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Decades of News

The Wells Journal and its sister papers are celebrating being 150 years old. This article, which first appeared in the celebration special edition, looks at the paper’s early days.

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When the Wells Journal was founded in 1851, Samuel Backhouse was the Victorian entrepreneur who had the foresight to give the city’s its first local newspaper.

He ran the enterprise for almost 20 years before disposing of the business to George Bishop. Mr Bishop died suddenly in his early 30s and James Motes Atkins took over. He was a much respected proprietor and also editor for more than 40 years.

The Journal offices were at that time situated in the Town Hall Buildings, but in 1873 a move was made to premises in High Street which were previously occupied by a Mr Lovegrove next door to where the Post Office then stood. Reporting staff included Jonathon Slater, Reginald Russell, Sid Palmer and Tom Dickenson.

Mr Dickenson remained with the paper and worked with Dowman Woodhams who became owner when Mr Atkins died in 1912.

Another member of the staff who served with both Mr Atkins and Mr Woodhams was Mr C H Barnes, who served an apprenticeship with the company as a compositor. When a Linotype machine was first installed in 1910 he took charge of this new invention – the type had previously been set by hand.

Mr Woodhams continued as owner until March 1920 when he sold the business to Mr T R Hearn. During the following year, the business was taken over by Mr A J Clare, and shortly afterwards a limited company was formed under the name of Clare, Son and Co.

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