Sunderland bingo card printing giant Edward Thompson to close after more than 150 years

Sunderland’s Edward Thompson is to close after more than 150 years.

The firm, which was once the world’s biggest manufacturer of bingo cards, will shut up shop at its premises on the Sheepfolds Industrial Estate at the end of March 2022.

It has not yet been confirmed how many jobs will be lost, but it is understood there are dozens on the workforce.

CEO Paddy Cronin said a combination of the coronavirus pandemic and other market conditions had ‘negatively affected our businesses and left us no option but to close’.

"It is an end to a proud history,” he added.

“We’ve printed bingo and games for over 40 different countries. We helped start the National Bingo Game. We have supplied promotions for most of the biggest newspapers in Europe and the World.

“We’ve helped raise many millions for charity from our mailing raffle packs. We’ve built bingo halls in Moscow, South Africa and the Everglades. We’ve printed hundreds of millions of ballot papers including the ballot papers that Nelson Mandela was elected from.

“We are, and always will be, proud to be from Sunderland. "

Paddy Cronin

It was Mr Cronin’s father Frank who turned the family printing business into a global concern after his return home from National Service in 1953.

When a local Catholic priest, Father Jeremiah O’Callaghan, ordered bingo tickets for a parish fund-raiser, the cards had to be ordered from a firm in Ipswich, but Frank sensed an opportunity and within months, Edward Thompson was printing its own.

A firm with fewer than a dozen employees in 1959 was employing more than 300 people by the mid-60s and printing 50million cards a week.

Frank’s genius for maths saw him expand the number of possible ticket combinations from fewer than 2,000, to nearly 17,000 and the firm would continue to use his calculations to draw up its cards.

Edward Thompson is to close its Richmond Street site

The business expanded during the bingo boom of the 1960s, and a mill in Wilson Street was acquired to cope with demand. A factory for Frank’s new firm, Wearside Electronics, which built bingo blowers, was developed next door.

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A second factory was completed in Richmond Street in 1964 and by the 1970s, Edward Thompson had become the world’s largest manufacturer of bingo tickets. Such was the firm’s success, Frank snapped up the old Echo office in Bridge Street in 1976 for extra storage space.

By the late 1970s, the firm was making 150million tickets a week, but it was the introduction of newspaper bingo which provided the biggest boost in the 1980s.

Thompson’s produced more than 500 tons of paper a year at its Hendon plant for more than 20 years after taking it over following the departure of Canadian firm Domtar.

Paper making ceased in 2006 but the company was still printing on the site until 2014, when the decision to close it was prompted by a jump in energy costs, with all manufacturing transferred to Sheepfolds.

The plant – with its iconic chimney – was demolished in 2018.

Paddy Cronin today thanked ‘all our customers, suppliers and colleagues’ for their support.

"We are privileged to have worked with you, and for you,” he said.

“We are organizing and training new suppliers to take up the reigns of our products and we will be contacting our customers directly to give details.”

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