Week by week, we will be delving into the back stories of some of the greatest Yorkshire companies – finding out about the people behind them, their humble beginnings, how they became household names, and where they are now. Today we take a look at the Yorkshire Post, finding out the back story of one of the biggest names in British journalism.
Griffith Wright, the son of the clerk at St John’s Church on Brigatte in Leeds, printed the first copy of the Leedes Intelligencer [sic] from their premises in Lowerhead Row on Tuesday 2nd July 1754. Originally a weekly newspaper, it consisted of four pages and three columns, containing a mixture of news from the London dailies, along with advertising, and a cost of 2d. The paper was a hit, despite the fact that a rival paper, The Leeds Mercury, had been around since 1718.
In 1755, Griffith moved to new premises at New Street End. The same year, he married Mary Pullen, and soon after that, son Thomas was born. Griffith continued to edit the paper himself for over 30 years before passing the business to his son in 1785. During this time, newspaper taxes imposed by the government saw the price rise to 3d in 1777. Thomas remained editor until his death in 1805, seeing another price rise to 4d in 1793 – again due to taxes. Thomas was outlived by both his father Griffith, and son Griffith Jnr., who became editor.
At the 1807 Yorkshire election, the paper decided to back the Tory candidate, Lord Lascelles, which cemented its conservative viewpoint. In 1809, the paper changes its name to Wright’s Leeds Intelligencer. Two years later they printed their first full ‘Supplement’ and eventually purchased a Stanhope press for £50. In 1815, George Mudie became editor, printing occasional ‘Second Editions’ to cover things such as the 1817 Manchester Riots.
When Griffith Wright Jnr. sold the Intelligencer in 1818 following his grandfather’s death, Mudie formed a partnership with William Headley to produce the Leeds Independent. The paper saw many changes over the next few decades. Firstly in 1819 there was a takeover by Gawtress & Co, who changed the name to The Leeds Intelligencer and Yorkshire General Advertiser. Secondly in 1822 it was sold to Joseph Ogle Robinson and John Hernaman, who moved the paper to premises onto Commercial Street and shared the building with the Leeds Library. In 1826, the paper absorbed Mudie’s Leeds Independent.
In the paper’s early days, it was available in both Yorkshire, Lancashire and remarkably, London. In those days it could often take up to three days to arrive in the capital; and even with improved coaches it would still take around 23 hours to travel South.
The Intelligencer became a daily paper with the new company, The Yorkshire Conservative Newspaper Co Ltd, which changed the name to the familiar Yorkshire Post in 1866. In 1890, they started to produce a regional evening paper, called the Yorkshire Evening Post – which put a regional slant on the day’s news as well as providing extensive coverage of local and regional sports teams.
In 1923, the paper was in a position to buy out its long time rival The Leeds Mercury which they continued to publish alongside its existing ones.
In 1936, the Yorkshire Post was given the chance to prove itself as a top national newspaper. Following a speech made by the Bishop of Bradford, editor Arthur Mann was the first journalist to break the news story of Edward VIII’s affair with Mrs Simpson, leading to the monarch’s abdication. At the outbreak of World War Two, a shortage of newsprint led to the merger of the Yorkshire Post and The Leeds Mercury. In 1963, the paper was able to absorb its rival evening paper, the Yorkshire Evening News as well.
Over the years many top journalists have cut their teeth at the Yorkshire Evening Post, along with more surprising names such as Dire Straits frontman, Mark Knopfler, and actor Peter O’Toole.
A merger in 1967 with United Newspapers Ltd to become Yorkshire Post Newspapers Ltd saw the company move to brand new £5million premises on the banks of the River Aire in 1970. With the decline in readership, and rise of digital technologies, Johnstone Press who now own the papers, decided to move the printing to Sheffield. This led to the old and now iconic Yorkshire Post building at the bottom of Wellington Street being demolished in 2014 after the journalists and staff had moved out to new offices on Whitehall Road, two years earlier. The tower, which has become a Leeds landmark, complete with thermometer, survived the bulldozers, while the empty space left by the old concrete building will be made into new offices and apartment blocks. The Yorkshire Post is one of Britain’s oldest newspaper and continues to command respect throughout the journalism world.
In the next post in this series, we will look at the Dalesman.
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