After 300 proud years, the presses fall silent in Worcester

printing press in action

Me inspecting a copy of the Berrow’s Worcester Journal, which used to be printed on the now closed Worcester News press in Hylton Road

For the first time in 30 years I am working for a daily newspaper that is not printed in the building where it is written and edited.

The last copy of the Worcester News rolled off its ageing press in Hylton Road this summer, and more than 300 years of newspaper printing history in the city came to an end.

Production has been moved to Oxford, where there is a more modern press and room to take on more work.

It was inevitable. Not as many newspapers are printed now than in their heyday, so fewer presses are needed. Those that remain are the biggest and most technologically advanced. They take in their stride the workload once handled by a dozen smaller presses.

The move makes the Worcester News more efficient, and that is a vital quality in an industry grappling with the tumultuous changes unleashed by the internet.

But I am terribly sad.

I am so sorry to see the men who worked on the press, some of them for many years, lose their jobs.

I regret, too, the end of newspaper printing in Worcester. I have worked for several of the country’s great regional dailies, among them the Chronicle and Journal in Newcastle upon Tyne, the Sentinel in Stoke-on-Trent, the Post and Press in Bristol and the Derby Evening Telegraph. None are now printed on the premises.

The loss of this press, though, feels worse. It’s about history.

Berrow’s Worcester Journal, the sister paper of the Worcester News, was first published here in the city in 1690, though it was then called the Worcester Post-man, and is the world’s oldest continuously published newspaper (it is also now printed in Oxford, and has been for some time).

I treasured that connection with the past, with the pioneering successors of William Caxton who raced to bring news to the people once the freedom of the Press had been won from the Stuart monarchy.

That link is broken now. The sound of the press at full speed no longer rumbles through our building. A pulse has been stilled.

I have peered for the last time into that press hall to marvel at a daily publishing miracle and smell air warmed by electric motors and thick with the aromas of newsprint, oil and ink.

Even after so long in the business it retained the power to enthral me. I was not alone. Over the years I have watched parties of visitors being led through our building and told the secrets of how newspapers are made.

They listened politely, of course, but what they were really here for was to see that mighty press; to hear the noise and be thrilled witnesses to the birth of tomorrow’s headlines.

It was there that the spell of newspapers was strongest, and the reason why so many of us who work on them have been bewitched forever.

But I must wrest myself from this sentimental gloom. The Worcester News is so much more than a press, and it remains in rude health.

Although print is still vitally important, our news is increasingly distributed via our website http://www.worcesternews.co.uk and social media. As a result, our combined print and online readership is more than 43,000 every day and growing, making us by far the biggest professional news provider in Worcestershire.

Like those early print pioneers, we are seeing opportunities in a changing world. A future as exhilarating as our past beckons.

1960s printing press

State of the art. The Hylton Road printing press when it was installed in the late Sixties. Picture: Newsquest (Midlands South)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About John Wilson

Editor of Hereford Times, Ludlow Advertiser, Stroud News and Journal, Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard and Gloucestershire Gazette series. Journalist for more than 30 years.
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