W.T. Stead and the Northern Echo

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W.T. Stead & The Northern Echo (1871-1880)

“I never dreamed of such an elevation so easily. I should have also….. ..control over what I wrote and about what I wrote only providing I am Liberal, non conformist freetrade. All of which I am of course. What a glorious opportunity of attacking the devil isn’t it?” W.T. Stead to Rev. Henry Kendall

The Northern Echo was founded in Darlington in 1870. It was started by Liberal Scotsman, John Hyslop Bell at the behest of local industrial magnates, the Peases, largely to counter the political outpourings of rival newspapers, the Darlington & Stockton Times and the Darlington Mercury. Under Stead, its second editor, the Echo enjoyed, perhaps, its greatest successes, both nationally and internationally, winning in the process the admiration of Leading Liberals such as W.E. Gladstone and Joseph Chamberlain. However, the loss of Stead to the Pall Mall Gazette in 1880 and Bell’s resignation in 1889 was a critical blow to the Echo, and sales slumped for decades after. The collapse of the Pease dynasty and increased competition from rival newspapers added to the Echo’s troubles, and by the time it limped into the twentieth century, it was on the verge of bankruptcy. It was saved from ruin in 1903, when it was acquired by the North of England Newspaper Company, a group owned by chocolateers Rowntree. A further takeover by Westminster Press (also known as the Starmer Group) in 1921 secured the Echo’s future and it remains today one of the longest-serving newspapers in north-eastern England.

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