The Doncaster Free Press – 75 years old this month – began as a weekly guide to entertainment.
It was the brainchild of “Dickie” Crowther, a printer with a passion for horse-racing. He owned several horses, including one called Profit From Print.
He had been in business for five years from when he moved from Market Road to 10 Sunny Bar, Doncaster, in 1924. The following year, the first edition of the paper was published as the Doncaster Free Press and Courier of Coming Events.
The weekly broadsheet was delivered door-to-door – initially for a halfpenny per copy – a practice that continued for 40 years.
Mechanical typesetting was introduced in place of the tedious method of hand-setting letter by letter when Crowther bought premises in Hallgate. The printing works later moved to Chequer Road, where a rotary printing machine was used to speed up production.
Crowther died, aged 67, in 1955 and his nephew, William Brackenbury, became general manager. Four years later, when the paper was made a limited company, Brackenbury became managing director.
Leonard Peet was the first editor, until 1963. The appointment of the second, Maurice Coupe, coincided with the paper’s first cover price rise in 20 years, from 1d to 2d. Coupe was followed in 1987 by Richard Tear, in 1988 by Martin Edmunds and in 1994 by the present editor, Merrill Diplock.
New printing works built in Greyfriars Road began production in February, 1966.
The paper went tabloid in 1971 and was bought by American company St Regis International in 1978, by which time the staff had grown to 50.
The Greyfriars Road print works were sold a year later and production switched to modern premises in Mexborough, where web-offset was introduced.
Reed International bought the paper in 1982 and in 1996 it was sold to Johnston Press.
Today, the Free Press is printed in Wakefield but its headquarters have remained in Sunny Bar, expanding to take in the length of the road.
An editorial in the anniversary issue declared: “In the future, the paper may change again – the Internet and the world of computers could be the future for all newspapers, but the name of the Free Press will continue for another 75 years at least.”
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