As the Echo prepares to change its format to tabloid, historian Chris Helme charts the paper’s evolution
A CONSIDERABLE amount of water has flowed under Brighouse’s bridges since the first issue of the Brighouse Echo appeared on Friday, June 24, 1887.
It’s 123 years since Brighouse man John Hartley took the first, and what must have been very tentative steps into the 19th century world of being a newspaper publisher.
The Echo was not the first newspaper to be published in Brighouse. That claim goes to Jonas Yates, the editor and publisher of the ‘Brighouse and Rastrick Chronicle’.
I understand this was intended as a monthly, which first appeared on Saturday, January 1, 1859. However, this early effort went out of business in May, 1865.
‘The Brighouse News’, followed with the first issue coming out on Saturday February 17, 1866. This, too, was initially published as a monthly by its owner and editor Mr John S. Jowett, but later went to weekly publication. This newspaper had the field to itself until 1871 when the ‘Local Magazine’, was first published. This was another publication that soon disappeared from the news stands.
In March 1873, a Mr A.B. Bayes published the first issue of the ‘Brighouse and Elland Express’, which he retitled the ‘Brighouse and Rastrick Express’ the following year. It was published at offices at the top of Briggate, very close to Milnes Yard, an area that was demolished in the early 1970s to make way for Hillards and now Wilkinson’s car park. .
‘Brighouse Free Press District News and Advertiser’ was published in 1891, and lasted for the next 50 years. In 1908 the ‘Brighouse Echo’ merged with the ‘Brighouse News’, which appeared on Wednesdays, and the Echo on Fridays.
Eventually the Wednesday issue disappeared leaving the Brighouse Echo out almost on its own for the next century. During the 1930s it was published under a new title which included the name Elland. That didn’t last too long and soon the Echo reverted back to its more familiar title.
In 1912 a new publication appeared, ‘The Brighouse Observer’, but like many other innovations during this period, it too faded into the history books during the 1914-1918 war.
So, the ‘Echo’ has led the way for over a century. It has seen innovations in both the styles of reporting, the advancement in photography techniques, the machinery and the methods involved in producing the weekly newspaper.
Everything from the flatbed printers to the new digital age of production and the innovative world wide web with its new and equally updated and modernised website
Now, for the first time in that long history the newspaper is changing from what has been the long held tradition in the newspaper world of a broadsheet style of production to the newe and easier to handle tabloid style.
Yes, it’s a big change and there will be readers who may say, ‘…well it won’t be the same anymore...’.
But all our readers can be assured the content will have the same blend of local news, with a few changes and new innovations added as well. It will continue to bring you, the reader, all the latest news, whether it’s a major incident or who has been the speaker at the weekly meeting of the organisations important to you.
All our readers are part of the Echo family and are all what the Echo represents - local people with local news and views.
John Hartley was someone who dedicated his life to the newspaper business.He had a passion for helping and encouraging new groups and organisations to thrive in the town. He ensured there was always the editorial space to be able to report on their weekly activities, a tradition we are proud to continue today.
A familiar local history book to many readers, is the 1900 publication about the historyand development of Brighouse, and its Co-operative Society. That book was written by Jonathan Caldwell, who was also the first editor of the ‘Echo’.
Caldwell served on Brighouse Council for six years from 1900 as well as being a member of the congregation at Park Chapel. He was no stranger to the world of newspapers, having worked for the ‘Brighouse and Rastrick Gazette’. He then went on to buy the ‘Brighouse News’ in 1891, which he moved from Nettleton’s Yard (named after Edward Nettleton who owned the Borough Bottling Works) in Commercial Street to Perseverance Mills. The latter is now a building better known as the Waterfront Lodge Hotel, and Prego Restaurant in Huddersfield Road.
Jonathan Caldwell retired in 1908, and died two years later. He had sold the ‘Brighouse News’ to John Hartley who in 1912 merged it with the ‘Echo’ into its Park Row offices at what is now the site of the Brighouse Rest Centre.
Since its humble beginnings in Park Row the Echo has moved to new premises on a number of occasions.
I am sure many readers will remember the days when it was next door to Joan’s Bargain Stores in Bethel Street. As a young lad I don’t suppose I was on my own when I would dash round to the ‘Echo’ front window to view that week’s photographs. The main reason for that look was not for any reasons of vanity, but to see if I was in the money.
If your photograph had the circle drawn round it you could call in the office and claim your prize of 2/6d or 12½ pence. If you had the triangle drawn round your image you had hit the jackpot and could claim your prize of 5/- or 25 pence. That set you up for the week in sweets and ice cream.
In 1969 the Echo moved to its present home, a purpose built office equipped to house the whole of the Echo team.
Over the last 123 years the Echo has employed many people to gather in all the news and the advertisements to ensure it was in the shops and on the dorrmats every on Friday mornings.
The paper celebrated its centenary in June, 1987 and has since changed its day of publication to Thursday. Plans will soon be in hand to mark the 12th anniversary of the paper in June, 2012.
Just how many individuals have had a hand in reaching this stage is something that we will probably never really know but some names immediately come to mind when looking back at members of the staff.
To produce a list from the last war to the present day includes many names the different generations of readers will no doubt remember. Ernest Sands who served as a reporter, then editor, and then reverted back to being a reporter; Winston Halstead, who went on to be the editor of the Driffield Times, and later creator and publisher of the popular Ridings Magazine; woman’s editor Verity Donovan; Jim Britton, who would often be seen at seaside destinations catching up with local holiday makers; Edith Pratt, who was the first full time female employee to retire from the ‘Echo’.
In more recent times there was experienced newsman Edward Riley, who was the editor, and went on to edit the Evening Courier in Halifax; Gordon Sampson; Julia Pitts; Elizabeth Gibson; Jean Trotter; Nicola Megson, Catherine Thomas, Maggie Woods and many more.
I cannot leave out my old friend and predecessor Ralph Wade (Rowan), whose well-loved nostalgia column I remember reading while still at school, and cutting out the stories he wrote. And, of course, there is current editor Stephen Firth who eats, breathes and sleeps all things Echo.
This list does not include the many members of the sales and advertising staff who have received your advertisement whether you are buying, selling or announcing the birth or passing of a loved one. It’s a department where you are sure to always receive the best customer service, readers have become accustomed to over the years.
The ‘Echo’ is, and has always been, a team effort.
So, as we embark on a new era in the history of the Brighouse Echo, it will carry on doing what it has done for the last 123 years - report about your town, your communities, your concerns, your high days and holidays.
As Stephen Firth told me: “The paper belongs to its readers. We are just minding the shop.”
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