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Tempus Publishing

PUBLISHED: 12:20 17 December 2010 | UPDATED: 14:54 20 February 2013

The entrance to Tempus Publishing at Brimscombe Port

The entrance to Tempus Publishing at Brimscombe Port

As the best literature festival in the country comes to cheltenham, we look at a local publisher enjoying considerable success. Words and pictures by Mark Child

The last year or so has been hectic for Tempus Publishing, the firm which Alan Sutton founded in 1993. Speaking at a recent party to celebrate what the company has achieved, its founder said that this was 'one of the un-sung success stories of the South Cotswolds'. The occasion marked the relocation of much of the business to Cirencester Road, Minchinhampton, and the re-emergence of the new operation as the NPI Media Group. Alan is absolutely right; the name of Alan Sutton has been synonymous with quality history and heritage publishing since Alan Sutton Publishing Limited was founded in Gloucester in 1978. That his publishing enterprises have always been associated with premises of character - Phoenix Mill at Thrupp, St Mary's Mill just up the road, and latterly the mill at Brimscombe Port - have added character and credibility to his nationally significant niche publishing ventures.

In the last few months Tempus has taken over Phillimore & Co of Chichester; the book publishing operation of Jarrolds of Norwich; and Sutton Publishing of Stroud. These are each longstanding publishers of great significance in their own niche markets. The company has also lately incorporated The History Press, started in America by Alan's daughter Kirsty, and based in Charleston, South Carolina and Salem, Massachusetts. The publishing company also incorporated Oaklands Book Services which was formed in 2003 to print all of the company's titles. In addition, Tempus opened Nonsuch bookshops - named after one of its imprints - in Bourton-on-the-Water and at Nailsworth. These retail outlets sell the firm's own publications, as well as some recorded music.

NPI's typesetting and page-make-up is carried out at the group's offices in Sofia, Bulgaria. The printing enterprise has a state-of-the-art, five-colour printing press, and another for black and white work. Unusually for a small publisher, the group also prints its own titles, warehouses them itself, and is its own distributor. Tempus Publishing's mission statement, which relates to the general tenor of the group's output, is 'to be the best in history'. The company's huge warehouse is at Aston Down, into which have lately been shipped the Tempus stock from Brimscombe, the Sutton Publishing stock from Haynes in Somerset, the Phillimore stock from Chichester and, over the next few months, the Jarrold stock from London.

The company's former head office premises Brimscombe Port, near Stroud, was built in 1789, when it was the headquarters of the Thames & Severn Canal Company. Tempus's administration and sales offices are here still, in the historic, renovated canal-side Port Mill, at various times a grist mill and a textile mill. The site has been an industrial estate since 1965, but there are still some of the old stone buildings - notably the little salt warehouse - and the remains of other pieces of its industrial archaeology. The port was built at the point where goods could be readily transferred between the traditional Severn trows that worked the waterways from the west, and the narrower Thames barges.

The canal was closed in 1933, and, in 2002, the former port site was bought by British Waterways and the South Western Development Agency. Their aim is to reconstruct Brimscombe Port during the first phase of renovations that will enable the whole canal to be reopened. Tempus went there in 1998, and it has since been an ideal spot, well suited to the company's style of publishing; it was here that the whole operation was carried on before its headquarters removed to Minchinhampton..

Regular readers of Cotswold Life will have occasionally met Tempus in June Lewis's Cotswold Heritage pages, for, as publishers of books on the heritage of localities nationwide, they have much to offer those interested in local life and history. Their current catalogue includes nearly ninety titles on aspects of Gloucestershire alone. The Images series, and their derived Pocket Images - re-issues of the former in a smaller format with a new cover - are particularly well loved, and Tempus's complete list is as busy and varied as you will find amongst any trade publishers.

The key to Tempus is Alan Sutton, an intriguing character who published his first title over thirty years ago, and has always been a Cotswold-based publisher, He is now head of the NPI empire. In the late 1970s, his small press helped to assuage his own interest in local history; it began to cater for those who had a similar need to investigate the past of their own surroundings, and published general titles on archaeology and history.

These themes have continued to weave their way through all of his publishing ventures over the last thirty years, and Alan's passion for heritage and history has never diminished. For more than ten years, he has been editing Francis Witts' two-million word Diaries of a Cotswold Parson, which are to be published unabridged in twelve volumes. Each one is the size of a house brick, but gives a fascinating insight into life in the area at that time. He has also produced a new history of Gloucestershire, and commissioned a whole raft of titles on various history topics connected with the county.

In 1987, in a bid to attract greater working capital, Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd was sold to the Guernsey Press Company, and the founder stayed on as chairman and managing director for six years, before leaving and setting up Tempus. It would be more than a decade before he got his original company back, and only then after he had decided to retire.

In 2000, motor manual publishers Haynes Publishing acquired Sutton Publishing with the intention of using the latter's established general list to widen the market for its own developing range of titles on motoring and motor racing. They continued to publish titles in the areas of interest laid down by its founder, including a series of Pocket Classics. The elements of competition stayed in place between the two near publishing neighbours, because Alan Sutton's personal interests in archaeology, history and local matters continued to influence the Tempus list. Alan says of the Haynes involvement: 'The new owner made such a hash of it, that by 2004 I had bought most of it back!'

Sutton Publishing found niche markets in aspects of history - archaeology, aviation, biographical, naval, military, transport, etc - and for its range of towns in Old Photographs. Tempus came into a similar market from more oblique angles, using such topics as local industries, commercial enterprises, leisure pursuits, transport, and archaeology as the vehicles for their albums of historic photographs. Currently, they have more than 1,500 local history titles. In addition, the firm now has a wide general list, publishes numerous sporting titles - usually on a local basis - produces an extensive military list, and has recently expanded into some classic fiction.

The latter is particularly interesting. Look at the extensive range of Tempus titles in the two Nonsuch bookshops and you will immediately be struck by the strength of the artwork. Most of the ranges are in soft covers. This is exceptionally good marketing; if, like me, you prefer your books to have visual cohesion, you will find yourself reacting rather like a small child in a sweetshop - only this time it will be in pursuit of the series-collecting bug.

The Nonsuch Classics will grab you by the wallet on a number of levels. These are cracking works of fiction and non-fiction, many of which you probably never knew existed. They are mostly surprisingly little-known or forgotten titles by historic and classic writers, typically written in the 19th century. The conservative cover design is nonetheless arguably the most striking of any series that has been published for decades. I hope that Tempus will be able to continue with this imprint, and can resist any temptation to mess about with the cover design. Perhaps, in seventy years' time, people will be seeking out copies of early Nonsuch Classics for the same reasons as collectors today track down mint copies of early, banded Penguin paperbacks.

The Nonsuch bookshop at Nailsworth needs to be sought out in Market Street, just off Cossack Square. It has been positioned as the town's bookshop, and, as such, relies to a greater degree on hard-core local trade. Even though Nailsworth is a friendly and welcoming little place, visitors have yet to realise its full tourist potential. That is not the case at Bourton-on-the-Water, where the rambling, beamed outlet occupies a corner position in Victoria Street. It has a much greater seasonal tourist clientele, and is particularly well patronised by Chinese, Japanese, and French visitors. Both shops are overseen by the same manager, and books selected from the Tempus range very much reflect the perceived requirements of the differing customer profiles at each outlet.

Opening these bookshops was something that Alan Sutton very much wanted to do, and the company says that owning them has provided an interesting insight into the role of high street retailer - something that most publishing houses never experience. It has always been part of the long-term plan to have more of them, and although the company currently has its hands very full in business terms, they do not rule out adding to the retail estate if suitable premises come on the market.

The new publishing acquisitions really does place NPI in the top flight of specialist publishers, and consolidates the Cotswold group's pre-eminent position in local history publishing on a national basis. Phillimore's of Chichester, West Sussex, has long been the serious face of the genre; established in 1897 by London lawyer William Phillimore, it has an impeccable history of publishing books about family history and topographical history - mostly in hardback, some of which have been quite strenuous works. Even if you are unfamiliar with the firm's general catalogue, you are sure to have seen their county-by-county editions of the Domesday Book in your local library, or any number of the associated titles they publish surrounding the series.

The book publishing operation of Norwich-based Jarrold's, who are also at Andover, is, in part, one of the most recognisable in the country. It was founded at Woodbridge, Suffolk in 1770, and has been the colourful face of topographical publishing. Since Jarrold's acquired Pitkin Pictorials, its highly informative Pitkin Guides to historic buildings, and latterly on more general history topics, have been the must-buy accompaniments to the tours of many houses, palaces, cathedrals, and the like. It is a very strong brand for its new owners. There could not be three businesses that more cleanly dovetail with Alan Sutton's own, but the company intends to maintain the individual integrity of each.

In 2008, the group expects to publish almost 2,000 titles throughout the world. A container load of books leaves Cirencester Road each week for Europe and the USA, making the Alan Sutton's group a major net exporter.

The last year or so has been hectic for Tempus Publishing, the firm which Alan Sutton founded in 1993. Speaking at a recent party to celebrate what the company has achieved, its founder said that this was 'one of the un-sung success stories of the South Cotswolds'. The occasion marked the relocation of much of the business to Cirencester Road, Minchinhampton, and the re-emergence of the new operation as the NPI Media Group. Alan is absolutely right; the name of Alan Sutton has been synonymous with quality history and heritage publishing since Alan Sutton Publishing Limited was founded in Gloucester in 1978. That his publishing enterprises have always been associated with premises of character - Phoenix Mill at Thrupp, St Mary's Mill just up the road, and latterly the mill at Brimscombe Port - have added character and credibility to his nationally significant niche publishing ventures.

In the last few months Tempus has taken over Phillimore & Co of Chichester; the book publishing operation of Jarrolds of Norwich; and Sutton Publishing of Stroud. These are each longstanding publishers of great significance in their own niche markets. The company has also lately incorporated The History Press, started in America by Alan's daughter Kirsty, and based in Charleston, South Carolina and Salem, Massachusetts. The publishing company also incorporated Oaklands Book Services which was formed in 2003 to print all of the company's titles. In addition, Tempus opened Nonsuch bookshops - named after one of its imprints - in Bourton-on-the-Water and at Nailsworth. These retail outlets sell the firm's own publications, as well as some recorded music.

NPI's typesetting and page-make-up is carried out at the group's offices in Sofia, Bulgaria. The printing enterprise has a state-of-the-art, five-colour printing press, and another for black and white work. Unusually for a small publisher, the group also prints its own titles, warehouses them itself, and is its own distributor. Tempus Publishing's mission statement, which relates to the general tenor of the group's output, is 'to be the best in history'. The company's huge warehouse is at Aston Down, into which have lately been shipped the Tempus stock from Brimscombe, the Sutton Publishing stock from Haynes in Somerset, the Phillimore stock from Chichester and, over the next few months, the Jarrold stock from London.

The company's former head office premises Brimscombe Port, near Stroud, was built in 1789, when it was the headquarters of the Thames & Severn Canal Company. Tempus's administration and sales offices are here still, in the historic, renovated canal-side Port Mill, at various times a grist mill and a textile mill. The site has been an industrial estate since 1965, but there are still some of the old stone buildings - notably the little salt warehouse - and the remains of other pieces of its industrial archaeology. The port was built at the point where goods could be readily transferred between the traditional Severn trows that worked the waterways from the west, and the narrower Thames barges.

The canal was closed in 1933, and, in 2002, the former port site was bought by British Waterways and the South Western Development Agency. Their aim is to reconstruct Brimscombe Port during the first phase of renovations that will enable the whole canal to be reopened. Tempus went there in 1998, and it has since been an ideal spot, well suited to the company's style of publishing; it was here that the whole operation was carried on before its headquarters removed to Minchinhampton..

Regular readers of Cotswold Life will have occasionally met Tempus in June Lewis's Cotswold Heritage pages, for, as publishers of books on the heritage of localities nationwide, they have much to offer those interested in local life and history. Their current catalogue includes nearly ninety titles on aspects of Gloucestershire alone. The Images series, and their derived Pocket Images - re-issues of the former in a smaller format with a new cover - are particularly well loved, and Tempus's complete list is as busy and varied as you will find amongst any trade publishers.

The key to Tempus is Alan Sutton, an intriguing character who published his first title over thirty years ago, and has always been a Cotswold-based publisher, He is now head of the NPI empire. In the late 1970s, his small press helped to assuage his own interest in local history; it began to cater for those who had a similar need to investigate the past of their own surroundings, and published general titles on archaeology and history.

These themes have continued to weave their way through all of his publishing ventures over the last thirty years, and Alan's passion for heritage and history has never diminished. For more than ten years, he has been editing Francis Witts' two-million word Diaries of a Cotswold Parson, which are to be published unabridged in twelve volumes. Each one is the size of a house brick, but gives a fascinating insight into life in the area at that time. He has also produced a new history of Gloucestershire, and commissioned a whole raft of titles on various history topics connected with the county.

In 1987, in a bid to attract greater working capital, Alan Sutton Publishing Ltd was sold to the Guernsey Press Company, and the founder stayed on as chairman and managing director for six years, before leaving and setting up Tempus. It would be more than a decade before he got his original company back, and only then after he had decided to retire.

In 2000, motor manual publishers Haynes Publishing acquired Sutton Publishing with the intention of using the latter's established general list to widen the market for its own developing range of titles on motoring and motor racing. They continued to publish titles in the areas of interest laid down by its founder, including a series of Pocket Classics. The elements of competition stayed in place between the two near publishing neighbours, because Alan Sutton's personal interests in archaeology, history and local matters continued to influence the Tempus list. Alan says of the Haynes involvement: 'The new owner made such a hash of it, that by 2004 I had bought most of it back!'

Sutton Publishing found niche markets in aspects of history - archaeology, aviation, biographical, naval, military, transport, etc - and for its range of towns in Old Photographs. Tempus came into a similar market from more oblique angles, using such topics as local industries, commercial enterprises, leisure pursuits, transport, and archaeology as the vehicles for their albums of historic photographs. Currently, they have more than 1,500 local history titles. In addition, the firm now has a wide general list, publishes numerous sporting titles - usually on a local basis - produces an extensive military list, and has recently expanded into some classic fiction.

The latter is particularly interesting. Look at the extensive range of Tempus titles in the two Nonsuch bookshops and you will immediately be struck by the strength of the artwork. Most of the ranges are in soft covers. This is exceptionally good marketing; if, like me, you prefer your books to have visual cohesion, you will find yourself reacting rather like a small child in a sweetshop - only this time it will be in pursuit of the series-collecting bug.

The Nonsuch Classics will grab you by the wallet on a number of levels. These are cracking works of fiction and non-fiction, many of which you probably never knew existed. They are mostly surprisingly little-known or forgotten titles by historic and classic writers, typically written in the 19th century. The conservative cover design is nonetheless arguably the most striking of any series that has been published for decades. I hope that Tempus will be able to continue with this imprint, and can resist any temptation to mess about with the cover design. Perhaps, in seventy years' time, people will be seeking out copies of early Nonsuch Classics for the same reasons as collectors today track down mint copies of early, banded Penguin paperbacks.

The Nonsuch bookshop at Nailsworth needs to be sought out in Market Street, just off Cossack Square. It has been positioned as the town's bookshop, and, as such, relies to a greater degree on hard-core local trade. Even though Nailsworth is a friendly and welcoming little place, visitors have yet to realise its full tourist potential. That is not the case at Bourton-on-the-Water, where the rambling, beamed outlet occupies a corner position in Victoria Street. It has a much greater seasonal tourist clientele, and is particularly well patronised by Chinese, Japanese, and French visitors. Both shops are overseen by the same manager, and books selected from the Tempus range very much reflect the perceived requirements of the differing customer profiles at each outlet.

Opening these bookshops was something that Alan Sutton very much wanted to do, and the company says that owning them has provided an interesting insight into the role of high street retailer - something that most publishing houses never experience. It has always been part of the long-term plan to have more of them, and although the company currently has its hands very full in business terms, they do not rule out adding to the retail estate if suitable premises come on the market.

The new publishing acquisitions really does place NPI in the top flight of specialist publishers, and consolidates the Cotswold group's pre-eminent position in local history publishing on a national basis. Phillimore's of Chichester, West Sussex, has long been the serious face of the genre; established in 1897 by London lawyer William Phillimore, it has an impeccable history of publishing books about family history and topographical history - mostly in hardback, some of which have been quite strenuous works. Even if you are unfamiliar with the firm's general catalogue, you are sure to have seen their county-by-county editions of the Domesday Book in your local library, or any number of the associated titles they publish surrounding the series.

The book publishing operation of Norwich-based Jarrold's, who are also at Andover, is, in part, one of the most recognisable in the country. It was founded at Woodbridge, Suffolk in 1770, and has been the colourful face of topographical publishing. Since Jarrold's acquired Pitkin Pictorials, its highly informative Pitkin Guides to historic buildings, and latterly on more general history topics, have been the must-buy accompaniments to the tours of many houses, palaces, cathedrals, and the like. It is a very strong brand for its new owners. There could not be three businesses that more cleanly dovetail with Alan Sutton's own, but the company intends to maintain the individual integrity of each.

In 2008, the group expects to publish almost 2,000 titles throughout the world. A container load of books leaves Cirencester Road each week for Europe and the USA, making the Alan Sutton's group a major net exporter.



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