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Stones Ashford, formerly Headley Brothers printing company, is closed

By Claire McWethy

One of Kent’s oldest printing companies closed suddenly today, leaving more than 100 workers redundant just months after it was rescued in a takeover.

Troubled firm Headley Brothers was sold to Oxfordshire print business Henry Stones hours after tumbling into administration in March, in a deal which rescued 113 jobs.

But today, in a shock move, the business closed for good shortly after 3pm.

Headley Brothers signs were removed from the premises in March

It is understood the company had an unpaid electricity bill, totaling tens of thousands of pounds.

One member of staff told KentOnline: "Everyone went into work as normal but we were called in for a meeting. The power went off and the place went into darkness. We were told not to come back.

"The firm has been going since the 1800s and the people working there were lifers, but they were unrepentant about closing.

"There was a lot of loyalty there and people had worked there for decades. It was not just a job, they were proud to work there."

Staff expect to meet with company directors on Monday. It is understood they won't be paid for this month's work and will only be getting statutory redundancy - just weeks before Christmas.

Compositors at work in the Headley Brothers print shop in the early 20th century

Speaking when Stones Ashford was formed, managing director of the newly-created subsidiary, Richard Walsh, told Kent Online: “It has always been a well-established company and a key player in the print industry.

“We are not hugely aggressive in the market place but Headley was in a good location and is a good business.

“We have been keeping an eye on it for some time and then things moved fast.

“It has the potential to grow back into a good business again.

“It needs a period of stability and strong management which can drive it forward again.”

Noone from the firm has been available to comment on the closure.

Printing business Headley Brothers was put up for sale in January and bought out of administration in March, when it became Stones Ashford

Headley Brothers was founded in 1881 by brothers Herbert and Burgess Headley to print paper bags, bill heads and circulars for Ashford businesses.

The venture was such a success the brothers decided to launch a newspaper, releasing the Kent Examiner & Ashford Chronicle with Barham Boorman, who was also founder of the Kent Messenger.

The business has been based on the same site in Queens Road, known as the Invicta Press, since a fire burned down its factory in Edinburgh Road in 1906.

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