of data protection, the details of those to be elected, including their age, address, financial circumstances, and number of votes received were duly printed and published in the charity’s Annual Yearbooks, which today are housed at St Bride Library in Fleet Street, London.

The Printers’ Almshouse Society set up in 1840 and the Printers’ Orphan Asylum in 1863 were spin-offs from the Printers’ Pension Society and, although allied, were initially run as three separate charities.

The Printers’ Almshouse Society bought a site at Wood Green in North London and its almshouse was completed in 1855. Further wings were added in 1871 and 1891.

Under the auspices of the Printers’ Orphan Asylum, the orphaned children of printers were clothed and educated.

How we evolved into The Printing Charity of today:

In 1865 the Printers’ Pension Society merged with the Almshouse and the Orphans’ Asylum to become the Printers’ Pension, Almshouse and Orphans’ Asylum Corporation.

The same year, Queen Victoria, our first Royal Patron, granted our Royal Charter. In 1972 our current Patron, Queen Elizabeth II, granted a supplemental Charter, changing our name to the Printers’ Charitable Corporation. The requirement to be a member of the Corporation to be eligible for assistance was also removed. 

In 2010 we became The Printing Charity to help us reach out to more people and their dependants in today’s printing, publishing, graphic arts, and allied trades.

No one could have envisaged today’s industry at the time of our first Royal Charter and Supplemental Royal Charter. In 2014 our second Supplemental Royal Charter was granted by Her Majesty The Queen. It ensures we have the flexibility to help more people in new ways and gives our Trustees the power to assist young people, who intend working in the industry, by contributing towards the cost of their education.

While our name and the range of financial grants we provide have changed during the last two centuries, our original ethos of helping individuals and their families remains at the heart of everything we do. Click here to view The Royal Charter and Bye-Laws.