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Card Machine Fiasco

This is an explanation of why we have been unable to take card machine payments since June 2022. It is also a warning to card machine users.

In 2015 we signed up for a card machine with a company recommended by the Federation of Small Businesses. In June this year I noticed a payment that a customer had made for £770 had not gone into our bank account.

I checked back through all the transactions (which took many hours) and found a number of other payments were also missing, so I did a full audit for the previous two years and found that 31 transactions totalling £3500 had not arrived in our bank account. The card machine had issued a valid receipt for the transaction in every case.

A card machine sends the information about the transaction to a receiving bank, which then passes the money to (in our case) the Alliance & Leicester, and they send it to our bank account at Lloyds. The missing £3500 had not come out of the accounts of the people who had paid us, so where was it?

We contacted the card machine company and the receiving bank, and have spent hours on the phone since July. The receiving bank had some of the money but had not paid it to us for reasons they did not explain, so we recovered some of it after emailing the customers concerned to let them know the money would be coming out of their accounts weeks after the transaction.

We are, however, still owed over £1100. The card machine company blames the receiving bank, and the receiving bank blames the card machine company. We have repeatedly asked both of them for an explanation of how this situation has arisen but have never had an explanation. Both of them have rejected our complaints, claiming that we have not sent them documentation which we have sent repeatedly.

We do not believe that we can be the only business that this has happened to. We pay a substantial amount of money for this service: the customer should not have to check that the supplier is doing the job properly. In any case, if you are operating a retail outlet that has dozens of transactions a day it would be almost impossible to check that every one of those was processed correctly.

So what do we do now? We can’t use the machine because we can’t trust it, so we have stopped paying for it and are now being threatened with court action. What we can do in response Is:

Publicise the situation. This email is the first shot. ‘Guardian Money’, the BBC’s ‘Money Programme’, and many others might be interested. Is our experience the tip of an iceberg?
Go to the Financial Ombudsman.
Complain to the Federation of Small Businesses about our treatment by one of their recommended suppliers.
Get legal advice.

The irony is that both the card machine company and the receiving bank operate from the same building in an English town. We don’t care which one is at fault, but all they need to do is to cross the corridor, have a meeting, and sort the problem out.


The tragic story of Conqueror paper

The tragic story of Conqueror paper

In September 2022 the company that owned the mill in Scotland that had made Conqueror paper and board since the late eighteenth century went into receivership.

My experience of the printing industry now dates back about 50 years. In the past every paper merchant (and at one time we dealt with eight of them) either sold Conqueror or had an equivalent high quality writing paper such as Three Candlesticks. Of course, in the past people wrote letters so the demand was much greater; email, texting, and the cost of postage have caused a massive drop in the demand for writing papers, and as the paper merchants stopped trading one by one over the past fifteen years Conqueror remained pretty much the only brand of writing paper that was still produced.

The great advantage of Conqueror is that it is produced in a number of subtly different shades: Diamond White, Brilliant White, High White, Cream, and Vellum, and in both wove and laid (which has a rougher surface). It is also available in a variety of different weights. Vellum laid used to be the most popular colour but Oyster wove is now preferred by most people. Various shades of grey and blue used to be available but these were discontinued some years ago.

The recent history of ownership of the Conqueror brand is complicated, but as far as I understand it Wiggins Teape, which owned Conqueror at the time, merged in 1990 with the French paper manufacturer Arjomari to become ArjoWiggins. In 2000 it became part of a largely French conglomerate called Worms et Cie which in turn became Sequana Capital in 2005. Sequana lost a long-running court case with British American Tobacco in 2019 and went into liquidation. The Conqueror mill at Stoneywood in Scotland was saved by a management buyout by ArjoWiggins helped by a substantial injection of capital by the Scottish Government. However, by September 2022 ArjoWiggins was no longer viable as a paper manufacturer and the administrators were called in. After protracted negotiations ArjoWiggins’ brands were acquired by the paper merchant Antalis which, at the time of writing (January 2023) is negotiating with a number of mills to produce the brands, including Conqueror. The claim is that they will be available by the end of Q1 2023, but I would be surprised if this timetable is met. It seems unlikely that Conqueror will continue to be made in Scotland, which is a disaster for the 450 people who have lost their jobs, but also a tragic end to a tradition of paper-making that stretches back 250 years.

Ungentlemanly Conduct? The 1874 Parliamentary Battle for Petersfield by Peter Jolly (2021 Petersfield Museum)

This is the story of the first legal challenge after the passing of the 1872 Ballot Act which significantly widened the franchise and brought in the secret ballot. The result of the election saw the Conservative candidate elected with a majority of 11, but the result was challenged on behalf of the Liberal candidate (unusually a wealthy gin distiller) on the grounds of bribery, treating, and undue influence. The book outlines the evidence heard on these allegations, placed in Petersfield’s social and economic context at the time. The allegations were pretty insubstantial and were dismissed by the judge. However, a second element of the case related to whether or not individual electors were actually qualified to have been on the electoral register, because since its compilation a number of them had been in receipt of medical treatment paid for by the Parish, which the judge hearing the case made their votes invalid. Challenges to individual electors on these grounds were a bit of a gamble, because there was no reliable way of knowing which way they had voted until the ballot papers, marked register and counterfoils were married up. The consequence of these challenges were that either the result was a dead heat, or that the Conservative or the Liberal had won by one vote. Wisely the judge in the case referred the matter to the Court of Appeal, which sensibly concluded that eligibility to vote was conferred by being on the electoral register, and challenges to that eligibility because of things that might have happened to affect voter’s qualification to vote had to await the compilation of the next register. It’s only 70pp, but it’s a fascinating piece of electoral history.

Belgrave and Birstall Remembered: how a local railway station was gained, lost and regained, by John Powdrill

The station was on the Great Central Railway, just to the north of Leicester. Opened in the 1890s and closed in 1963 this book is a wonderful collection of memories and photographs of a fairly insignificant station which nonetheless is part of our transport heritage which would otherwise have gone unrecorded. It is also the more recent story of the campaign by local groups to preserve and re-open the line, and the controversial demolition of the station and its replacement by Leicester North as the terminus for the Heritage line to Loughborough.


Twyford Rising: Land and Resistance by Helen Beynon with Chris Gilham (2020)

As dawn was breaking on April 10th 1992 I walked home from the Winchester count. A Conservative government had, rather unexpectedly, been re-elected. I looked out over the valley towards St. Catherine’s Hill, now scarred with a white gash into the chalk, and reflected bitterly that while governments come and go what was being done to this peerless bit of English landscape was forever.

This book tells the story of the campaign to stop the desecration – a tunnel would have cost little more and preserved much of the land of greatest ecological and landscape value (although that is to put the matter into Cost/Benefit terms which have no place in the ethos of this book.) It is a beautifully written narrative, into which are woven the recollections of the activists who placed their bodies in the way of the bulldozers. My only criticism is that the authors do not mention the history of militancy that already existed in Winchester from the attempt, fifteen years earlier, to build the motorway through the watermeadows.

For those who are interested and who have read this far I cannot do better than to quote Helen’s concluding paragraphs: “…what happened at Twyford was, arguably more than any other recent protest in the British Isles, not just for the land, but also of it. The events of 1992 and 1993 were almost unique amongst the road protests of the 1990s: not only did we still have our innocence and believe we could win, but a vital element was just being on the land, living with its rhythms and celebrating the place. The land cast a spell with its beauty, history and peace, with what seemed like the impossibility of losing it and the grief that followed.

Twyford Down became a byword for environmental protest, for the strength of the connection that can be forged between people and place. I have been to meetings and gatherings since where I hear people tell others of what happened on Twyford Down, even though they have only read of it, or heard tell. It seems presumptuous in those moments to step in and say, “I was there” and stake a claim on a legend.

Yes, Twyford Down richly deserves to be part of the legends of these Islands, for it is a lost land now, which once was filled with beauty and hope. Speaking the name alone should be a remembrance of why people speak up for wild places; why they find the courage and passion to take direct action.

This book is just part of the story, told in the words of just some of those who played a part in the tale and in the pictures or leaflets they made. Others will tell different stories, relate their part in the legend. Maybe Twyford Down is a story that will never end, for there will be more gatherings there, the name and the protests will continue to be evoked.

Timeline History and Archaeology (Hampshire) series by Stephen Old

Admiral, Diplomat, Scapegoat

The life story of one of Queen Anne’s favourite Admirals, his rapid rise through the ranks and his almost as rapid fall from grace.

£8.00 plus post and packing

A True Victorian Company

The story of the founder and family behind Victorian Britain’s foremost builders, based in Southampton, but building all of the country and abroad.

£10.00 plus post and packing

Railway Buildings of Joseph Bull And Sons, Builders of Southampton

A more targeted book looking at this companies influence on building the railway infrastructure across the south and west of England

£4.00 plus post and packing

Hampshire and the Telephone

A look at how Hampshire has played a key role in the development of the Telephone and associated network technology

£3.00 plus post and packing

Archaeology of Communications

Communication often leaves no lasting imprint on the environment, however, with the growth of technology, this has changed, this is a brief introduction to the subject.

£3.00 plus post and packing

All these books are being distributed by Stephen Old and orders can be placed via email to or

The Mottisfont Chronicle

Written in 2015, ‘The Mottisfont Chronicle; Arrival’ is the disturbingly prescient story of schoolteacher Gerry Morris’s struggle to protect his family during the outbreak of a deadly virus.

As the veneer of civilisation is eroded by a disease from which only one person in a thousand survives, humanity faces catastrophe.

Rejecting the choice of staying in an increasingly savage London, lifelong city-dweller Gerry joins a group of survivors determined to escape.

But escape to where?

And since the technological infrastructure on which modern life depends has ceased … escape to what sort of life?

‘The Mottisfont Chronicle: Arrival’ is the first novel in a trilogy.

Obtainable from

Price: £8.99 plus P & P.

The Four Marks Murders

Four Marks author Chris Heal normally writes international thrillers and serious histories. However, as a 100th birthday present for his mother, he agreed to an unusual anniversary request – a book of twenty local murders, each story carefully researched and documented. The twenty-first chapter takes a detailed and revelatory look at the history of Four Marks. Heal is 73 years old and holds a recent doctorate from Bristol University. ‘I don’t hold a magic magnet for this sort of information,’ he explained, ‘but you will understand that once you start asking, once you start looking, then people start talking and the records start sharing. Odd facts jump out from unrelated pages and take new meanings. People brood for a month or two, then make contact. Some of the information is funny, some a wind-up quickly disproved, but a lot of the stories are plain scary. Collecting murders is like rolling a snowball: the more you ask, the more you get.’

How to get hold of it

  1. Buyers with connections local to Four Marks who arrange a delivery address in the GU34 1, 3, 4, 5 and SO24 0, 9 postcodes, visit, order online by PayPal or credit or debit card, and receive free doorstep delivery with ten days.
  2. Buyers with national and international orders, visit your favourite major bookstore or online booksellers like Waterstone’s and Amazon.


  1. £12.99. Printed by Sarsen Press, Winchester.
  2. RRP is £15.99 plus any p&p. Printed on demand by Lightning Source.

Other information

  • Paperback, 330 pages, 60 b&w illustrations, 18 maps (eight new), charts, appendices, timeline, further reading, chapter endnotes.
  • ISBN: 978-1-9161944-2-7

Winchester Locked Down: Portraits in a Pandemic by Sam Gavins Photography

Portraits in a Pandemic by Sam Gavins Photography

Published in aid of Winchester Hospice – Summer 2020

Sam Gavins is a professional wedding photographer.  The lockdown meant the cancellation of all her bookings for months ahead so instead she decided to record the effects of the pandemic on a cross section of Winchester’s residents in words and photographs, and to publish them in a book to raise money for the Winchester Hospice which is currently being built.

This beautiful book, which Sarsen Press helped her to produce, is the result of her work.  None of us have ever lived through a time like this before, and whatever our experience was of lockdown we probably all hope that it never happens again.  In Sam’s photographs, and the words of the people she has pictured, is the tragedy, the boredom, the frustration, the creativity, the freedom – the whole diversity of individual and family responses to an unprecedented crisis.  

We don’t know how these past months will change our lives, and the way our city, our country and our world might function in the future, but change there will be, and this book will be a valuable historical record of what life was like in one town during those critical months when nothing seemed secure or certain any more.

If you would like to purchase a copy of the book please message Sam via

Classic Heidelberg printing at Sarsen Press

The Original Heidelburg letterpress machine that we ran in the 1980’s  was a Platten which used raised metal lettering to make the print from. The pages would be laid out by hand from thousands of tiny metal lettering pieces. We used this system alongside our lithographic presses, until the late 1980s.

A platten had a flat chase (the rectangular metal holder that the type fits into), ours was 10×15 inches –  foolscap not A3. The chase has to be filled up, so along with all the letters and  lead spacers ( that go between rows of letters) wooden ‘furniture’ blocks  were needed to pack out the chase ready to ink up. 

We also used the platten to cut out bespoke shapes, with rubber and blade forms made to specification for us by Diamond Cutting Forms, a company in Chandlers Ford, that still operates. 

Bob Stone was the compositor and operator.

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