Odhams Press

Odhams Press Hall, Watford, built 1954

Odhams Press was a British publishing company. Originally a newspaper publisher, founded in 1890, it took the name Odhams Press Ltd in 1920 when it merged with John Bull magazine. By 1937 it had founded the first colour weekly, Woman, for which it set up and operated a dedicated high-speed print works. The company also owned Ideal Home (founded 1920) and acquired the equestrian magazine Horse and Hound. Later, Odhams expanded into book publishing, for example publishing Winston Churchill's Painting as a Pastime, Rupert Gunnis's Dictionary of British Sculptors 1660–1851, and an edition of the complete works of William Shakespeare.

Throughout the 1960s, Odhams Books Ltd (likewise founded by Odhams Press) operated the Companion Book Club (CBC). This published a large series of hard cover novels.


Odhams' proprietorship

According to Susan M Penn's history of Long Street at Sherborne, Dorset, as verified by Harrop's historical house survey and by local census information, the house known since 1968 as Mistletoe Cottage was occupied in 1834 by John Odhams. His eldest son, William, grew up to be a compositor: possibly serving his apprenticeship with Langdon and Harker at the Sherborne Mercury Printing Office in Long Street, according to his great granddaughter, although there is no evidence to support this. However, at the rear of Mistletoe Cottage is a substantial brick-built shed. The flat flooring of this shed is very solid, completed with thick oak planking, well able to support and withstand heavy items of machinery such as a printing press. Earthworks next to the shed in or around 2002 revealed evidence of many coloured printing inks still visible in the soil.

In 1834 William Odhams left for London, where he initially worked for The Morning Post. In 1847 he went into partnership with William Biggar in Beaufort Buildings, Savoy, London; and in the 1870s he started the business known as 'William Odhams'. He sold the business to his two sons, John Lynch Odhams and William James Baird Odhams, in 1892. Odhams Limited, created in 1898, in turn became Odhams Press by 1920.[1]

In 1954, Odhams Press Hall was built in Watford, designed by Yates, Cook and Derbyshire, and this was later protected by the local council[2] because of the innovative clock tower, which houses a water tank for use in printing.


In 1960 Cecil Harmsworth King, chairman of the Daily Mirror newspaper, made an approach to Odhams on behalf of Fleetway Publications Ltd (formerly the Amalgamated Press). Odhams' Board found this too attractive to refuse and, in 1961, Odhams was taken over by Fleetway. In 1963 its holdings were amalgamated with those of the George Newnes Company, Fleetway, and others, to form the International Publishing Corporation (known as IPC).

Between 1964 and 1968 Odhams operated as a subsidiary of IPC, diversifying into boys' comics. During this period, it was publishing a range of titles known as the Power Comics, which included Wham!, Pow! and Smash!.

Close of business

In 1968 Odhams encountered financial problems, partly due to unfavourable economic conditions in Britain. As a result of this, and of IPC's desire to rationalise its titles and eliminate duplication, the comics published by the Odhams Press imprint were closed or transferred to IPC Magazines Ltd, another IPC subsidiary. This contained the losses on the Power Comics range within Odhams, which was a limited company with separate liability, but, in consequence, Odhams became financially unviable. On 1 January 1969 it effectively ceased to exist as a publishing business, when publication of its last surviving comics title, Smash!, was transferred to IPC Magazines Ltd.


  1. Odhams Press Limited, a limited liability company registered in England and Wales, was incorporated on 17 April 1914, and survived until 7 January 1998, when it changed its name to Formpart (No.11) Limited, which still exists today as a dormant private company.
  2. "Locally Listed Buildings in Watford". Watford Borough Council. 2010-12-13. Archived from the original on 29 September 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-28.
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