TODAY marks a milestone in the history of the Sunderland Echo – the paper is moving home after nearly 40 years at Pennywell.
Journalists, advertising and admin staff will now be based at Rainton Bridge, while Sunderland Antiquarian Society has taken over guardianship of the Echo’s vast archives.
“The paper has a long and proud tradition of bringing readers news and views from across Wearside, as well as being a voice for the community,” said editorial director Joy Yates.
“It has always played a special part in people’s lives and, as we adapt to the changing times, it will remain what it has always been; part of the fabric of Wearside life.”
Wearside’s 100,000 residents were already served by two popular weekly papers – the Sunderland Times and Sunderland Herald – when the Echo was first published in 1873.
Founder Samuel Storey, part of a growing band of Radical Liberals, hoped the paper would provide a platform for his political views – and feed a need for daily news too.
A Quaker banker, a Jarrow shipbuilder and Richard Ruddock, the Sunderland reporter for the Newcastle Chronicle, were among the newspaper’s other financial backers.
“If things go wrong, the Echo will try its best to put them right,” Storey promised. “With moderation and without esteeming those who oppose us as fools and knaves.”
The Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette was launched with an initial investment of £3,500 – raised via donations of £500 each from Storey and his business partners.
The first edition hit the streets on December 22, 1873 – printed on a “wheezing” flat-bed press in Press Lane. One thousand copies were produced; each selling at a ha’penny.
A “war was on” at the time of printing, with Britain – according to the Echo – involved once more in “tiresome hostilities with hostile West African tribesmen” on the Gold Coast.
It was, however, a “very minor” war, and consequently received only a very minor headline. Instead, new readers across Sunderland were glued to the local news and views.
“It was our job then, as it is today, to help shape – as well as reflect – the news and views of the community of Sunderland. To provide a forum and a voice for Wearside,” said Joy.
“At least 20 other newspapers were launched in Sunderland between 1830 and 1906, but the Echo is the only one to survive. It quickly became an integral part of the community.”
A combination of news and campaigning journalism proved immediately popular with readers, but over-optimistic costing by inexperienced financiers left the Echo floundering.
Within months several backers withdrew their support, including shipbuilder Charles Palmer, shipbroker Edward Temperley Gourley and the only journalist, Ruddock.
But Storey remained dedicated to producing a daily Radical paper in Sunderland and, after investing a further £7,000, he moved the Echo to 14 Bridge Street in 1876.
It would take another seven years – and fierce circulation battles with rival papers such as the Sunderland Times and Sunderland Daily Post – for the paper to finally make a profit.
Storey went on to become the paper’s chief proprietor following the deaths of two partners – banker Edward Backhouse in 1879 and draper Thomas Turnbull in 1880.
And, in 1881, he formed a newspaper syndicate with millionaire Andrew Carnegie, buying up papers including the Northern Daily Mail and Portsmouth Evening News.
The syndicate finally broke up in 1885, with Storey retaining the Echo, Hampshire Telegraph, Portsmouth News and Northern Daily Mail.
“These papers would later form the basis of a new company, Portsmouth and Sunderland Newspapers Ltd, which was started by the Storey family in the 1930s,” said Joy.
As the Echo grew from strength to strength, so it was published throughout two World Wars and the Great Depression – surviving bombings, paper rationing and wartime censorship.
The post-war years saw the words Shipping Gazette dropped from the title-piece, while in 1973 – its centenary year – FA Cup victory set an all-time circulation record of 95,000.
Just three years later, in 1976, Echo staff waved farewell to Bridge Street following the construction of a purpose-built office at Pennywell – a move that ended hot metal printing.
The £4million development also saw the Echo become the first daily paper in the North East to be completely produced by photo-composition and web-offset printing.
However, the biggest developments – technology-wise – have come in recent times, with the switch from typewriters to computers and the launch 24-hour internet news.
The Echo’s owners have also changed, with the last link to Samuel Storey disappearing in 1999 – when Johnston Press took over the business in May that year.
Now, as the Echo moves to Rainton, the fresh challenges of the digital age lie ahead – but the paper remains dedicated to the people it has served for 142 years.
“We may be moving home, but the Echo’s commitment to serve, inform, entertain and fight for the justice of people across Wearside remains just as strong as it was in 1873,” said Joy.
Sunderland Echo founders
•Samuel Storey was born in Sherburn in 1841 – the sixth son of farmer Robert Storey – and educated at St Andrew’s School in Newcastle and Durham Diocesan Training College.
He went on to teach at Birtley CofE School, but became increasingly involved in events across Sunderland after his widowed mother moved to the town in around 1858.
Storey married Mary Ann Addison, daughter of Monkwearmouth man John Addison, in 1864 and started work at local rope manufacturer Glaholm and Robson soon after.
In 1865 he set up Atlas Building Society with solicitor Thomas Steel, then served as actuary of Monkwearmouth Savings Bank from 1870-76 and also became a partner in a timber firm.
Storey went on to work for the Whig candidate in the 1865 General Election and became a town councillor in 1869. He was elected Mayor in 1876, 1877 and 1880 and an MP in 1881.
He also served on Durham County Council from 1892 to 1913 – campaigning for better sanitary conditions and education – and was awarded the Freedom of Sunderland in 1921.
•Edward Backhouse – a Quaker philanthropist and writer on church history – was born in Darlington in 1808 and moved to Sunderland as a child in 1816.
He became a partner in the family banking firm of Backhouse & Co, but spent his time engaging in philanthropic activities – as well as helping the Religious Society of Friends.
Backhouse held Liberal political views and was a leading supporter of Sunderland Infirmary – as well as president of Sunderland Temperance Society and treasurer of the Bible Society.
•Sir Edward Temperley Gourley (1826–1902) was a coal fitter, shipowner and politician born in Sunderland. He was knighted for his political work.
•Sir Charles Mark Palmer, 1st Baronet (1822–1907) was a South Shields-born shipbuilder. He was also a Liberal Party politician and MP. His father, originally the captain of a whaler, moved in 1828 to Newcastle – where he owned a ship owning and ship-broking business.
•Blyth-born Lancelot Nixon Richard Ruddock (1837-1908) – known as Richard Ruddock – was a reporter, newspaper editor and a founder of the Sunderland Echo.
•Thomas Glaholm (1834-1888) was the son of a Newcastle steam flour miller. He moved to Sunderland in 1857 and began Hendon Patent Ropery with his brother-in-law, Samuel Sinclair Robson.
•Thomas Scott Turnbull (1825–1880) was the son of a Newcastle saddler. He went on to open one of the largest drapery houses in North East England – Albion House – and served as Mayor of Sunderland.