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This week 60 years ago: Hackney Gazette moves into new Kingsland Road office with printing press that ‘purrs like Niagara Falls’

PUBLISHED: 20:41 11 October 2018 | UPDATED: 20:41 11 October 2018

The old Gazette office in Kingsland Road. Picture: Emma Bartholomew

The old Gazette office in Kingsland Road. Picture: Emma Bartholomew

Emma Bartholomew

It’s 60 years since the Gazette moved its staff – and its printing presses – into a newly built premises in Kingsland Road. Today, it’s the HQ for Christian group Congress Global Breakthrough Network. From what is now the paper’s Newington Green office, Emma Bartholomew looks back

Andrew Holligan's picture of the Gazette offices in the 80s, which he took using a camera from the 50s - the decade the building was builtAndrew Holligan's picture of the Gazette offices in the 80s, which he took using a camera from the 50s - the decade the building was built

“Passers by would be heard to exclaim: ‘My! That is coming along nicely’,” reported the Gazette in a special four-page supplement celebrating its new premises in Kingsland Road.

The steel and concrete 2,000 sq ft building at the corner of Dunston Street – which still stands to this day – had been under construction by James Watt Ltd for two years.

But the idea was originally conceived 20 years earlier.

“The new home of the new-look Gazette is the result of many years of serious careful planning, quietly maturing then interrupted by the war, delayed further by immediate post-war difficulties in obtaining a building licence and finally with many obstacles overcome and ministerial permission secured, coming to fruition,” the paper reported.

Hoe and Crabtree congratulates the Gazette on the new office, and the printing press they built.Hoe and Crabtree congratulates the Gazette on the new office, and the printing press they built.

One such “obstacle” appears to have been a “large family” who had been living in two houses occupying the earmarked site, that the Gazette’s owners, the Potter family, bought in 1952. Ministerial consent was required to demolish their home, before finding them alternative accommodation.

The new building, on what was then the Hackney and Shoreditch border, was apparently described by experts at the time as a “commanding example of modern factory architecture on a commanding site”.

Since the Gazette had launched 95 years earlier in 1864, innovations that helped speed up production had included replacing the hand-setting of type with Linotype machines, the use of half-tonne copper or zinc blocks taken from photographs rather than old-fashioned wood blocks made from drawings, and substituting old flat-bed machines with fast rotary print machines with rolling cylinders to print the paper.

This had helped grow the paper’s circulation from 3,000 weekly to more than 100,000.

Photos of the site of the Gazette's former office - the first in May 1956 as the site was being cleared for the big job ahead, and right - the skeleton steel girder frame for the new buildingPhotos of the site of the Gazette's former office - the first in May 1956 as the site was being cleared for the big job ahead, and right - the skeleton steel girder frame for the new building

But the edition on Tuesday, October 7, 1958, was the first to be printed on a special new 15ft rotary printing press.

“Built by the famous firm of Hoe and Crabtree, it is the first of its type to come into use in the greater London area, and capable of printing editions of papers up to 16 full-sized pages and 32 pages of tabloid use at a rate of 40,000 copies per hour,” the Gazette informed readers.

“Everyone who has visited any newspapers will realise just how much of a minor revolution it is to have a press that purrs instead of roaring like the Niagara Falls.”

The previous rotary press had been limited to issues of eight full-sized pages, meaning the paper had doubled in size. And so in the Gazette’s 95th year as it launched “an important new chapter”, management made the decision to go to press twice a week on Tuesday and Friday, rather than three times on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The decision was taken to “meet the needs of readers and advertisers more completely”.

An ad from oil supplier congratulating the Gazette on its new premisesAn ad from oil supplier congratulating the Gazette on its new premises

“The Gazette confidently believes that this new policy will bring it increased success,” we said, “because of the expanded facilities it offers.”

At the time, we explained, “disappointed” advertisers were being turned away because there weren’t enough pages for them all.

The supplement was indeed filled up with plenty of ads, from all the companies that had helped with the project.

“Like the Gazette, extinguish all doubt – install L&G fire protection. Fire extinguishers, equipment, maintenance and services. Ask for your representative to call and advise you,” read one of them.

The old Gazette office in Kingsland Road. Picture: Emma BartholomewThe old Gazette office in Kingsland Road. Picture: Emma Bartholomew

“To print this edition, over 40 miles of paper were required. Like the paper that goes into every Hackney Gazette, it was made by Reeds and supplied by William Guppy and Sons.” (These days, all our paper is from recycled sources and the Gazette is printed in Norwich by our parent company Archant.)

Another stated: “I’ve had a minor operation – but I won’t feel the full benefit of it until next winter. I’ve had my heating system converted to oil burning – so clean, and it needs little or no attention. By the way, I hear that the Hackney Gazette are also heating their new premises with Fuel Oil supplied by Shell-Med and BP Ltd.”

The Gazette had moved from a spot in Dalston, dubbed “Gazette corner”.

Since that move, the paper has gone through many more. When this reporter joined 10 years ago it was in Bethnal Green Road, and has since moved to Ilford, Swiss Cottage, back to Ilford, then Barking, and back to Swiss Cottage. But since July, we have been in Green Lanes – back on the Hackney border.

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