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Hot off the press.

Byline: By Barbara Argument

Just 16 years before the Gazette was launched in 1869, Middlesbrough itself was born.

On a grassy knoll beside the Tees, its future was sealed out of a pounds 30,000 handshake for 500 acres of field and marshland.

Making the deal were land owner William Chilton, of Billingham, who sold to industrial visionary Joseph Pease.

Middlesbrough became Ironopolis, but it was the search by Pease for a port to export coal from the South Durham field which first gave it life.

The town was born out of his dream ( and this is how it happened.

On August 18, 1828, Pease took a boat from the mouth of the Tees and sailed up its blue-grey waters where salmon were still running.

He scanned the banks until he saw a mound topped by a tiny hamlet.

This, decided Pease and his five partners, was where they would build their new town.

Ten years later, that tiny place was Middlesbrough, a town with 5,000 inhabitants.

By 1851 it was booming. There was a big new dock at St Hilda's, a fine town hall and optimistic plans for a glorious future.

The Cleveland Hills spilled their secret stash of iron ore and the scent of jobs and turning a quick fortune was in the air.

By the time the Daily Gazette ( the direct forerunner of the Evening Gazette ( was first published, Middlesbrough had 39,000 people and rising fast.

John Vaughan and William Bolckow became the wealthy iron masters living in grand mansions.

The workforce on the other hand, faced an agony of bone-crunching overwork. They toiled like slaves, ate, drank and played hard in mean streets. Then they collapsed in hovels to sleep exhausted to face another day.

Green fields disappeared under monster plants fed by ironstone from the moors, the beaches at Saltburn and Whitby, and then from the 16-foot deep Cleveland main seam.

The country wanted pig iron and Teesside could make it.

A description from the time says; "At night the sky glowed a reflected blush red from the furnaces and Middlesbrough mushroomed like a desert camp in an untidy, jerry-built, slummy sprawl around what for many had become the very kernel of their existence - The Works."

Circulation of the paper was growing, revenue rising, staff increasing and the paper needed bigger premises, and a leap in circulation by 1880 meant a new and faster press.

Into the new building went a Marinoni rotary press ( the first in the area ( counting and clickety-clacking out 20,000 copies an hour.

But the Voice of Middlesbrough was even more in demand and another rotary was installed and a third.

From the beginning founder, and owner, Sir Hugh Gilzean Reid chose his team well, recruiting men of real ability in journalism, printing and business.

Among the distinguished names is Mr Arthur Pickering "A.P." who joined in 1892 and guided the Gazette through plague, war, depression, expansion, strike and riot, collecting enough writs in the process to paper the walls of his office.

There were no phones, but the Gazette's resourceful staff were always on the lookout for ways to speed up getting the news.

At one point they enlisted racing pigeons to flash through the skies and there was even a pigeon cote in the bookbinding room where the flock of Blue Rocks were lovingly tended.

In Gazette wicker baskets, they were sent to district offices in West Hartlepool, Redcar, Saltburn, Stockton, Guisborough and all the other towns and villages.

When a news story broke, reporters scribbled their reports on rice paper flimsies, fastened them to the pigeons' legs and they were flown back to feed the production chain.

Sadly many pigeons were shot to provide other food ( pie filling ( especially on the hazardous West Hartlepool flight and when a blank space appeared in the Gazette, readers knew exactly what had happened.

On June 21, 1881, the name of the newspaper changed to the North-Eastern Daily Gazette in keeping with the larger area it now covered.

A London agency was opened at Ludgate Hill with a manager and correspondent.

And the future of the Gazette was assured so it could look back on the struggling years with pride and satisfaction.

It was sixth among the nation's provincial evening newspapers.

In 1890 the Gazette was printed by a steam roller after an explosion in Middlesbrough gas works cut power to the presses.

From new headquarters hailed as the most modern in Britain, the Gazette looked to the future in 1893.

The pages added another column and Webb presses printed the bigger paper at the incredible speed in those days of 25,000 copies an hour.

In 1906, Lady Bell, wife of ironfounder Sir Hugh, remarked: "The Gazette seems to be in the hands of every man, woman and child."

In November 1911 with circulation records broken weekly and profits increasing monthly, Sir Hugh its founder, died at the age of 73.

His three passions in life were his native Scotland, the Gazette and his adopted Teesside where he chose to be buried.

Ironically, it was Roy Thomson, a Canadian proud of his Scots ancestry, who would in the Sixties take over Sir Hugh's Middlesbrough newspaper.

When the Great War started, like the rest of Teesside Gazette staff donned uniform and marched off to battle.

Despite chronic shortages of everything, the Gazette came out every day including Sunday with news of the war.

The German ship Minotas was seized in Middlesbrough dock and Stockton became worried about food supplies getting through.

Hartlepool, Whitby and Scarborough were bombarded by a German battleship causing "scenes of death and destruction."

It seemed there wasn't a single family untouched by the horror of the war.

Finally in 1919, with the shouts of victory still ringing around Teesside, the Gazette held its own jubilee celebrations.

In 1922 Creed news receiving machines were installed and the news was flashed instantly to the Gazette.

The joy of peace was replaced by the dark clouds of industrial unrest as the dole queues grew ahead of the General Strike of 1926.

On May 14, the first day, a one-sheet Gazette rolled off the presses promising it would keep readers "in constant touch with the developments of the great economic and social crisis."

In the best traditions of a community newspaper, the Gazette organised gifts of boots, shoes and clothing where it was most needed.

As the National Strike ended, on August 10, 1926, the paper was taken over by Allied Newspapers for the first time since its launch.

The group was owned by brothers Lord Camrose and Lord Kemsley who rapidly became newspaper magnates. They had already bought the Sunday Times and Financial Times along with other publications.

Soon the Gazette was part of an empire of newspapers known for their enlightened approach which extended from Aberdeen to London.

A year later Jack Thompson - Middlesbrough born and bred ( became editor and stayed for an amazing 21 years championing Teesside.

He was still editor when the present Gazette building in fine Portland stone was completed in Borough Road in 1938.

Moving in was a huge operation with machines being switched to their new home.

But whatever the turmoil, the Gazette still hit the streets day after day.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2004 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:News Local
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Sep 23, 2004
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