ADVERTISER 1866: Today the East London Advertiser is 150 years old
PUBLISHED: 07:00 17 November 2016 | UPDATED: 05:40 27 November 2016
Today the East London Advertiser is 150 years old. We have been publishing news of the East End since November, 1866—the good, the bad and perhaps the stuff the authorities-of-the-day would have preferred buried. But then, our first edition pledged to campaign for radical reform.
From today, at 7pm every evening we are running some of the major stories that have gripped generations of readers. These include... Jack the Ripper, the Elephant Man, Nurse Edith Cavell's execution, mayor jailed for refusing to levy the LCC's rates on the poor, the General Strike closing London Docks, the Battle of Cable Street to block Mosley's Blackshirts, The Blitz starts on the London Docks, Bethnal Green air-raid shelter disaster, the Krays' downfall, Dudgeon's Wharf disaster, Isle of Dogs declaring its own 'Brexit', the 'Free George Davis' campaign, IRA bombing Canary Wharf, Aldgate bomb in the 7/7 London suicide attacks and, more recently, corrupt mayor banned from office.
RATEPAYERS IN THE EAST END’S ‘TOWER HAMLETS’ GET THEIR OWN INDEPENDENT RADIAL WEEKLY NEWSPAPER
1866: A four-page broadsheet titled Tower Hamlets Independent and East End Local Advertiser is established by a group of businessman whose first edition is out on the streets on a cold Saturday morning, November 17, a single broadsheet folded into four pages, the front-page covered in columns of small ads—a common practice of the day.
The Independent Advertiser is a reformist campaigning newspaper from the start, for the business class of ratepayers on the controversial issues of the times.
Our first editorial pledges: “In presenting to the parishioners our first number, it is intended to supply the want which has been long felt more especially in the Hamlet of Mile End Old Town, a local paper solely devoted to the interests of the ratepayers. Being the property of a company embracing a number of Reformers, will be a security for its honesty of purpose, its justice and impartiality, a useful and instructive journal.”
Our first radical scoop is a ratepayers’ rebellion at Limehouse Town Hall demanding an end to “public spending waste” by the municipal vestrymen.
The big environment campaign is saving the new Victoria Park from encroachment by the gas companies. A deputation “on behalf of a society lately formed for the preservation and extension of Victoria Park” lobbies Lord Manners in Parliament.
We report: “The deputation sought to obtain preventing further erection of buildings on the north side to place the inhabitants of the East-end on a par with those of the West-end. The old antagonists of Victoria Park, the gas companies, are moving in again. The society is determined to contest the gas companies, to remove property lying between the Hackney Marshes and the park. But Lord Manners did not think the House of Commons would furnish funds for a proposed creation of a new park.”
We also report on the tragic cholera epidemic when up to 16 people are notified to the Whitechapel District Board of Works to have died in a fortnight. Another eight are notified to the Mile End Board of Guardians.
A scheme is afoot for the establishment of a fever hospital. “The project is supported by the medical officers of the various district boards in the Tower Hamlets,” the Advertiser tells readers. “We believe that fever cases were excluded from the large and more important hospitals, including the London Hospital, and therefore the necessity for such an institution cannot be questioned.”
The paper covers events in the municipalities known collectively as ‘the Tower hamlets’, within three miles of the Tower of London, which include the municipalities of Whitechapel, St George’s-in-the-East, Limehouse, Bethnal Green, the affluent Mile End Old Town, Mile End New Town, and the parishes of Spitalfields, Shoreditch, Bromley and Poplar (with the Isle of Dogs).
The Whitechapel Board of Works agrees that the public water supply should be obtained from a higher point than at present and that it should be continuous and flowing. The board insists: “The East London Water Company should be made to intercept the sewage of half a million people which flowed into the River Lea.”
One “burning issue” in our first edition is street gaslights left on during the day at Shoreditch, reporting from the Board of Works: “These lights should be at the expense of the district and that there should be some superintendance over the burning of the gas—for it was wasteful. The matter should not be allowed to pass. The clerk was instructed to write to the Parish of Shoreditch.”
One headline in our first edition, Woman Killed by Rum Drinking, reports an inquest held at the Duke’s Head tavern in High Street, Whitechapel, into the demise of poor Mary Mallins, aged 45.
It says: “Her husband George Mallins, a hawker, said he and Mary went to a public-house in Brick-lane and drank rum and brandy. He got drunk and went home and found Mary lying drunk at the bottom of the flight of stairs. He left her on the floor the whole night and went to bed. In the morning, he found his wife a corpse.
“The coroner said his conduct was disgraceful – he had not a spark of humanity in him, or he would not have left his wife to die on the stairs.”
1885: The newspaper changes its name to East London Advertiser to broaden its appeal beyond ‘the Tower Hamlets’ with the expansion of the Victorian metropolis eastward from the City.
1889: The creation of the Country of London reaches Bow Bridge and the Essex county boundary on the River Lee, absorbing much of Middlesex on the north side of the Thames including the cities of London and Westminster, stretching from Isle of Dogs to Hammersmith, while on the south side taking over much of Surrey from Woolwich to Battersea and including Southwark and Lambeth.
1890: GH Booth, Parliamentary agent for Spencer Charrington, Mile End’s Conservative MP (serving 1885-1904) and local Charrington’s brewing tycoon, sells the Advertiser to Walter Alexander Locks who makes himself editor and whose family owns the paper for the next century.
Lock turns its coverage editorial to more social issues, running the paper from his offices in the Mile End Road by the Regent’s Canal, waging campaigns to improve life for the poor.
The paper prospers under Lock, who sets up his own steam-powered printing works at Ilford and launches his second newspaper, the Ilford Guardian (later titled Ilford Pictorial).
1921: Lock opens his third newspaper, the Dagenham Post, to serve the fast-developing suburban new town where many East Londoners are resettling.
He is sole proprietor and managing editor for 50 years, until his death in 1940. It falls to his daughter, RE Browning, to continue publishing.
1940: RE Browning becomes managing director of Ilford & East London Newspapers, the company formed by the family to carry on the business. She runs the group for the next 26 years, opening new headquarters and printworks at Whalebone Lane in Dagenham in 1963.
1965 onward: Mrs Browning also launches the company’s fourth newspaper, the Hornchurch Echo.
The group later merges into Capital Newspapers in the 1990s which includes the Hackney Gazette, Islington Gazette, Kilburn Times & Chronicle and the famous Hampstead & Highgate Express—or ‘Ham & High’ to its readership.
The group is later acquired by today’s owners, Archant, in 2004.
The Advertiser over the past 150 years has gradually “seen off” rivals such as the Bethnal Green Post & Guardian, Eastern Argus, East London Observer, East End News & London Shipping Chronicle, East London Express, Docklands Mirror, East Ender, Tower Hamlets Recorder, The Docklands and more recently East End Life.