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Envelope Systems is the principal operating division of a long-established printing company, T.E. Penny & Co. Ltd, founded in central London in 1933 at the tail end of the great depression.
According to Companies House data, our age places us in the top 1 per cent of British businesses for longevity.
Our operations have ebbed and flowed through the decades according to wider economic conditions but have always featured a strong element of service. This runs deep in the company’s culture.
We’ve survived by adapting this common theme to suit our trading environment and the opportunities we’ve found to keep us thriving.
The main company has been known as Penny and Company or ‘Pennys’ among the many customers we have served over the years. We were initially founded as a partnership between two former engineers from the Addressograph-Multigraph Company, Alf Stanton and Tom Penny.
Early operations involved maintaining in-house printing machines for London businesses and Government departments. We were the photocopier engineers of our time.
We prospered with important customers of the time including the Foreign Office, the Corporation of London and Her Majesty’s Stationery Office as well as countless restaurants and banks, who all ran their own in-house presses.
Typefounding was later added to operations and at one stage we held a patent for a type slug we developed, the Penstan solid slug: ‘the hardest-necked type in the world’!
The War Office became a customer at the outbreak of the Second World War. It used Multigraphs, of the type we serviced, for printing propaganda. Old Pathé newsreels sometimes show these old presses clattering out pamphlets!
We remained in central London throughout the blitz. Our premises at Bartlett Buildings in Kingsway, suffered a direct hit, but business continued as usual and we later relocated nearby to Ely Place, our home for the next 30 years.
Further prosperity brought the decision in 1944 to incorporate under company number 387300, still our number today. Our incorporation certificate is a rare example of it’s type, having been issued from Llandudno. This was the town chosen as a safe place for the evacuation of companies' registration during the war.
In the mid-1950s we were appointed as engineers to service machinery for the American, Colonel Louis G. Wells, responsible for bringing systems of giving by numbered, dated envelopes to the UK. This was our introduction to church envelopes, with which we have been involved continuously since.
The sixties saw the acquisition of the business by the Miles family. Tony Miles, our current chairman, had joined the company in 1964 to work with his father, Ron. Some years later they together bought out the widows of the founders.
Our traditional engineering work, based on letterpress and litho printing, continued strongly throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s during which time we acquired further important new customers including the BT establishment at Martlesham in Suffolk and the Government’s nuclear establishment at Aldermarston.
Our lease at Ely Place expired in 1975, prompting our move to Sandy in Bedfordshire, our home today.
By the mid seventies, our engineering work was on the wane as letterpress gave way to modern offset litho. However we started to specialise in areas where letterpress was still relevant.
Among these was thermographic printing, which benefitted from the heavier ink deposit produced via the letterpress process. We became masters at this process and allied ourselves to the greetings card industry, processing millions of greetings cards with special finishes using thermography.
Our customer list at the time read like a Who’s Who of the UK greetings card industry. Service again being a vital component in the formula. Our cards and gift wrap were sold in some of Britain’s leading retailers. Quality standards had to be high and deliveries on time.
We wound down this operation around 2006, primarily due to competition from overseas as a result of the new global economy.
Envelope Systems was launched in 1977. We already had two decades of experience with this work as engineers but realised there was a gap in the market for a better envelope at a better price.
For many years the main product was the numbered and dated boxed set. Since 2000 our name has also become synonymous with Gift Aid envelopes.
We realised the importance of new Gift Aid legislation before it was introduced on 06 April 2000. We spent the early part of that year developing our distinctive yellow envelope in conjunction with stewardship advisers from the Anglican church, whose help we are still very grateful for.
Stocks were ready for 06 April and ours became the first specially designed Gift Aid envelope to be launched and was an immediate hit. It is now the most widely used among the nation’s churches with millions sold annually. More than 40 cathedrals and minsters also use it.
Our newest service, Fund Filer, has developed from our early interest in Gift Aid, looking at ways in which we can help customers. It is a simple and practical service for customers wanting to manage their Gift Aid records and tax reclaims with the minimum of fuss and effort.
Fund Filer is a subscription-based online service which is thriving as part of the run up to online repayment claiming, due in 2013.
Today we serve many thousands of churches and charities across the UK and, of course, continue to strive for the very best of customer care.
Many companies make this claim, but few are able to back this with an 80-year track record that shows we really mean it.
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