The Gazette Prints its Final Book

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Article by Chris Butterfield.

It’s been nearly 36 years since the Westmorland Gazette printed Wainwright’s: A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells series. In 1986 the Gazette’s parent company, Westminster Press, centralised the newspaper printing to another group office (Telegraph & Argus) in Bradford.

Titus Wilson & Son Ltd signed a four-year (1988 -1991) printing contract with the Gazette and took over their general printing department. The Wainwright books were at the height of their popularity, so this was disappointing news for many at the Gazette.

The Gazette’s managing director Ron Orr gave instructions for the Wainwright printing negatives to Titus Wilson. As they were still Gazette property, Andrew Nichol, the manager of general printing and book publishing, was a little concerned about handing them over. If anything happened to them whilst in Titus Wilson’s possession, it would take several months to produce new negatives from the original pages. In addition, some of the pages were missing as Wainwright would occasionally loan them out.

The original contract documents survived and were an important part of the Gazette’s late publishing history.

Titus Wilson’s original four-year printing contract and print records between 1988 – 1991.
Sample page from the contract.
Sample page from the contract.

Ledgers containing the Gazette’s printing history were also transferred to Titus Wilson. Recorded within these ledgers are details of all printing materials, including all the Wainwright publications.

Artwork Files and Film Register
One of the Westmorland Gazette’s ledgers contains their printing history.

Within a few months, Thomas Reeds of Sunderland bought Titus Wilson. They became the new owners of the original negatives. However, Titus Wilson still retained them. Andrew ordered a duplicate set of negatives produced from the original negatives as a backup. The job took 18-months at nearly £5,000, and the Gazette retained all duplicates.

Duplicate Negatives Required
Duplicate negatives order form.
Duplicate Negatives Job Cost Sheet
Cost sheet for the duplicate negatives.

Reeds closed Titus Wilson in 1990, and they auctioned off the printing equipment in Sunderland. David Rigg, the Managing Director of Dixon Print in Kendal, attended the auction and purchased some of the equipment. After the auction, he found piles of Wainwright printing negatives. For some reason, the auctioneer didn’t list them, so David immediately contacted Andrew at the Gazette:

“Andrew, I have found all the Wainwright printing negatives at the auction. Are they worth anything?”

“Those are the original negatives, grab them,” replied Andrew.

David approached the auctioneer. “What’s happening with these negatives.” he enquired. The auctioneer had a good look through everything and said, “These weren’t in the auction, so take them for free if you like.” David couldn’t believe his luck and returned them to Kendal the same day.

One of the original negatives that David Rigg acquired from the auction house.

With Titus Wilson gone, Andrew asked David if he would print their books, and he agreed. David then bought the Titus Wilson name from the receivers. This was great news, as the books would now remain in Kendal.

Andrew decided to retire five years early in 1992. This decision changed the course of the Wainwright books forever. If he’d stayed on at the Gazette, they would have continued publishing the books until 1997. When Andrew requested early retirement, no one else could take over his role, so he transferred the publishing to Michael Joseph of London. They were part of the Pearson organisation also owned Westminster Press, so this made sense.

The original negatives were safe with David Rigg, so Andrew handed the duplicates to Michael Joseph. The originals weren’t going to London, so everything worked out perfectly.

Michael Joseph succeeds the Westmorland Gazette as the new publisher.

Michael Joseph’s negatives were never seen again and were probably destroyed. The originals could have easily shared the same fate if Andrew had not produced the duplicate set.

It still surprises Andrew after all these years. “I never thought the original negatives would ever become available again, let alone for free. They were the next most important thing to the original pages. They were more important to us in some respects because you couldn’t print from the pages. The negatives were available to print from whenever we required them.”

All surviving Westmorland Wainwright printing materials are archived as part of Cumbria’s printing history.

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1 Comment

  • Peter Valli says:

    What an amazing story of a crazy run around, lost and found, fate and fortune and rightful rest for these precious negatives…
    You couldn’t make it up!
    Love these tales of ‘unknown’ AW’s history.
    Thank you Chris 🙏👏👍

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