National Union of Wallcoverings, Decorative and Allied Trades

Scope and Content

Minutes, 1918-79; accounts, 1920-79; annual reports, 1920-67; rule books, 1938-79; journals, 1926-77; some branch records; agreements, 1922-76; some correspondence and subject files, 1917-75; files relating to amalgamation, 1978.

Administrative / Biographical History

The National Union of Wallcoverings, Decorative and Allied Trades was formed in 1919 as the Wallpaper Workers' Union, a result of the amalgamation of the Paper Stainers' Union of General Workers (founded 1890) and the Amalgamated Society of Machine Paper Stainers and Colour Mixers of Great Britain (founded 1891). Under its first General Secretary, Charles Kean, the union maintained a close working partnership with the employers through regular contact at the Wallpaper Makers' Industrial Council. Kean had also initiated in 1917 the Wallpaper Stainers' Trade Union Federation which brought together the two founder unions of the WPWU, the Amalgamated Union of Engravers to Calico Printers and Paper Stainers (of which Kean was General Secretary between 1899 and 1920) and the Print Block, Roller and Stamp Cutters' Society. Kean's policies were continued by his successor, Cecil Heap, who remained as General Secretary from 1935 until his death in 1967. However, after the end of World War Two the pursuance of a Whitley Council style industrial partnership began to falter and the unions' position was weakened by the dissolution of the WPSTUF in 1951. Towards the end of the 1950s a new realism dawned on the WPWU that some reorganisation was needed and this resulted in the absorption into London Branch of the Wallpaper Blockprinters' Trade Union, which had formed an autonomous part of the WPWU since its inception in 1919, the appointment of D.A.McIntosh in 1967 as successor to Heap and the transfer of engagements to the WPWU by the PBRSCS in 1969. McIntosh initiated the formation of the Wallcoverings Staff Association in 1970 to cover clerical staff working in the wallpaper industry. However, the WSA could not achieve a sustainable level of membership to support itself financially and transferred its engagements to the WPWU in 1975, at which time the union divided itself into administrative and productive spheres and retitled itself NUWDAT. Meanwhile, a motion of censure by Darwen Branch brought about McIntosh's resignation in 1974. Under the next General Secretary, R.W.Tomlins, the union transferred its engagements to the NGA on 1st October 1979.

Reference: John Gennard, A history of the National Graphical Association (London, Unwin Hyman, 1990).

Access Information

This collection is available to researchers by appointment at the Modern Records Centre, University of Warwick. See

Other Finding Aids

Conditions Governing Use

Any proposal to write the complete history of the union should be referred to the Head of Education and Training at the Graphical, Paper and Media Union. Please consult an archivist.

Custodial History

The National Union of Wallcoverings, Decorative and Allied Trades archive was collected by Richard Storey on the 20th May 1980 and deposited on indefinite loan in the Centre.


15/09/80: Additional material delivered by the National Graphical Association.