Thursday, 28 August 2014

Haslingden Printing Works Limited and "The Selling News"

Photo: Haslingden Printing Works on John Street has it was in 2003 after
conversion to private dwellings.

Originally were it shows 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.

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”. 

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.

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.

(from Jeff Stevens)

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

From: David Emison

Dear Bryan, 
The person second on the left of the photograph of five 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! 

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.    


  Haslingden Borough News remembered.
J Dunleavy.

Haslingden Borough News
Every Thursday. Price 1d

Registered as the GPO                                                                                                                                    In which is incorporated
as a newspaper                                                                                                                                                         the Selling News
Local journals are not as popular as they once were. Many readers will recall how years ago most towns had not just one but several papers.  Haslingden, a town in east Lancashire, had several to its credit. Not all enjoyed a lengthy existence: how many now are able to recall the Haslingden Guardian, or even the Haslingden Times, a journal that perished in its infancy? Not all of these were published and printed in the town, though the Haslingden Borough News, had the distinction of being printed and published in the town and was unique in that its front page displayed the town's coat of arms with its motto, 'Nothing without labour.' This brief exercise is nothing more than an exploration of the part played locally by the Borough News, a journal that was invariably referred to by its original title as the Selling News.

     A study of this journal is hampered by the absence of a complete file. An enquiry to the British Newspaper Library at Colindale brought the information that their 'run' of the Borough News started in 1959, leaving many years unaccounted for. The information carried by the journal suggests in the early 1920s it started using the title of the Borough Selling News.

     The Selling News and its successor were printed in the office of the Haslingden Printing Works in John Street. Among those who first aroused the curiosity of the writer was the late George Hadfield who was not only a director of the company but was a working compositor. He was among those who started the paper as a freebie, given away each week. Such publications were possible thanks to local tradesmen, community groups and numerous individuals who were prepared to buy advertising space. All of this changed with the outbreak of war in 1939. The government imposed stringent restrictions on the use of paper and banned free publications. In future the imposition of a price became obligatory. While advertisements were permitted such papers had to carry a quota of news. An eight page journal for instance was to provide three pages of news. The distribution of the paper was unique in that instead of dealing with local news agents, a number of retired men assembled each Thursday in John Street and laden with canvas bags undertook to supply all districts with the paper.

     The paper had originated as an advertising medium and this was reflected in the pages throughout its sixty year run. The space allocated to news reports was always far below that occupied by advertisements. After all the latter brought in revenue. and the readership had come to expect advertisements rather than news.

     When the writer first became acquainted with the Borough News page one was given over largely to advertisements for the town's two cinemas. The Empire and the Palace were owned and managed by Bert Hoyle. Patrons were offered films on six days a week, a change of programmes taking place each Thursday.  Patrons complained the films were rarely ever recent releases, having been shown already in the larger, neighbouring towns.  How often the cry of 'that's as old as Adam!' was raised on Thursday evenings when patrons learned of the programme for the coming week. In answer to its critics the management maintained the availability of films was determined by the extent of the resident population if that was the case then Haslingden filmgoers were destined to be disappointed, neighbouring towns such as Rawtenstall and Accrington boasted of having  much larger populations. Gone with the wind proved to be one of the most lucrative films made in the 1940s, yet it was to be many years before it was shown in Haslingden. Most local filmgoers anticipating a long wait prior to its Haslingden debut reportedly were prepared to travel to neighbouring towns to satisfy their curiosity about this blockbuster movie that proved to be such a box office success.

     The rest of the front page was devoted to a number of smaller display adverts, among these was one for the fixtures of the Haslingden Cricket Club.  But this was a seasonal game, the Lancashire League team began its fixtures around Easter and finished in the autumn. This freed up more of page one for other advertisers others, and these usually consisted of announcements regarding a forthcoming event, such as a concert staged by a local amateur society or a Sunday school. Occasionally there might be a notice from the Haslingden Borough Council, the town at that time having its own local government.

     Inside pages were given over to paid announcements, in particular births, marriages and deaths. Of these the death notices were supplemented by reports of local deaths, and frequently followed up by accounts of funerals. Names of mourners, floral tributes and (in the case of Roman Catholics) spiritual offerings were listed.

     Following on from all this was what was termed 'Legal notices.' These invariably ran along the lines of:

I, John Smith, of Haslingden, will no longer be responsible for any debts incurred by my wife, Edith Smith. after the appearance of this notice.
(Signed) John Smith.     

This practice seems to have been observed for some years, yet such advertisements had no legal validity. Locally they were read with close interest since if anything they were informing the public that not all was well in the Smith household. Not surprisingly such announcements frequently proved to be a prelude to a legal separation. In any event such publicity was grist to then mill of the gossipmongers who were now likely to regard the Smiths in a different light.

     News  reports fell into two categories.  There was a column headed 'News in brief.' Lacking its own reporter the News was obliged to rely on other local papers for much of its information. Titles appearing in Rawtenstall, Accrington and Blackburn were scoured for stories that might have  a bearing on Haslingden. These might be supplemented by referring to the evening journals published in Blackburn or Manchester, though neither were inclined to give much coverage to Haslingden. 
     The other source consisted of reliance on stories brought in by local people. These varied widely in numbers and content. Most often they reported events promoted by the Sunday schools and other local agencies such as the clubs of which there were a great number at this time. Sports enthusiasts liked to see accounts of the various cricket and football fixtures receiving some attention in the local weekly though again much depended on the readiness of individuals to bring in stories.
     The News originated as an advertising journal. Readers seemingly continued to perceive the medium in this way throughout its existence. One of the most popular features of the paper was a column headed 'Sales and Wants.' Household items such as pianos, beds, tables, kitchen cabinets and so on appeared week after week. The appeal of this column was a reflection on continuing shortages after the second World War. Many items we now take for granted were in short supply, often unobtainable.
Hence it was a case of accept used items or do without.  
     There was also the serious housing shortage to consider, a problem persisting long after 1945. Some home-seeker exasperated by the lengthy waiting list for new rented properties often decided to rent rooms, or try and purchase a home. Houses for sale were sometimes advertised along with a price tag, while other property owners were prepared to gamble on determining the value of their home by resorting to a sale by auction. 
     No consideration of the News as a popular weekly journal would be complete without some indication of  the other items were to be found among the advertisements. Having already mentioned the cinemas, no attention has been paid to the religious institutions of the town. 'Churches and chapels' advertised not only the weekly services and Sunday schools, but also acknowledged some of the highlights of the church year, such as Christmas and Easter. And there was also what were termed 'the sermons.' These were usually linked to an anniversary or a jubilee when some eminent clergyman was invited to  preach and the services were enhanced by special music rendered by soloists accompanied by choir, organ and instrumentalists. For the nonconformist churches especially the sermons provided an important source of revenue. Silver collections were expected at the services, while an additional source of income was made possible by utilising the services of soloists and musicians who might be prepared to participate in a secular concert on the Saturday evening.  
     Haslingden Industrial Co-operative Society resorted to the advertising columns of the News frequently. Apart from offering a wide range of services to its members through its numerous retail outlets located in most parts of the town, 'the Co-op' was a great employer of labour. In its heyday the society attracted and retained members by offering a generous dividend based on a record of sales. After World War II societal changes came to be reflected in declining profits and a diminution of members. The appeal of the co-op and its quarterly 'divi payments' failed to respond to the challenges presented by newer, more aggressive commercial retailers.
     Not surprisingly as an advertising medium the News  rarely ever provided its readers with an opinion column. Some chose to give vent to their feelings by addressing a letter to the editor on matters of local concern. These in turn might provoke the editor to pen a reply, though this was  a rare event. However the writer recalls  distinctly the arrival in the printing office one day of a letter purporting to come from a Mr. L. Ipra Loof,. The correspondent claimed he had recently visited the
town as the guest of an acquaintance at Manchester University. While busily exploring the hilly landscape the visitor claimed he was intrigued to come across an earthenware utensil not unlike those that could ne found extensively in his home country. However the local find carried an inscription which the visitor suggested   readers might help him to explain. The only fragments of the inscription remaining ran, according to the visitor  as: ITI-SAP-ISP-OT.  
     The delivery of a letter to the News was not a regular event and this aroused the suspicion of the editor that all was not quite right. On referring the matter to one of his of his colleagues the editor was advised to establish the credentials of the writer. Having studied the name  - or nom-de-plum - of the writer  it dawned on the editor  that the correspondent was emulating others who were inclined to take up their pen at this time of year in an attempt to embarrass journal editors. The News editor, a well meaning retiring man having considered the matter determined to give as good as he got. He  dismissed the April prank - for such it was - in just  a few words. That was certainly an interesting find made by your friend, he observed:  he should have crowned himself with his discovery! 

In Memoriam

Haslingden Borough News

Born 1922
Expired 1984

Gone but not forgotten


Bob Emison

"Bob Emison was born in Haslingden in 1902.  He attended the Wesleyan Day School to the age of twelve when he went to work half-time at Grane Manufacturing Company.   At the age of thirteen he became an apprentice at Haslingden Printing Works, John Street. Apart from his wartime service in the RAF he spent the whole of his working life there and ended his career as  Managing Director in 1967.  As the works apprentice he printed the first copy of the Haslingden Borough Selling News in 1921 and the last copy in April 1974.   Bob was a passionate Methodist both at Salem and Manchester Road Chapels.  He was a Scout Leader with the 40th Rossendale (St Peter's) Scout Group and a Special Constable.
Bob died in 1975

Haslingden Printing Works Ltd - (Click over to enlarge)
Shows members of staff at the retirement of George Hadfield.
Presentation made by Harold Wareing - the Manager
Photo: Kindly shared with us by David Emison

Haslingden Printing Works Ltd - (Click over to enlarge)
Shows members of staff at the retirement of George Hadfield.
Presentation made by Harold Wareing - the Manager
Photo: Kindly shared with us by David Emison


by John Dunleavy.

George Hadfield's introduction to the world of work was by way of the printing office in John Street directed by a Mr Donaldson. The business produced a great deal of what was then known as letter press printing. George served his time there and as was customary on reaching the age of twenty one was promptly dismissed. In effect he was told you have served your time, we have confidence you will be able to cope with any project put to you by a master printer. He had been fortunate in being introduced to the mysteries of print in an office where all the men were expected to undertake type setting and be prepared to undertake machine work. Over the next few years his readiness to accept work in a number of different offices was indicative of the lessons he had learnt at Haslingden. He soon proved he was capable of utilising the knowledge he had absorbed during his apprenticeship finding work in a number of towns mainly in the north west of England.  

The member of a Scottish family George appears to have been well read, and keen to learn. The family took their annual holidays in the north of Scotland, a venue that owed its popularity to Queen Victoria's acquisition of the Balmoral estate. One year  George related how the trains heading northward were ordered to slow down in order to allow the royal train to proceed ahead of them. What was more the word got round that Queen Victoria was actually on the train and the decision to  slow the flow of traffic would give tourists the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the aged Queen.
George and his family joined in the general elation, though the young visitor from Haslingden was dismayed to encounter a queen attired not in rich robes and still less wearing a crown: instead George and his party had to be satisfied with a passing glimpse of Victoria in her customary black dress (or widow's weeds), set off with a white bonnet made of lace. "Well, if that's the Queen [grumbled George], I'd prefer my own mother any day!'

George was a man who clearly enjoyed travel and over the years I listened with pleasure to his numerous anecdotes. He was also knowledgeable about politics at local and national levels. In his younger days Rossendale, which included Haslingden, was represented at Westminster by Loulou Harcourt, a Liberal. Harcourt liked to assert he had radical tendencies which made sense given the social makeup of the constituency. George related how one day about to alight from the tram several women passengers (clearly not locals) enquired as to the location of the Liberal Club.

Situated at the corner of Park Street and Manchester Road, George related how the intrepid ladies travelling with bulky shopping bags, proceeded to subject the Liberal club windows to a barrage of stone throwing. This was just one way in which Harcourt's militant opponents (usually termed the suffragettes)  maintained this was yet another weapon to secure votes for women. Other politicians notably Herbert Asquith was obdurate in his desire to check the spread of demands for women's' rights, though in 1918 when Parliament finally accepted the extension to the franchise both Harcourt and his political chief were to be found in the 'yes lobby.'

George was a member of a large family, all of whom seemed destined to prosper in choice of careers. One brother, for instance, was a clock maker who ran his business from his home in Piccadilly Street, while Mt Hadfield senior held the position of Ale taster and enjoyed the right to visit local pubs brandishing his special beer tankard. This was in effect his badge of office, and as such he had the right to enter any pub he chose in the jurisdiction of the manorial court and demand a free drink!

The coming of war in 1914 impinged on the lives of millions and like many of his contemporaries George joined the army. He saw service in what was termed the western front, in particular the small area maintained by Belgium throughout the war. It would seem he looked forward to resuming his career in print once the war was over. In his days as a journeyman he had found work in several places, and at Newton le Willows he met and became engaged to a young lady who married him once the war was over. They moved into a house in Wells Street and this was to be their home for most of their married life.

The war over George was able to resume his printing career, and returned to the printing works in John Street that had been managed for many years by Mr Donaldson. When the latter decided to retire George with a few of his colleagues pooled their resources and purchased the premises that was restyled Haslingden Printing Works Ltd. George filled the role of a company director and overseer. The onetime apprentice had finally become a Master printer!  Apart from general printing the company took the decision to launch a weekly paper the Selling News. This proved to be an immediate success, few houses in the town ever went without their copy of this journal: obviously George and his colleagues had discovered a demand in the community that needed to be supplied.

The present writer having left school without any preparation as to what he might do, on an impulse paid a visit to the works and was conducted round by the manager, Harold Waring, Bob Emison, the overseer, and George. The latter made the greatest impact by enquiring whether any other members of my family had ever been in print, and on being assured there were none, George confided in me that printers usually ended up going mad!

A lovely man!