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Archive treasures revealed by editor's grandson

A newspaper which is 140 years old this year has gained a wealth of historical material to enrich its anniversary supplement.

Bombing during the Second World War destroyed many of the early archives of the Western Morning News at Plymouth.

Now Tony Spender, grandson of the newspaper’s founder and first editor Edward Spender, has revealed a treasure trove of archive material to the current editor, Barrie Williams.

Mr Williams said: “It was wonderful to meet Mr Spender and look through all the old newspapers and photographs.”

He added: “This material will prove invaluable in compiling our 140th anniversary supplement which we plan to publish in August.”

Among Mr Spender’s collection was a copy of the paper’s very first edition dated January 3, 1860. It had only four pages and cost one penny.

Like most old newspapers, the front page featured only advertisements – news did not appear on page one of the Western Morning News until 1949.

An editorial gave the paper’s aims: to produce a politically impartial newspaper.

“Bound to no party, we shall have no hesitation in criticising any…” it stated.

Edward Spender edited the Western Morning News for three years, after which he moved to London where he set up a news agency.

Tragedy struck in 1878 when he returned to Plymouth for a Whitsun break and took sons Reginald and Sydney to the beach. A freak wave swept the boys out to sea and Edward also drowned when he tried to rescue them.

A granite cross, erected by the Western Morning News, still stands on the cliffs at Treganhawke as a memorial to the lost father and sons.

It was Tony Spender’s father, Arthur Edmund, who carried on the family journalistic tradition. He was managing director at the Western Morning News and also edited the Shrewsbury Chronicle.

Tony chose the Navy as his career, but his youngest son is a journalist.

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