Anscombe's calendars - 1898-1904

Found in an attic

Anscombe & Sons in the 1890s. Credit: LHS archives – LHS 521

Hugh Anscombe, a great-grandson of Allen Anscombe, the founder of the much-loved family firm Anscombe’s & Sons, discovered these large (a little larger than A2-sized) calendars rolled up and stuffed in a black plastic bag when clearing out his uncle’s house at 48 Southdown Road, following Ernest Anscombe’s death in 2005 at the age of 101.


He has had them carefully conserved, with their original hanging holders, but not over-cleaned. He recently brought them to the Local History archives room at Park Hall, for us to examine and photograph them. Now we will try to find out more about how and where these calendars were printed and whether other shops used similar complimentary gifts to their loyal customers.

They must have been circulated in considerable numbers, so are there any more lurking in the attics of Harpenden houses from the 1890s and early 1900s – when the first big building boom was underway? Where are the calendars for 1900, 1901, 1902 or from 1905 onwards? Who were the clients of Anscombes? Did people come from further afield to shop in Harpenden?

The printers

Calendar for 1898 :’The Three Graces’ – The Duchesses of Marlborough, Sutherland and Portland. Credit: R. Ross, March 2019

The earliest of the surviving calendars dates from 1898, and was printed by Alf Cooke of Leeds. Appointed as colour printer to Queen Victoria in 1885, this image of three prominent ladies of the Court bears more resemblance to Alf Cooke’s celebration of the Diamond Jubilee in 1897. However the style and delicacy of the Anscombes’ calendar echoes an album commemorating a Children’s Fancy Dress Ball organised by Alf Cooke when he was Mayor of Leeds in 1891 – the album, printed by Alf Cooke and Sons is in Leeds Museum archives.

The other three calendars were printed by Forman & Sons of Nottingham and Glasgow, a company established in 1848. Their calendar department was started in 1882.  According to the Friends of Nottingham Archives, “Forman calendars were renowned all over the world. Work was produced for many well-known companies including Cunard Steamship Company, British Airways, John Player, Rowntrees and many more household names – (including Anscombes of Harpenden!)

“Forman’s had their own artists and reproduction departments and printed work by letterpress, litho and gravure processes together with all the finishing operations.”


‘The Squire’s Daughter’ – 1899

‘Her First Meet’ – Calendar for 1903

‘The Better Land’ – calendar for 1904

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