Robert Smail’s Printing Works - History and Facts | History Hit

Robert Smail’s Printing Works

Innerleithen, Scotland, United Kingdom

Peta Stamper

26 May 2021
Image Credit: CC / Dave souza

About Robert Smail’s Printing Works

Robert Smail’s Printing Works is an operational letterpress printers in the Scottish Borders town of Innerleithen. The press at Robert Smail’s dates back to the Victorian era and has been in continual use until the present day.

Today, Robert Smail’s Printing Works are owned and managed by the National Trust for Scotland, so visitors can see the still-working local printers on a guided tour around this hidden gem in the Borders.

Robert Smail’s Printing Works history

The Robert Smail’s firm was founded in 1866 to carry out printing jobs for the local community, such as creating stationary, business cards, adverts and letterheads. The printing works also published a weekly newspaper between 1893 and 1916, and also had the authority to issue printed tickets for steamships headed to America.

Robert Smail’s Printing Works stayed in the Smail family, who made little effort to keep up with rapidly changing printing technologies into the early 20th century. With support from the Innerleithen Community Council, the print works was run by the third-generation owner, Cowan Smail, until he retired and the property was gained by the National Trust for Scotland in 1986.

Robert Smail’s Printing Works today

Today, visitors can easily find the print works along Innerleithen’s high street, the brown shopfront and beautiful stained glass door leading you into the National Trust entrance and gift shop – open Monday to Friday. From the office, you can go on an hour long guided tour, wandering through to the large office full of stationary, writing slates, pencils, sealing wax and bottles of ink.

The walls are still lined with job invoices, dockets and ledgers, dating back to the print works’ foundation. Out through the back of the building is the paper store, housing an archive of nearly every printed job over the past century, as well as the old water wheel that would once have powered the print works via the river Leithen. Along the tours, you will even get the opportunity to try printing yourself.

Getting to Robert Smail’s Printing Works

Robert Smail’s Printing Works is on the High Street, Innerleithen, along the A72 road between Peebles and Selkirk. From Edinburgh, Innerleithen is a 50 minute drive, and there is parking either along the high street or down Leithen Road on the right. Borders buses 62 and X62 come from Edinburgh and Galashiels, stopping several times along the high street.

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