THE HISTORY OF THE EVENING NEWS
The information presented below has been organised in the form of a timeline, detailing certain key events in the newspaper's history from 1881 to 1987. It is intended as a general overview of the newspaper which I hope will be of interest to those curious about the origins and history of the Evening News. The facts assembled here have been derived from various sources which include issues of the newspaper itself, Internet sites and several publications which I have listed at the bottom of this web page.
The Evening News was founded in 1881 by Coleridge Kennedy and Harry Marks. The first edition of the newspaper was published on July 26, 1881 and was priced at one halfpenny. It was four pages long with six columns to a page and was edited by Martin Fradd, who had previously edited the Torquay Evening News in Devon. Curiously, the very first issue of the Evening News made no announcement of the fact that it was the first edition, nor was there any proclamation of editorial policy. Unheralded, the paper simply came out.
The original daily circulation of the Evening News totalled a mere 10,000 copies. In the early years of its life the newspaper was distributed in London from traps drawn by ponies.
Martin Fradd, together with several of his associates (also from Devon), set up the original newspaper offices of the Evening News at 83-85 Farringdon Street, Ludgate Circus, London, E.C. The building that housed the offices of the newspaper was in fact situated in an alley just off Farringdon Street.
Soon after its inception, the Evening News, which had originally entertained somewhat liberal aspirations, became the voice of the Conservative Party when it was bought by the Conservative Newspaper Company Ltd. At this point Martin Fradd was replaced as editor by Frederick A. Hyndman whose own brief tenure came to an end when Charles Williams, a former war correspondent, took over as editor in 1882.
In 1882, the Evening News headquarters were relocated to a ramshackle building at 12 Whitefriars Street, London, E.C. The newspaper was to remain at this address for the next twenty years.
In 1883 Frank Harris (1856-1931) was appointed as the new editor. Harris held the position for four years during which time he became known for his sensationalising headlines. He left in 1887 to become editor of the Fortnightly Review. His successor was Dr. I. Rubie.
On November 22, 1888, the editors of the Evening News announced that the circulation of the newspaper had reached 219,000 copies.
In 1889 Rubie left the Evening News and was succeeded by W. R. Lawson who himself was replaced the same year by J. H. Copleston who held the post from 1889-1894.
On May 13, 1889, the Evening Post, a rival newspaper, lost out in the circulation battle and was absorbed by the Evening News. From this date onwards the new amalgamated paper carried the full title of "The Evening News and Post," and was now owned by the Union Newspaper Company Ltd.
From 1889 onwards the Evening News and Post proudly claimed to have the "largest sale of any evening paper in London."
By the summer of 1894, the newspaper, which was under the control of city financier Harry Marks, was struggling financially. On August 30, 1894, the nearly-bankrupt Evening News and Post was acquired for £25,000 by the brothers Alfred Harmsworth (1865-1922) and Harold Harmsworth (1868-1940), who were to become the first Lord Northcliffe and the first Lord Rothermere respectively. The Harmsworth brothers appointed Kennedy Jones (1865-1921), a brilliant young journalist from Glasgow, as the new editor of the Evening News and Post. The paper was to remain under the ownership of the Harmsworth family empire for its entire lifespan.
On September 17, 1894, the "and Post" was dropped from the title and the newspaper reverted back to its original name the Evening News. In the same month the paper announced that its average daily sale had increased to 110,000 copies.
The Evening News broke the world record for the highest individual daily sale of a newspaper on November 15, 1894 when 394,447 copies were sold.
By March 1896 the daily circulation of the Evening News had increased to over 250,000 copies. In the same year the successful editorship of Kennedy Jones came to an end when he was succeeded as editor by Walter J. Evans.
On August 26, 1901, the Evening News absorbed another of its rivals, the Evening Mail. From thereon the full title of the newspaper became "The Evening News and Mail."
The Evening News and Mail was the first newspaper to report the death of Queen Victoria on January 22, 1901. Throughout its history, the Evening News prided itself on being "first with the news." For many years this catchphrase reflected the overriding work ethic associated with being a reporter for the newspaper.
In 1902 the offices of the Evening News were moved from Whitefriars Street to nearby Carmelite House, which was built in 1898, in Carmelite Street, London, E.C.4. The headquarters of the Evening News remained at Carmelite House for several decades. It was said that upon entering Carmelite House, in order to gain ingress to the headquarters of the Evening News one had to ascend several floors of the building in a creaking wrought-iron lift. Many years later, in the years after the Second World War, the Evening News relocated to Northcliffe House, a short distance away on the corner of Whitefriars Street.
On March 14, 1905, the newspaper once again changed its name back to the Evening News, dropping the "and Mail" from the title as it appeared on the front cover. This same issue was in fact a special eight-page edition. On the following day (March 15) the newspaper expanded its regular size to six pages. The Evening News was the first evening newspaper to do this. In the same year the Harmsworth family founded Associated Newspapers Limited, of which the Evening News and the Daily Mail (founded in 1896) were a part.
The Evening News was a pioneering newspaper, not only in journalistic terms but also in its use of new technology. Journalistic novelties pioneered by the newspaper included the "Woman's World" and "Gossip of the Day" columns. The Evening News was also the first newspaper to install a telephone in its offices (at Carmelite House) and, in 1906, the Evening News initiated the use of motor vans for distribution. With a large fleet in operation, the bright yellow Evening News distribution vans were for a familiar site in London for many years.
On September 12, 1910, the Evening News permanently enlarged its size from six to eight pages.
On November 21, 1913, the Evening News celebrated its 10,000th edition in style with a bumper sixteen-page issue. In the same week, the proprietors of the newspaper organised a number of festivities across London to mark the occasion; these included a fireworks display at Alexandra Palace.
During the years of the First World War (1914-1918), the size of the Evening News fluctuated a great deal. Although there were a number of eight or ten page issues produced during the war, most editions of the newspaper were only four pages long. By 1917, acute paper shortages in Britain led to the curtailment of newspaper distribution and smaller sized papers in general.
In early 1918 enforced rationing was introduced in Britain, after a government policy of encouraging a code of voluntary rationing had failed to work. This situation ensured that the Evening News remained at its minimum size of four pages, and also resulted in the newspaper carrying less advertisements.
Shortly after the cease-fire agreement on November 11, 1918 which marked the end of the First World War, the Evening News returned to its former size of eight pages long. Over the next few years the newspaper gradually grew in size.
In July 1920 the average net daily sale of the Evening News was 825,825 copies.
In 1922, the editor Walter J. Evans, who had held the post for 26 years, was replaced by Charles Beattie (1875-1952), whose tenure ended in 1924 when Frank L. Fitzhugh took over the role.
In 1927 the headquarters of the Daily Mail newspaper were relocated to the recently constructed Northcliffe House on Tudor Street. From thereon the offices in the original Carmelite House were fully occupied by the staff of the Evening News. This extra space was necessary to accommodate the newspaper's rapid growth in both size and popularity during the mid-1920s. By 1928, the newspaper was sixteen pages long.
On January 25, 1930, the 15,000th edition of the Evening News was published. In the same month it was announced that the average daily sale of the newspaper was 691,320 copies.
In the 1930s the Evening News, under the editorship of Frank L. Fitzhugh, was by far and away the most popular London newspaper. Its circulation was almost as large as those of The Star and the Evening Standard combined. The average daily net sale throughout 1938 was 812, 405 copies.
Shortly after the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, the British government introduced paper rationing. As a result of this issues of the Evening News during the war years were only four pages long. After the war ended in 1945, continuing paper shortages meant that the Evening News stayed the same size for the remainder of the decade.
Fitzhugh's long term as editor ended when he passed away in 1944. At this point Guy Schofield (1902-1990) took over the post.
Despite paper restrictions, the Evening News announced on October 22, 1946 that the average daily net sale of the newspaper had reached 1,598,181 copies.
The newspaper achieved its highest-ever circulation under the editorship of Schofield in the late 1940s, when it regularly sold 1,700,000 copies.
In 1950 Schofield was succeeded as editor by John N. Marshall, under whose editorship the biggest-ever individual sale for an issue of the Evening News was reached. This occurred at the time of the death of King George VI in February 1952, when three million copies were sold in a single day.
In the early 1950s, when paper rationing finally came to an end, the Evening News gradually began to grow in size. The newspaper first expanded from four to eight pages. By the late 1950s the paper had grown in size to sixteen pages long. From thereon, the Evening News continued to increase in page length.
Reginald Willis, who had previously worked as assistant editor on the Evening News, took over as editor in 1955.
The Star, a long-running competitor of the Evening News, had its offices in Bouverie Street, just around the corner from the Evening News headquarters. Although The Star was founded in 1888, from 1930 it was a companion newspaper to the News Chronicle, a national daily that was considered the most liberal of all the Fleet Street newspapers. Both papers folded when they were absorbed by Associated Newspapers in 1960. The News Chronicle merged with the Daily Mail and The Star was absorbed by the Evening News. On October 18, 1960, the official title of the newspaper became "The Evening News Incorporated with The Star."
In 1965 K. Stamp was appointed as the new editor. His replacement in 1967 was Don R. Boddie.
During the 1960s the Evening News steadily increased in size, with the paper regularly producing issues that were between twenty and thirty pages long.
On September 16, 1968, the paper reverted back to its former name, being once again known simply as the Evening News. At this point the editors also replaced the distinctive gothic lettering of the newspaper's title as it appeared on the front page, with a more modern typeface.
From the 1950s onwards, the three surviving evening newspapers in London were suffering from dwindling circulations, and competition between them was fierce. After The Star folded in 1960, sales of the two remaining newspapers, the Evening News and the Evening Standard, continued to fall. There were a number of reasons for this. The Evening News journalist Felix Barker, writing in 1980, reflected that the constant reader had gradually become an inconstant reader. In the paper's heyday the typical scenario was that the husband would buy an evening newspaper on his way home from work, handing the paper to his wife when he got home. However, with the rising popularity of television in the 1950s, the necessity for an evening newspaper was lessened. People began to turn more and more to television for their news and entertainment. Another explanation for the shrinking evening newspaper market was that from the 1940s onwards the population of inner London did in fact decline dramatically.
In the 1970s sales of the Evening News continued to fall. In addition to this, the newspaper was plagued by several industrial disputes. On a number of occasions throughout the 1970s the Evening News was not printed due to strike action by the printers and maintenance worker's unions.
The Evening News converted from broadsheet to tabloid size on September 16, 1974. Although this represented a major break with tradition, it was deemed a necessary step in order for the Evening News to continue to compete successfully with the Evening Standard. At this point Don R. Boddie was replaced as editor by Louis Kirby (1928- ), who held the position for the next six years.
Following the paper's conversion to tabloid size, the ensuing two years saw the general editorial content of the Evening News become more populist in nature. In this period the paper seemed to want to appeal to the widest possible audience. The overall effect of this would probably be described today as "dumbing down." However in 1977 editor Louis Kirby decided that the paper should once again appeal to the more intelligent reader and revert back to its more traditional standards. The issues that followed in the late 1970s were indeed a return to form, with the paper continuing to outsell the Evening Standard.
The last issue of the Evening News to appear on a Saturday was on April 28, 1979. This was another important break with the past. From its very beginning in 1881, the Evening News had always been published six-days-a-week, but declining sales forced the proprietors to bring an end to the Saturday edition of the newspaper.
The very last editor of the Evening News was John Leese (1930-1991), who served in the position for a brief period at the very end of the newspaper's run.
During the last few months of its existence in 1980, the Evening News once again became an innovator in the field of newspaper journalism by publishing an impressive weekly colour supplement. This was issued free to readers and contained an eclectic mixture of features including showbusiness news, gossip and profiles of famous people.
Even as late as 1980, the Evening News still maintained the largest daily sale of any evening newspaper in London. The circulation of the newspaper at this point stood at 442,000 copies.
With the Evening News struggling financially and sales continuing to fall, Associated Newspapers Ltd announced in early October 1980 that the newspaper would be closing at the end of the month. A special commemorative edition of the newspaper was printed on October 30, 1980. The final issue of the Evening News was printed on October 31, 1980, after which the newspaper merged with its long-time rival the Evening Standard. For the first eight months of its existence the newly amalgamated paper was called the New Standard.
On February 25, 1987, the Evening News, after an absence of seven years, reappeared in tabloid form on the streets of London as a sister newspaper to the Evening Standard (now owned by Associated Newspapers Ltd). The Evening News was brought back by the chairman of Associated Newspapers Vere Harmsworth (Viscount Rothermere), to compete against Robert Maxwell's ill-fated London Daily News, which was launched in the same month. The overall layout and appearance of the revived Evening News was somewhat similar to how the Evening News looked in the final few years of its previous life, up to when it closed in 1980.
The editor of the reborn Evening News was Lori Miles, who was one of the first woman editors on Fleet Street. During this period the Evening News had a daily circulation of only 30,000 copies, a far cry from its heyday. However, it successfully achieved its purpose of acting as a "spoiler" to counteract the London Daily News, which lasted a mere five months before folding in July 1987. Having done its job, the Evening News continued for a few months longer before it folded abruptly on October 30, 1987, at which point it was once again integrated into the Evening Standard.
To this day, the full title of the Evening Standard as displayed on its front page is "The Evening Standard Incorporating The Evening News."
SOURCES AND FURTHER READING
Late Extra: A Miscellany, ed. John Millard, Associated Newspapers
It should be stressed that the information gathered above is not intended as a comprehensive history of the Evening News. Because of gaps in my knowledge, I elected to display the facts on this webpage in the form of a simple timeline, as opposed to posting a detailed and structured essay. For example, I know very little about the personalities of the proprietors, editors and journalists who were involved with the newspaper down the years. In most instances I have noted the editors but not the managing editors; nor have I given much attention to the overall environment of the newspaper industry and Fleet Street in general. Furthermore, there are no doubt many important events in the newspaper's history not mentioned here, not least the various changes in editorial bias and the way in which the paper adapted over the years in reporting the news. Certainly the lifespan of the Evening News covered a long period of great changes. The paper lived through two world wars, massive social upheavals, the rise of the Soviet Union, the fall of the British Empire, the advent of film and television, the first man in space and countless scientific breakthroughs including the foundation of genetic research and the birth of microchip technology. The Evening News, in its own fashion, reported on all these events throughout its 99-year history. To attempt to encapsulate all this in terms of the history of the newspaper itself is beyond my ability and indeed outside the scope of this website.
To reiterate, these omissions and general shortcomings are down to my own lack of knowledge and the fact that this website project is, after all, predominantly concerned with the short fiction published in the Evening News. Although my knowledge of the history of the Evening News is sketchy at best, I nevertheless picked up a fair amount of information while trawling through thousands of issues of the paper at the British Library. It became clear that having accumulated so much incidental data, it would have been a shame not to share this knowledge with others, via the website. Naturally if anyone reading this has additional information to share then I would be interested in hearing from them. For the time being though, it is hoped that the information that appears on this website, other than the short story index itself, is useful to those wishing to know more about the Evening News. At the time of writing, over 25 years have elapsed since the paper closed, and there is little information on the web about the Evening News for scholars to refer to. I hope this website fills the gap a little and helps prevent the newspaper from becoming just a dusty memory.
Copyright © Richard Simms 2006