Read all about it! The story of the Bournemouth Daily Echo
The Bournemouth Daily Echo (formerly the Evening Echo) is Dorset’s biggest-selling daily newspaper and mainstay of the town’s news since it was established back in Victorian times – on 20 August 1900.
From local stories to global headlines, sporting success, neighbourhood news to family announcements, the Daily Echo has dedicatedly followed the fortunes of the town for well over a century. Now online, you don’t have to wait until the first print run has been unwrapped in the paper shop to read about the latest concerts at the BIC, town planning decisions or the line-up of the town’s annual air festival. You can access details about the roadworks you’re sat in at the scene (if you’re not behind the wheel), get the heads-up on the carnival crossing your path down in the Central Gardens and find out all about the latest global businesses to leave the Big Smoke in favour of our cosmopolitan town centre.
From humble roots
The very first edition of the Daily Echo was a mixed bag of advertising (the front page was all adverts and no news!), stiff editorial comment and world affairs. It told of the British troops in action in South Africa against the Boars, French marines in Shanghai and street fighting in Peking (now Beijing). The editor scolded the town’s council for not providing the Met office with the required daily records of sunshine and everything seemed very starchy and formal.
The Daily Echo’s very first offices were on Holdenhurst Road near Lansdowne, opposite the East Cliff Congregational Church and not far from the train station. The building was called ‘The Exchange’ and was reached via a narrow passageway between a grocers and a butchers. The Echo room was previously used as a drill hall, for dances, concerts, entertainments and as a relief postal sorting office at Christmas and it was partitioned off with areas for the reporters, the management and the sub editor with a paper storage enclosure and trestle table where the newspapers were manually counted and wrapped into parcels for onwards distribution. In the centre of the room was a single decker printer, while two lino-type machines chugged away in the background. The very first copies of the Echo were delivered via hand trucks, horse-drawn trams and ‘growlers’ – four-wheeled horse-drawn cabs.
There was a great buzz around town about the impending launch of the Bournemouth Echo – previously the town’s only source of local news would be the odd item stencilled into the Southampton edition, which was made available daily in Sydenham’s library and reading rooms – occupying the seafront site of the future Bournemouth swimming baths and more recently the IMAX building. In fact, there was a spate of people stealing bundles of papers and some delivery boys were reprimanded for trying to pilfer their own copies.
Closer to home
By 1906 the Echo was looking for a new site closer to the town centre and its directors secured the offices of the Bournemouth Observer for a sum of £9,500, the Bijou Hall in ‘Observer Chambers.’ The building is on Albert Road and is now the location of local holiday company Bath Travel. The building had previously been the home of the town’s Improvement Commissioners – the early days of the town council. By 1908 the Hall had been transformed into the newspaper’s machine room and an adjoining room was home to a private newswire link with London and a dynamo and gas engine that powered the office independently of main supplies.
The Echo continued with this set up for the next quarter of a century, untroubled by World War One and only losing a few workers to the General Strike. In 1927 the company name changed from Hampshire Advertiser and Echos Ltd to Southern Newspapers Ltd.
Heart of the matter
On 13th and 14th January 1934 the Echo moved to its very own, purpose-built premises on Richmond Hill, the site it still occupies today. With striking Art Deco styling and a sweeping, spiral, central staircase, the building certainly made headlines. It was constructed from half a million bricks, with striking white Monk’s Park (Bath) stone and Purbeck stone. The move was an epic one because the wire from London was still feeding news and sports results into Old Christchurch Road until 7pm on the night of the 13th. Then came the process of switching over the telecoms system and production machinery in time for work on Sunday morning. Add a terrific storm and a raft of valuable equipment and who knew what would happen when they started production? Thankfully come Monday 15th January, fifteen newly transferred two-ton Linotype machines were happily churning out the town’s headlines, somewhat oblivious to the mad and sodden dash that got them there!
The Bournemouth Echo celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1950s, a prosperous newspaper revelling in post-war glory. But the recent war was still impacting the availability of newsprint, leading the Southern Newspapers Chairman Mr WRD Perkins to despair that his paper couldn’t tell the public: “more than a fraction of the facts and more than one tithe of the public grievances.” By 1958, the newly named Bournemouth Evening Echo had a new concern, the advent of commercial radio – something the government was starting to invest in and seemingly favour.
A matter of logistics
Anyone familiar with Richmond Hill will appreciate the logistical challenge for the Echo especially with the advent of delivery vehicles to distribute the newspapers. Not only does the office sit near the foot of a steady slope down to the Square, but it is nestled in the loop of a one way traffic system. So to negotiate the collection, the vans would need to head down the Hill, take a left down Albert Road, make a 600 yard detour round the block and head up parallel one-way Yelverton Road before making the back up the hill.
The Echo bought the neighbouring New Royal Theatre building and demolished it. This made room for an internal ramp, which would let vehicles load up from the dispatch department on Albert Road, pass through the building and escape via Yelverton Road. The 30-year-old equipment couldn’t keep up with the demand for thicker publications carrying more news and adverts so there was a need for two new 130-ton 3 unit presses to be brought in alongside the existing 80 ton machines and a store for up to 300 tons of newsprint. The expanding staff needed breakout rooms, new offices, process and jobbing departments, so the whole building was reinforced with waterproof concrete walls suitable for housing a steel framework that would bear the load.
The first new press was started on 18 September 1961 by Bournemouth mayor Deric Scott and a year later (24 September 1962) the second started rolling, marking the completion of a £500,000 operation.
Echo goes digital
Tuesday 25 November 1987 saw the Bournemouth Evening Echo as it was now called, officially enter the digital age. Although the change from the old-fashioned hot-metal to cold, computer-set production had been going on for a while (especially on pages like the TV listings and features, which were prepared more slowly and in advance) this date marked the switch-over for the hot-off-the-press front and back pages, completing the move to a new electronic process. Staff more used to the heavy lifting and lugging of more traditional processes were gradually trained in state-of-the-art keyboard skills and ‘pasting up’ of pages rather than mechanical press production. While the Echo has evolved significantly again since then with modifications to the type face, publishing systems and layout, as well as becoming all-colour, this was the date our local Echo to quote its late editor Neal Butterworth “put on its new face.”
A drink at the Ink
With the advent of digital publishing and NEWSCOM’s acquisition of the newspaper, which moved production to a centralised, state-of-the-art print facility at Redbridge, Southampton in 2000, the Echo’s printing room had become defunct. In September 2007 this portion of the building was transformed into aptly-themed brasserie, grand café and bar the Print Rooms and Ink. This clever naming ensured they didn’t sever the building’s proud media heritage and the public’s fondness for it. While the purpose of this part of the building has changed, it has preserved those striking Art Deco embellishments and the room now enjoys the same level of bustle from back in the days of the heavy printing presses.
The mainstay of the newspaper is its mix of local and national news. With headline stories and ‘in brief’ snippets, the Echo can cover local topics as broad as road collisions and council decisions to school stories, charity appeals and transport blunders. Faithful to its original remit back in 1900 the Bournemouth Echo also reports on the national headlines and weather, rounding up the headlines for Britain and around the world. With the proliferation of the news website, Facebook, Twitter and beyond, the Echo doesn’t stop updating its stories with the final print run of the day. Reporters now update the news as it happens, around the clock.
Thursdays and Saturdays are jobs days at the Echo, where hundreds of local businesses and enterprises advertise their vacancies in popular categories like health care, sales and marketing, engineering, education, hospitality and retail. This section of the newspaper is massively bolstered by the website, which lists vacancies ready for you to search by sector or keyword around the clock. So there’s no need to panic if you can’t find a copy of the paper on jobs day any more. The Echo also runs a number of popular jobs fairs around the town inviting local jobseekers to network face-to-face with recruiters. And it now hosts virtual jobs fairs on its official website too.
Bournemouth and the surrounding area is, understandably, a popular place to live. Whether you’re a student looking for a house share or a family wanting more space to expand, the Echo’s property pages will give you all the latest new homes news, from redevelopments, to trends, to local letting and estate agents, to properties for rent, sale or wanted. Again, the website means you can browse this news, features and listings at your leisure on the day of publication or whenever you get a minute to dream!
From car manufacturing news to motor reviews, private ads selling their wheels to the latest deals from the town’s dealerships, the Echo rounds up all the latest from the motoring world once a week in print and around the clock on the web. Plus advice for finding deals and selling your wheels.
As a thriving seaside resort Bournemouth is a very hospitality-driven town, with plenty of entertainment options for locals and visitors of all ages and tastes, all year round. The Echo’s entertainment section tackles the bold task of summing up what’s on, on screen and stage in the town and on the box. It also rounds up events, shows, festivals and carnivals hitting our shores and ready to entertain.
From big businesses moving to or improving employment prospects in the town to local entrepreneurs and businesses made good, this motivational section wraps up all the latest on the business world.
Whether you’re a fan of Premiership football side AFC Bournemouth, follow the Poole Pirates speedway team or a member of a local sports team or facility, the back pages of the Echo traditionally shout out all the headlines from the local sporting world. You’ll see a run-down of the horse racing alongside results of the youth county sports games and youth and school league sides proudly posing for victory photos together with reports from the town’s popular mass-participation events like the Bournemouth Marathon Festival.
It’s always a thrill when you’re papped by an Echo photographer at an event or when making headlines in your own right. And there’s nothing more satisfying than leafing through the paper and spotting your photo. The great thing about the extensive Echo website is that the photos taken by its roving photographers are logically archived for you to browse through. So if your mug didn’t make the cut in print, you want to see if you made the back of a candid snap or if you just want to browse through the pictures from an event you couldn’t make, you can find the photos online. If you like what you find, you can order copies of your favourites directly from the Echo website.
Travel news and offers
Not that you’d necessarily feel the need to get away on a break if you’re already in sunny Bournemouth, but the Echo offers a comprehensive round-up of mini-breaks, Great British getaways and long-haul vacations in its travel section. Bag yourself a bargain from a local travel company or be inspired by an Echo travel feature to book a bit of winter sun.
Births, deaths and marriages
A fascinating run-down of the anniversaries and events in local lives placed by their loved ones. Check back through the archives online if you missed it in print using the Echo website’s search tool. Come on, we can’t be the only ones who enjoy leafing through the ‘hatch, match and dispatch’ section!
Have your say
Harking back to the days when the only contact you’d have with your daily newspaper was to add a tome to its bulging postbag, Have Your Say is still a prominent feature today.
From the latest club nights to beer festivals, this feature gives you a run-down of what’s going on after-hours. So whether you’re a visitor to the town or perhaps you’ve scored a babysitter for the night check out the main events in the paper and then check them out in person.
In the dock
A round-up of all the stories from Bournemouth Magistrates Court reported by area. This popular feature reports the outcomes of cases on trial, listing defendants with their age and road of residence along with a short summary of the offence and their charge. Go on, admit it you like to see if you know any of them!
This is Bournemouth – the Daily Echo online
Of course, a local newspaper these days isn’t just for those who happen to be in town that day. Gone are the days when you could only check the newsagents and petrol stations as far as Ringwood if you’d suddenly remembered it was job’s day (Thursday) and nowhere nearby has a copy left. Nowadays you can simply log on to www.thisisbournemouth.co.uk and get your fill of local news whether you’re sunning yourself abroad, away at university or sat in your back garden in Throop. The website has all but abolished the sense of doom you once felt when you remembered a loved one was snapped at an event and due to make the paper – yesterday – or the panic trying to book a ‘hatch, match or dispatch’ family announcement in time for the big day. With a digital archive being built up online and the ability to upload photos and place electronic orders, you can access old news, view published photos and those which didn’t make the print edition (in case your loved one is gurning in the published group shot!) and type your most heartfelt wishes for print whenever inspiration strikes – usually in the dead of night!
What’s nicer than knowing your firstborn is having a whale of a time at school? Having a cheeky candid photograph of them with their first ever set of classmates! Echo First Class sends a roving photographer out to all of the local Reception classes in Bournemouth and the surrounding towns and publishes the snaps in two separate batches during the course of their first school year.
A number of aspiring writers and wordsmiths have passed through the Bournemouth Echo’s doors with this ideal opportunity to perfect their craft researching and writing local stories. Let’s look at some of the Echo’s most accomplished alumnus:
The much famed American travel writer worked as a sub editor on the paper for two years before moving to the Times and wrote about his experiences in his 1995 book Notes from a Small Island. He now lives in Winchester and has been awarded an honorary doctorate from Bournemouth University.
Neal Butterworth was Bournemouth Daily Echo’s editor for 13 years from 1998 to 2011 and had a successful career in local newspapers around the south of England. He was the youngest newspaper editor in the country when appointed to the Stockport Advertiser aged 23. He sadly died of cancer aged 55 in 2013 but leaves behind him the fascinating tomes ‘Echoes of the Century’ and ‘Snapshots of the Past,’ documenting Bournemouth’s past through the eyes of the Echo newspaper.
Bournemouth Daily Echo in stats
Established: 20 August 1900
Paper circulation: 16,395
Paper coverage: Blandford Forum, Bournemouth, Brockenhurst, Christchurch, Dorchester, Dorchester Rural, Fareham, Ferndown, Fordingbridge, Gillingham (Dorset), Lymington, Lyndhurst, Poole, Ringwood, Salisbury, Shaftesbury, Southampton, Sturminster Newton, Swanage, Verwood, Wareham, Weymouth, Wimborne Minster
Publisher: Newsquest (Southern) Limited
On sale: Monday to Saturday
Editor: Toby Granville