Woodmansterne cards are published and printed by ourselves in Watford, Hertfordshire, beside the Grand Union Canal on the site of the old Croxley Mills, once owned by the original pioneer of paper manufacture and inventor of both cardboard and the gummed envelope, John Dickinson (1782-1869).
Thus, Woodmansterne cards come from the very ‘birthplace of modern stationery’.
Since 1940, when our founder, Graham Woodmansterne, made his first training film for British troops serving in India during the Second World War, interpreting culture through visual imagery has been at our core. In 1952, with a collection of five years’ original photography of cathedrals and country houses, Graham created a collection of colourslides depicting, as he put it, ‘the beauty, history and pageantry of Britain and the British way of life’. With his Dutch wife, Willy, their colourslide publishing business got off to a fabulous start in 1953 with the first publicly-available, colour photographs of Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation. For thirty-five years, tourists, teachers and lecturers valued Woodmansterne as the leading publisher and manufacturer of colourslides in the world, and one of the foremost cataloguers of British cultural heritage. Those original images now form The Woodmansterne Picture Library (now handled by TopFoto).
The popularity of colourslides started to wane in the mid 1980’s with the advent of digital photography and improvements of colour television. As Graham and Willy stepped back from running the company, it fell to their son Paul, to reinvent the business. His wife, Bella, suggested they publish some Christmas cards of the Burne-Jones stained-glass windows in Christ Church, Oxford (where they had met as music students and where Paul used to sing in the Cathedral choir).
The resulting, dynamic square cards, published in 1987, heralded a breakthrough for the company and created a surge of interest in fine art cards.
Today, Woodmansterne (now a third general family business), has become the leading supplier of greeting cards to independent retailers in Britain, and, through our printing site in Croxley, and our distribution centre in Milton Keynes, we supply around 30 million cards a year. We still aim to present and reflect British culture and taste – whether it is through the magic of Quentin Blake’s illustrations, the beauty of National Trust images, or the humour of Punch cartoons, we help people to share their idiosyncrasies, thoughts and passions.