Hutton Printing & Paper Co

Elder Street Lambton in the 19th century contained many businesses you would expect in a mining town, including butchers, bakers and undertakers. One business you might not expect is a printery.

Printing began in Lambton in 1887 when George Buckley borrowed money from his brother John to set up the Paragon Printing Works in a small building behind the Commercial Hotel in Grainger St. George was a colourful character, but not always astute. In 1894 he became bankrupt after a bad investment in a failed copper mine in Queensland, as well as losing considerable money gambling on horses.

Ownership of the business passed back to John Buckley, who also became licensee of the Commercial Hotel in 1895. George continued working as an employee until his sudden death in September 1896 while under investigation for fraud in his role of secretary of a local lodge. Just a few weeks before George’s death, John Buckley sold the business to James Moodie Hutton, the foreman of the printing works for many years.

A February 1897 photo showcases the business in new spacious premises on the north-west corner of Grainger and Elder Streets opposite the Commercial Hotel. The front wall spruiks “steam printing” – their modern press was speedily powered by a steam engine, not operated by hand. The side wall promoted “account books of every description kept in stock and made to order”. The accounting we do today in computer software, back then had to be laboriously handwritten on large pages printed with rows and columns, the original spreadsheets.

Hutton’s business prospered, and in 1901 he opened new premises in Hunter St, Newcastle West. The Hutton name continued to be associated with printing for much of the 20th century, with Harold Moodie Hutton operating a printery in Regent Street New Lambton for many years.

Today our streets still contain butchers, bakers and undertakers, and with the advent of computer technology, also shops to sell us equipment and supplies for printing in our homes.

George Buckley’s Paragon Printing Works, behind the Commercial Hotel in 1893. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.
Hutton’s Printing and Paper Company, Elder St, Lambton, NSW, February 1897. University of Newcastle, Living Histories.
Hutton’s printing company was on the north west corner of Elder and Grainger Streets. June 2019.
Today the site of Hutton’s printery is occupied by undertakers, and home printing solutions are sold two doors down Elder St.

The article above was first published in the July 2019 edition of The Local.

Additional information

A page from a wages account book on display at Richmond Vale Railway museum. This is an example of the kind of custom print job that Hutton’s Company would have done.

George Buckley

Although its difficult to get a handle on all the details, its reasonably clear that George Buckley’s financial management navigated murky waters.

One example is his investment in the failed Texas Copper Mining and Smelting Company in Queensland. In 1892 George and his co-investors sought to evade their liabilities by dissolving the indebted company, and the very next week formed a new debt free company with the same directors to work the same mine. The Bank of New South Wales sued over the matter, and the court found in their favour. In a similar vein, George appears to have transferred ownership of land from his name to his wife’s name in order to evade debts, as indicated by a note on page 2 of Vol-Fol 753-49.

The above Entry of Transfer of the 19th December 1892 from George Buckley to Ann Jane Buckley is made subject to the provisions of the 55th Section of the Bankruptcy Act 1887 so far as such provisions may affect the validity of the above transfer.

Note on land title certificate 753-49, questioning the validity of the transfer.

Yet another example, before becoming bankrupt George apparently sold his business to James Moodie Hutton in September 1893. Again this sale appears to be a sham transaction designed to avoid his debts. The sale was concluded after being advertised just once. Despite the ‘sale’ the business continued to operate under George’s name, with George supposedly an employee. In an 1895 court hearing John William Buckley “agreed to hand over the printing and stationery business (to the receiver) as it stood, without any admission as to the bona-fides of the bill of sale.” (George’s brother John appears to be not much better in financial integrity, having to be taken to court for unpaid debts in 1896. )

The most damning indication of George’s financial irregularities comes from the report of his death on 3 September 1896.

For upwards of 20 years held the position of district secretary of the Grand United Order of Oddfellows – a position he held at the time of his death. For some time past, however, the officers of the lodge noticed that the secretary was conducting his business in rather a loose manner, and about six weeks ago it was decided that his accounts should be professionally audited. This audit has been going on for the past six weeks, two professional accountants from Sydney having been engaged in the work the whole time. On Saturday last Buckley was approached by these gentlemen and asked to produce certain documents, to wit, the receipts from the relatives of those who were supposed to have received funeral donations, and the certificates of burials in connection with the same. Buckley explained that he did not have any of these documents in his possession, as it was customary as soon as the quarterly audits were completed to destroy the papers, the district lodge not having any more use of them. This reply astonished the accountants, and they renewed their efforts to sift the matter of the funeral donations to the very bottom. The result of their inspection of the secretary’s accounts was, it is understood, that irregularities running into four figures were discovered. It is also understood, from official statements made, that Buckley within the past two years had drawn from the lodge funds funeral donations, amounting to £30 each, for men who had never been connected with any lodge. The accountants reported their discovery to the head of the lodge, and a special meeting of the different lodges had been convened for Saturday evening next, at which the Grand Lodge officers from Sydney intended to be present for the purpose, of hearing what Buckley had to say regarding his accounts, he having been specially summoned to attend. It is understood that the audit has not yet been completed, and the leading officials are afraid that unpleasant discoveries will be made before, the work of the auditors is completed.

Despite his obvious failings, in a case of either not being aware of the facts, or not wishing to speak ill of the dead, the report still manages to describe George as “one who was esteemed and respected by everybody who had the pleasure of his acquaintance”!

Hutton Printing

Although the sale of the printing business to James Moodie Hutton in September 1893 appears to have been a sham, the sale in July 1896 was genuine. Within a few months after George Buckley’s death, Hutton had the building housing his printing press freshly painted with his name and advertising his wares. In December 1896 he was advertising Christmas cards, and in March 1897 looking to hire more employees.

The front wall of Hutton’s premises in February 1897, advertising “Steam Printing”.

At some stage James Hutton’s wife Emily (sometimes spelled Emilie) opened a “Stationery and Fancy Goods” shop further down Elder St. Its not clear why this business was opened under her name rather than her husband’s name.

James Hutton’s wife Emilie operated a Stationery and Fancy Goods shop in Elder St Lambton. Photo by Ralph Snowball. Newcastle Region Library.

I have no definite evidence as to when Hutton’s printing press ceased in Lambton. My guess is that it was 1901. The first mention I can find of his new premises in Hunter St Newcastle is from May 1901, just one month after he advertised the sale of a “Vertical Tangye Engine and Boiler” from his Lambton establishment in April 1901. Presumably this was the engine and boiler that powered his “steam printing”, and that the sale was due to moving his business from Lambton to Hunter St Newcastle.

Premises of James Hutton, Stationer and Printer, 1903. Newcastle Region Library.

Although I haven’t found any definitive corroboration, I assume that Harold Moodie Hutton who was a printer in Regent St New Lambton, was the son of James Moodie Hutton.

As recently as 2015, the name of H. M. Hutton was visible on premises in Regent St New Lambton. Google Street View historical images.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
22 Aug 1887James Moodie Hutton was no stranger to banckrupty. His company of "Hamilton and Hutton Printers", a partnership with Alfred George Hamilton, was decared insolvent in 1887.
8 Mar 1889
5 Mar 1889
At a Lambton Council meeting, "the tender of Mr. G. Buckley for printing was accepted". This is the first mention in the newspaper of George Buckley operating as a printer in Lambton.
9 Feb 1891George Buckley unsuccessfully stands for election to Lambton Council.
24 Feb 1891George Buckley divorces his wife.
18 May 1891Advertisement - "WANTED, a BOY, to learn the printing business; one used to the trade preferred. GEO. BUCKLEY, Paragon Printing Works, Lambton."
19 Sep 1893Auction on the premises in Grainger St - "HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE & EFFECTS, Stock-in-Trade of a Printer, including Printing Machines, &c."
11 Jan 1894Auction sale of Commercial Hotel and "W.B. Building, used as a Printing Office; also, W.B. Building, used as a dwellinghouse, erected upon land having a frontage of 57ft to Grainger-street, and a depth of 50ft, now in the occupation of Mr. Geo. Buckley."
5 Apr 1894Court case - Bank of New South Wales v directors/guarantors (including George Buckley) of the Texas Copper Mining and Smelting Company.
12 Oct 1894"The Bankruptcy of a Printer. A Special Examination." Reporting from the court regarding the bankruptcy of George Buckley's printing company.
28 Feb 1895At a Lambton Council meeting, a tender for printing was accepted from "G. Buckley and Co."
30 Jul 1895Bankruptcy court ..."Mr. Lamb informed the Court that his client, John William Buckley, had agreed to hand over the printing and stationery business as it stood, without any admission as to the bona-fides of the bill of sale. "
26 Sep 1895Supreme Court of NSW, Bankruptcy notice to creditors - "GEORGE BUCKLEY, of Lambton (No. 8499), a second account and first plan of distribution showing payment of a dividend of 4s 11 15-16d in the £ on proved concurrent debt."
29 Oct 1895"TRANSFER Of the Commercial Hotel, Lambton, from Joseph W Oldham to John W Buckley."
4 Sep 1896
3 Sep 1896
George Buckley dies in the Commercial Hotel after shooting himself with a revolver. Its highly probable that the shooting was intentional and related to an investigation into George's handling of finances in his role of secretary of the Grand United Order of Oddfellows. He was due to appear before a special meeting of the Lodge the following Saturday.
5 Sep 1896
4 Sep 1896
Inquest into the death of George Buckley.
21 Oct 1896Lambton Petty Debts Court. "T. S. Jones summoned John W. Buckley and Jane Rutley for the sum of £7, being 2 per cent. Commission for the selling of their printing business in July last."
5 Dec 1896Advertisement: "CHRISTMAS Presents.-- Christmas and Birthday Cards, splendid assortment. Hutton Printing and Paper Co., Lambton."
23 Mar 1897Advertisement: "WANTED, LAD, accustomed to Book-binding and Paper-ruling. Hutton Printing and Paper Co., Lambton"
10 Apr 1897Jane Buckley (widow of George) is now the licensee of the Commercial Hotel.
26 Dec 1898
24 Dec 1898
Death of Clarissa, infant daughter of James and Emily Hutton.
11 Apr 1901"FOR Sale, cheap, 3 h.p. Vertical Tangye Engine and Boiler, good order, Hutton Printing Coy, Lambton."
18 May 1901Job vacancy for "2 Smart Boys" at Hutton Printing Company, 102 Hunter Street West. (Note that Hunter Street has been re-numbered since this time.)
6 Feb 1907For Sale: "A LARGE Corner Allotment of Land, Regent-st. and Portland-place, New Lambton. Splendid business site. Apply J. M. HUTTON, Printer, Newcastle, or Lambton."
9 Mar 1916"James L. Hutton, manager for Mrs. E. Hutton, printer, of Lambton"
31 Oct 1922Advertisement: "WANT, smart Girl, one used to trade preferred. H. Hutton, Printer, New Lambton."
24 Feb 1923
8 Feb 1923
Marriage of Emilie (Topsy), second daughter of James M Hutton of Newcastle.
2 Jul 1925
1 Jul 1925
At a New Lambton council meeting, a letter received from "J. Hutton, printer, Regent-street, complaining of not having a fair share of the printing needed by the council." "The clerk stated that the writer was, and had been, receiving a fair deal for the last four years, and quoted figures to prove that such was the case."
24 Aug 1939 For the Children's Hospital appea', "Mr. H. M. Hutton, printer, of New Lambton, has agreed to do all printing required in the campaign, free of charge."
27 Jan 1945"Harold Moodie Hutton, 54, printer, was charged with having, at New Lambton on Thursday, published a document purporting to contain a list of horses nominated for the Australia Day Handicap, Anniversary Handicap and Phillip Handicap, to be run at Randwick racecourse, such list not having been approved by the Australian Jockey Club.
23 Jan 1951"Printers outside the city area said they were losing up to four hours a day because of power failures. Mr. H. M. Hutton, printer, of New Lambton, said he lost up to three hours a day when blackouts allowed the metal in the pots of his linotypes to grow cold."

5 thoughts on “Hutton Printing & Paper Co

  1. Hi Lachlan,
    thank you very much for all the work you have done on George Charles Thomas Buckley. I am a family historian and he is my partner’s great grandfather. I had much of the information, but you have certainly added to it, particularly the photo of the printing works behind the Commercial Hotel.
    thought you might like to know, all four of his grandparents were sent to Australia as convicts. I have their stories.

  2. Thanks for this info – much appreciated!

    Later newspaper reports of the fire reveal that Thom was charged with deliberately setting the fire, allegedly for insurance purposes – however, the insurance on the building (owned by John Hughes) had lapsed one month prior to the fire – Thom found not guilty April 1884. John Hughes, his wife, and seven children lost everything in the fire, and literally only had the clothes they were wearing – Hughes was declared ‘insolvent’ early in 1884. I’m not sure what happened to the family after this time – they reappear in electoral rolls in 1903, living in Teralba, with John and three of his sons ‘miners’ at this time.

    Kind regards,

  3. I am interested to know whether you’ve come across John Hughes’ Drapery or Cordial manufacture in your research – his premises were destroyed by fire in 1883, and were on the corner of Elder & Grainger Streets – I believe the location is where Huttons Printers was later set up – I admit I have not had an opportunity to do much research at this stage, but am wondering if anyone else has come across this information – John Hughes is my gggrandfather.

    • From the report of the fire in 1883 we learn that John Hughes was operating a cordial manufacturing business in a wooden building at the rear of the property, while David Thom was operating a drapery in the front brick building.

      The building was on the corner of Grainger/Elder, but not where Huttons Printing was. Hughes’ building was on the SW corner, where the Commercial Hotel was later built, and where the new apartments have just been erected. (See Land Title Certificate Vol-Fol 271-227 at

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