1997 saw the final closure of Yelf Bros. Printers at Newport on the Isle of Wight when it was sold by its then owners to the County Press. This business was one of the most prominent of Yelf enterprises and had a long and distinguished history, much of it recorded in the history of the company 'Printers Pride'. By a slice of good luck the final closure coincided with a visit by Betty Richardson who was on a short holiday chasing up her Yelf relatives. Betty kindly wrote what happened for a Yelf newsletter that I published the same year but I think it's worth repeating as it seems Betty has a good foundation for her own Yelf museum...
"On our first day there we went to Newport and found Holyrood Street and the old Yelf House at No. 15 - I recognised it from the pictures in ‘Printer’s Pride’! John took photos of the outside but it looked so unpainted and neglected we felt that the business must have closed as there was no name-plate outside as there had been in 1984 when my friend Mary had photographed it for me. But we went down a little passage at the side of the house and we found the old printing house. The present owners told us that it had been built as a single-storey, purpose-built building in the huge garden of the house.
We went inside and the folk who were there were the ones who had bought the business from Ella Yelf-Gustar sixteen years ago! They greeted us with great warmth when we said who we were and said ‘How strange you should come this week - we have sold out to the County Press and are closing on the 25th April’. This was the day that John and I were leaving the Island.
They told us a lot about the business and what they knew of the family. There was one employee who had worked there for 40 years, so he knew the last two Yelfs. They gave me photos of three generations of the Yelf family - one of William Richard Yelf as a very old man (he was the son on William Wheeler who died in prison in London). Then there is a photo of each of the brothers George Henry (Yelf) and Francis Alford (Yelf) and finally one of the son of Francis Alford who was George Alford Frank Yelf who died in 1958. He was a brother of Ella Yelf-Gustar who I knew and who was the last Yelf owner of the business. She has died now.
Mr & Mrs Smith, who own the business, also gave me the Articles of Association of Yelf Brothers Limited, incorporated 19th day of April 1915, with a list of the seven directors. They also gave me a photo of the printing press which was set up at Osborne House on the night that Queen Victoria died by order of the new King Edward VII to do all the printing for the funeral. It was set up overnight and the picture shows the press, two printers and the two Yelf brothers standing either side of it looking very business-like. The picture is in ‘Printers Pride’.
It was all most extraordinary that we should be there that very week and I think that they were glad to give these things to a member of the family. The other thing that they wanted me to have was a top hat in its original box. This had belonged to one of the family and had been in the firm for a very long while - it was a sort of talisman. Wendy Smith told us that there was a tradition in the firm that the hat would stay in the firm as long as it was trading and that had happened. Now she wanted me to have it as I was a Yelf and the business was closing. Isn’t it all very strange?
We spent some time in the Newport Records Office and found hundreds of Yelfs dating back to Robert in 1694, the original one on the top of my family tree who married Elizabeth Booker and lived at Spicer’s Farm, Arreton.
We followed up the connection at Arreton Church and found the headstone of Elizabeth Waldridge (whose mother was a Yelf), the original ’Dairyman’s Daughter)!