Webpage created: March 10, 2018
Webpage updated: April 25, 2020
WESTERN MORNING NEWS
The Western Morning News was first published on January 3rd 1860 by Mr Edward Spender (1833-1878) and Mr William Saunders and it has been running continuously, through the Blitz and the General Strike, ever since. Politically, it was considered to be Independent although it also displayed its Liberal sympathies.
The linotype room at the Western Morning News
When Mr Spender took himself off to London to set up an office there, Mr William Hunt became the editor. When he in turn left, Mr Albert Groser, previously on the staff of the competing Western Daily Mercury, took his place. Mr Spender was responsible for introducing the London Letter in the paper.
On October 5th 1861 the Western Morning News launched a weekly version called the Western Weekly News.
The success of the two daily newspapers brought about the ending of the weeklies and in July 1862 the Morning News took over the Plymouth Mail.
To the great amusement of its competitor, the Western Daily Mercury, the owners of the Western Morning News and Western Weekly News, 31 George Street, formed their business into a Limited Liability Company in May 1866. The reason for the amusement was that the proprietors claimed this was 'for the purpose of introducing into the partnership some of the gentlemen who have been actively engaged on the papers' but the Mercury found that there were only two people in the list of shareholders who were not family and that they only had eight shares allotted to them. The shares were valued at £50 each.
The largest shareholders were the founders, Mr Edward Spender, of Warwick Crescent, Paddington, London, with 155 shares, and Mr William Saunders, of Finchley Road, Saint John's Wood, London, with 139. The remaining shares, indicated in brackets, were held by Mr George Bayly, Elder Brother of Trinity House, (20); Ms Sarah Box (20); Doctor Edmund Rendle (20); Mr John Kent Spender, surgeon (15); Miss Ann Saunders, (8); Miss Ellen Saunders (8); Mr Edward Hawkins, accountant (6); Miss Emily Spender (3); Mr Edmund Marshman Russell Rendle, surgeon (2); Mr Albert Groser, the editor (2); and Mr William Hunt, former editor, (2).
During 1899 and 1900 the Company published the Western Evening News mainly in order to provide up-to-date reports of the Boer War.
The Western Morning News has, at different times, been published in several editions: Plymouth; Exeter; Exeter City and East Devon; Exeter, East Devon & Somerset; Devon; Cornwall; and even a Midnight Edition.
Unfortunately the newspaper market in Devon was a bit overcrowded by 1920 and all newspapers ran into financial difficulties. In that year, Sir Leicester Harmsworth acquired the Western Morning News and from February 1st 1921 the Western Daily Mercury and Western Evening Herald were also taken over. The papers continued to be issued from the old Mercury offices in Frankfort Street.
In 1938 the old premises were demolished and Leicester Harmsworth House was erected in its place. Being of modern, fire proof construction, it withstood the fires and bombing of the Second World War and remained in use until the newspaper moved its operation to Derriford.
The Western Morning News was the last of the local newspapers to convert to the tabloid format, which it did on Saturday February 8th 1997.
It was announced on February 19th 2010 that the printing presses at the newspaper's Derriford office would be closing down and the work transferred elsewhere. It would result in 95 staff losing their jobs. As from Monday March 1st 2010 The Herald will be printed in Weymouth, Dorset. The Western Morning News will continue to be produced in Plymouth until Monday April 12th 2010, after which it will be printed in Didcot, Oxfordshire.
Plymouth Central Library has a microfilmed collection from July 1860 to date, although there are some gaps.