Crocker and Penny

The Crocker family were the first to establish a printing office in Frome as far as can be traced. Abraham Crocker (1742-1821) came from Ilminster to Frome to be Master of the Bluecoat School in 1783. By 1797 he was printing posters, pamphlets and books, later joined by his sons John and James.
James established a bookselling business and lending library at 7 Cheap Street by 1810. John joined Abraham in the printing side of their activities, moving from the Blue House to 7 Bath Street by 1815. Another son, Philip, was an illustrator for Sir Richard Colt Hoare’s History of Ancient Wiltshire, and later steward at Stourhead. Edmund, a fourth son, was also a skilled artist who worked for the Ordnance Survey when the first seriesof maps was being surveyed in Wiltshire. Abraham retired in 1815 and when James Crocker died in 1820, aged 38, his widow sold the bookseller’s business to William Ponsford Penny. In 1831 John died and his widow sold the other half of the business to Mr Penny.
William Ponsford Penny (1798-1851) was born in Exeter and came to Frome in 1820 on purchasing James Crocker’s bookselling business. In 1823 he bought Mr. Duffield’s book shop at 3 Bath Street and moved there from Cheap Street. In 1832 he also bought John Crocker’s printing business and premises for £500 and moved to 7 Bath Street. On William Ponsford Penny’s death, his widow continued to run the business with their sons William Carpenter Penny and James Penny, the firm becoming W.C. & J. Penny.
In 1859 they founded and printed the Frome Times (the predecessor of the Somerset Standard) and other works including The Old Church Porch (the St. John’s Church parish magazine). By this time W.C. Penny was living at Church House, on Church Steps. In 1871 the firm was employing 3 men and 6 boys. William C. Penny was a founder member of .Frome Fire Brigade, and its superintendent from 1871 to his death. He died in 1887 and James in 1894. The business was purchased by William George White? from Ludlow in 1905, who sold it to W.H. Smith & Son in 1915.

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