Thursday, 28 August 2014

Haslingden Printing Works Limited and "The Selling News"

Photo: Haslingden Printing Works on John Street has it was in 2003, The red bricked
area had large glass windows at the time of the Printing Works.  Has anyone
got a better photo to offer from the time of the printing works, so I can replace this one?
I suppose my first recollections of the Haslingden Printing Works was when our school class from the nearby St. James School were kindly invited to be shown around the Haslingden Printing Works Limited.

Mr. Norman Stevens operating the
large "Columbia" Press
(Please click over to enlarge)
Cutting courtesy of Jeff Stevens
On entering the premises which was on John Street, opposite what was then the old Bus Shed (which nowadays is the car park for the Co-op store), everything looked larger than life, and I can remember (vaguely) those great masses of ironworks everywhere, with some of them making all sorts of sounds as they where being skilfully operated by the employees. Some of the pupils were inquisitive and asking questions, like what job are you doing? And the reply would come back, “I am the compositor” or “I am the printer” or “I am the Bookbinder”.

Although the Printing Works did all sorts of various printing like: leaflets, catalogues, business cards, posters and almost anything the local businesses needed printing, they also did bookbinding and produced many books as well. I remember them doing Chris Aspin’s book “Haslingden” which has long been out of print and now much sought after. They also did the Council diaries each year among hundreds of other things.

Printing Works Staff Outing to Kendal
in 1949 (Click over photo to enlarge)
photo courtesy of Jeff Stevens
Yet probably they are best known for their fabulous little newspaper which was first called the “Selling News” and then later became the “Borough News”. I think the little newspaper may have been free at one time although has time went on (1950’s) I think a charge of “one penny” was made to help pay for the cost of delivery etc.  The Borough News besides having lots of local advertisers was always well known for their “announcements” notices.

Over the years, they produced lots of stuff for me and I would regularly go into their office on John Street and leave my order with George Green whom I think may have been the Secretary of the Company.  What a lovely chap who I also knew well from the good old Ambulance Hall days when they would have dances on a Thursday nights with live groups. Friendly George could usually be seen sat at the door collecting the entrance money which would go to help with the funding of the local St John's Ambulance Brigade. Sadly George is no longer with us, but I do know he played a very important role during World War II and I am sure he was a "Red Beret" being part of the "Parachute regiment”. 

Printing Works Staff outing to Chester
in 1947 (photo courtesy of Mr. Jeff
Stevens - please click over to enlarge)
The Manager of the Printing Works and also a Director of the firm was one of my friend’s dad, Mr. Bob Emison and his foreman was Norman Stevens.  I can also remember from later times David Yates, Trevor Edwards.

The sad demise of the firm came about when the main director Mr. John Landless whom also then owned the Rossendale Free Press, decided he wanted to sell out the little printing works.

 If anyone would like to add to this blog with photos or further information, or memories, your contribution would be much welcomed - thanks)

Bryan,  (from Jeff Stevens and relating to the Newspaper Cutting above)
Attached is a Rossendale Free Press cutting from 11th. May 1974, it relates to the transfer of a Columbia press to the Helmshore Mill Museum.
As depicted it was used to proof the pages prior to the printing of the 'Borough News and other products.I always remember it resembled something out of a Hopalong Cassidy film!
Regards Jeff.

Bryan, (from Jeff Stevens)
With regards to your proposed blog on Haslingden Printing works;I seem to recall that I have sent you a couple of photos showing the annual printing works outing. As you may recall my late father Norman Stevens worked for many years as a printer and foreman. Other names I recall where Bob Emison (father of David) George Green( former Arnhem parachutist),Adrian and Gwen Perry who I believe were proof and office workers, another was John Baron(?) a bookbinder.
In recent years I had a conversation with local historian Chris Aspin,who lamented that his book on Haslingden was a much sought rarity due to the fact that there had only been one print run.On inquiring about a further print run the author was told that the type had been 'dissed and melted down to produce that weeks Selling News!
I didn't have the courage to tell him that it was my father who had done this.
I also used to have a football program Burnley v Liverpool in the 1947 FA Cup semi final(I think) this had been played at the Blackburn Rovers ground and the printing for the Rovers programs was in those days done at the John Street works.
The works had a unique smell of ink and paper,it must have got into my blood as I  later spent 30 odd years in the newspaper trade.
I will have a look to see if I can find any more information or photographs.
Regards Jeff

From: Alan Papworth 18th September 2014.
Hi Bryan 
Just been reading some of the blogs re H B News.  There was a mention of John Baron who was a friend and my next door neighbour.  John worked as a book-binder and became well known for his skilful binding and restoration of books.
In the later stages of his career people came from near and afar with valuable books and documents to take advantage of his skills. 
They used to print tickets for all the top dances at the Public Hall and they sometimes printed a few extra for staff and friends which he used to pass on to me. 
Regards   Alan

From: Paul Schofield 12th November 2014
Hello Bryan,
I have unearthed a photograph of my father, Harry Schofield with two work mates sat on the stop of the Haslingden Printing Works.  He is the one in the middle, the gentleman to his left is Frank Barnes, who happens to be the Grandfather of my friend John Barnes who I have known since we started at St. James School in 1960.  I don't know who the other gentleman is.
From his age I estimate it would have been taken just prior to the Second World War.  He was a compositor and worked there after the war.  By 1955 he had moved to the Rossendale Free Press.
Regards, Paul

Dear Bryan, 
The person on the left of the photograph of three members of the staff of Haslingden Printing Works sent in by Paul Schofield is Jim Sagar. He worked at HPW and then moved to the Lancashire Evening Telegraph. In later years he owned the sweet and ice cream shop in Blackburn Road near the top of Townsend Street. He was my dad's best man! 

David Emison

(Photo: Paul Schofield)  Jim Sagar, Harry Schofield and John Barnes sat on the step of the Haslingden Printing Works


Below is a short article kindly written by Dr. John Dunleavy on some of the history of the "Selling News" (article published here on 7th July 2015)


John Dunleavy

JOHN DUNLEAVY was born in Haslingden and educated at St Mary's school. His first job was in the Haslingden Printing Works, publishers of the local journal the Borough News.  His apprenticeship completed he worked as a journeyman compositor for some years before going on to higher education in Oxford.
His career change subsequently led him to places as far apart as New York, Melbourne, and ultimately Budapest, where he taught for some time at the university. He writes here of a newspaper that ceased publication over thirty years ago.    

I first became employed in the production of the local weekly on leaving school in the early 1950s. At the Borough  News (or Selling News} office as an apprentice I was expected to help not just with the production of the paper but also apply my mind to other types of commercial printing. These ranged from council minutes, business reports, wedding invitations, auctioneers' sales, and so on.

The demands made on a small printing office by the production of a weekly paper were quite significant. The energies of all the staff were utilised for part of the week in the task of compiling the News. Wednesday evening was the time when the paper 'went to bed.' On the overseer giving the order that all was well, the press began to roll. The press was a hand-fed, flat-bed machine, this was still an age when most industry was labour-intensive.  Not all the copies would be printed on Wednesday, though a significant number had to be ready for early Thursday. The distribution of the paper was entrusted to an army of pensioners, elderly men who could be seen on Thursday mornings, laden down with heavy canvass bags, setting off in all directions. Sales numbered about 4,000, and the price to the customer was one penny. A percentage of the sales went to the distributors, a welcome supplement to their pensions.  

With sales at 4,000, few houses in the district went without a Borough News.  I liked to muse on the success of the paper and I hope my guesses might to be of interest to the reader. Page one of the paper, like so many at that time, was made up of adverts. Pride of places went to the two cinemas, the Palace and the Empire. Both were owned and managed by Bert Hoyle, and the programme changed twice each week. On Saturday evening patrons had the choice of two houses. While the cinemas occupied much of page one, others items - such as sporting fixtures - competed for what remained of that page.

As a newspaper registered at the GPO, the editor was obliged to provide three pages of news to five of advertisements. He was not always able to stick to this requirement all that rigidly. A glance at the contents is helpful here. From page two onwards readers might learn of other events in the town, notably dances, concerts, whist drives, jumble sales, and sporting events. What may come as surprise to the modern reader was the role still played by the churches and chapels each weekend. Announcements of special preachers and musical events (the annual sermons were still considered to be a key event in the calendar) indicated there was still a significant interest in organised religion.  Easter, Christmas, and other religious festivals often merited the engagement of soloists and musicians. The Messiah and such works  were invariably offered in some churches and Sunday schools. . 

All of these announcements provided the editor with revenue which was essential to the paper. Without this source it is unlikely the  News and its rivals would have existed for very long. The penny sales would never have been sufficient. In addition to the paid announcements placed by agencies such as the churches, a local business the Haslingden Industrial Co-operative Society still paying dividends, were regular users of column space. A local undertaker, Norman Kirby, was a regular advertiser who seemed quite impervious to strong feeling when he inserted a headline in bold type:


The News had the inevitable Births Marriages and Deaths column; closely followed by thank you notices. And there were anniversaries of the death of loved ones to be recalled. These invariably included a few lines of poetry, some from eminent poets others from more obscure wordsmith's. Keeping his eye of the revenue margin, it would seem the editor rarely ever vetoed the lines contained in the verses submitted for inclusion in future issues. 

'The trumpet sounded,
     The Angel said come;
The pearly gates opened
     And in walked Mum.'

Throughout this story I have been describing a paper that started life in the early 1920s as the Selling News. When and who determined the change of title I have been unable to discover. It may well have been early in the war years when the government decided to ration newsprint. Publication of free papers such as the Selling News were prohibited.  Henceforth what were deemed newspapers by the GPO - and Borough News was one of these - were obliged to have adverts and news in the ratio of five to three.

Editors were exhorted to try and economise on the use of newsprint. Examining a press cutting from this period in common with other papers the News editor reduced the width of columns, and dispensed with columns lines. The practice of inserting ornate decoration around adverts was also discontinued.
Finally, to what did the Selling News owe its success? After all there were alternatives such as the Haslingden Guardian, and the Haslingden Observer.  The former was printed in Rawtenstall, while the latter was printed on the press of the Observer & Times at Accrington. Both these papers employed reporters and had news stories, though neither attracted many advertisements from Haslingden.
The secret of the News was its ability to provide a service to its readership under the heading of Sales and Wants. Week after week readers would turn to that section where articles such as house furnishings, clothing, books, bric- a- brac, records, electrical gadgets - the sort of things that these days might be found in a charity shop - were obtainable at modest prices. This after all was still an age of austerity, and though the war had been over for several years, people were still prepared to accept second hand articles for use until such times as the pre-war levels of production were restored and consumers were able to enjoy brand new goods.