Floors covered in lead and tin

I read with surprise that the old Observer building in Cambridge Road is possibly to be redeveloped.

I wish them all the luck in the world.

At the top of the building was the process department.

Over the years, gallons of sulphuric acid must have soaked into their floor.

Below them was the binding department which probably has the nicest and least contaminated floor all round.

Next down was the newsroom. Over a century-plus, trodden-in tin, antimony and lead would be liberally diluted with countless gallons of printers’ ink.

The composing room – next down – was level with the Prospect Place entrance.

At a time when we thought being in print was a job for life, this road seemed aptly named.

The floor here (perhaps 2ft thick) would have the above-mentioned tin, antimony and lead diluted with paraffin as well as ink soaking in.

Beneath there were two thick floors for the colour-printing machines, these were for all the magazines published – over 150 of them, when I joined in 1956.

The amount of ink that soaked into the floors on these levels must have been truly staggering.

The basement (behind the public library) held not only a big printing press (read ink) but also the foundry (read three metals).

I have heard – perhaps incorrectly – that the main reason the building has been left unloved and unwanted for so long was because these floors would have to be demolished and rebuilt to avoid being a health hazard.

Peter Booth

Sewell Avenue


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