St Bride Foundation


In the shadow of St Bride’s Church lies a gem of London’s printing history – the St Bride Foundation. The Foundation started life as an educational, social and cultural centre for local printers and students – and it would be hard to imagine a more fitting location given its proximity to Fleet Street. The 1894 red-brick Victorian building tucked away down St Bride Lane – no stranger to transformations while still retaining its print-based heritage, as we shall see – now contains a print workshop, library and theatre.


As the door to today’s print workshop opens, you are swiftly transported back to the days of the dominance of the printing presses via the strong smell of ink that permeates the space. This is a most atmospheric place – once the Foundation’s gymnasium – with its old presses lining the room. The oldest is a Common Press machine, whose frame possibly dates back as far as the 16th century. A compositor’s case from Oxford University Press in the corner dates from 1668, the extensions attached to its legs a testament to the ever-growing height of the human race.


Classes in traditional printing techniques are held regularly in this room, including in letterpress (Monday nights), wood engraving (Thursday nights) and the Adana platen press. The Saint Bride Foundation Institute Printing School later evolved into the London College of Printing, now the London College of Communication – today its students return to St Bride to learn the traditional forms.


Upstairs, the St Bride Library’s storage area is a treasure trove of printing goodness. Surprisingly beautiful wood blocks and the Caslon Collection of type punches share shelf space with broadsheets, books and journals. The Library holds over 50,000 books, and specialises in printing, graphic arts and related fields. They also have a strong events programme. The Library’s small reading room, once the lithographic printing room, is open to the public each Wednesday, and individual appointments can be arranged on Tuesdays and Thursdays.


A number of other rooms – including the lovely old Printing Library – are now available for events and conferences. Bridewell Theatre was built over the swimming pool – believed to be the first public pool in the area – which remains in situ today underneath the wooden flooring. Its towel laundry was converted into the bar. Other such transformations continue apace today, with a new book binding workshop and exhibition space currently being created near the print workshop.


Guided tours of the Print Workshop and other parts of the Foundation are run on request on weekdays from 9am-5pm and cost £5; please book in advance for groups. Contact 020 7353 3331 or




Learn more about London

The Londonphile has discovered a few fascinating London-centric courses that will be held in 2012. Please note that many of these courses involve attendance over a number of weeks, some include homework, and are not exactly on the cheap side! However, they do look really interesting. I will update this post as I find out about new study opportunities for the coming year.

London: Life and Times
Victoria and Albert Museum
Wednesdays, 25 April–4 July 2012, 2-4.30pm, £322.50
Covers not only influential art and architecture, but people, themes and events that have shaped the capital. 

Contemporary London Architecture and Interior Design
Chelsea College of Art & Design short course program 
To be held over 4 consecutive days in April 2012 or 4 consecutive Sundays from 26 May 2012, £365
Want to learn more about London’s contemporary built environment? This course will incorporate visits to a number of London’s more recent public spaces, buildings, squares and structures – even an entire neighbourhood.

Birkbeck University
Birkbeck offer a variety of courses including Interpreting the Tower, Discovering London’sSquares, Anglo-Norman London, Life in Medieval London, plus a fascinating course about historic houses in London – which is on the Londonphile’s wish-list for next year!

Bishopsgate Institute
If you are looking for something shorter and more affordable, Bishopsgate Institute has just announced its new season of courses to kick off 2012. There is a walk and several talks on Charles Dickens and the city in the London in Fiction offerrings at £8 a pop, as well as three separate discussions with lovely London blogger Spitalfields Life which are free. Other £8 talks include Cosmopolitan Soho and A People’s History of London. In May and June a course focusing on Images of London from its earliest days right up to contemporary urban art will be held (£89).