The Gazette Prints its Final Book

Article by Chris Butterfield

Andrew Nichol, who initially joined the Westmorland Gazette in 1969 as an overseer in the newspaper division, quickly demonstrated his capability to enhance work efficiency. Recognising his talent, Barnard Fisher, the Managing Director in 1972, entrusted him with managing both general printing and newspaper production.

Andrew Nichol's Start Date
Andrew Nichol’s 1969 interview for the role of Overseer at the Westmorland Gazette was successful
Andrew Nichol's Achievement
Andrew’s achievements were recognised early on, and promotion soon followed

Andrew vividly remembers the many issues with their outdated Goss printing press in the early 1970s, particularly the failing main drive. Concurrently, their Trowbridge office was experiencing its own set of problems, leading the Managing Director to shut it down. Fortuitously, the Trowbridge office housed an ancient printing press. Sensing an opportunity, Andrew reached out to a Westminster Press electrician from Bradford to ascertain if the drive from the press in Trowbridge (originally part of the Daily Express’s set-up in Manchester and installed at the Gazette in the 1930s) would be compatible with their Goss press.

Upon inspection, the electrician confirmed its suitability, much to Andrew’s relief. He swiftly arranged for the drive’s relocation and installation in the Gazette’s press, boosting morale as it meant the newspaper could continue its local printing operations. The Gazette celebrated this significant repair on 25 November 1972, marking a crucial moment in the publication’s history.

Westmorland Gazette Old Goss Printing Press
The staff at the Westmorland Gazette celebrate the press back up and running
Westmorland Gazette 1972
A typical day for Andrew Nichol during the early 1970s at the Westmorland Gazette

In 1986, the Gazette faced a significant operational shift when Westminster Press, its parent company, decided to centralise newspaper printing at the Telegraph & Argus office in Bradford. Andrew, who had risen to the position of General Printing and Book Publishing Manager, was displeased with this decision. However, he found himself without recourse to alter the plan. Consequently, over three weeks, the press was dismantled and eventually scrapped, marking the end of an era for the Gazette’s in-house printing operations.

Westmorland Gazette Newspaper Staff
With the newspaper printing moving the T&A, Andrew Nichol had to let some of his staff go.

Despite the setback of losing their newspaper printing operations, the book publishing department at the Gazette was experiencing a busy period. However, this, too, was about to change. In late 1987, Frank Barlow, the chief executive of Pearson and former Managing Director of Westminster Press, transferred the Gazette’s book printing operations to Titus Wilson & Son Ltd. This move was opportune for Titus Wilson, who were searching for new premises, but it spelled trouble for the Gazette.

Around the same time, Frank Barlow began divesting Pearson of its non-core businesses, including Westminster Press. Consequently, Titus Wilson & Son Ltd. entered into a four-year contract with the Gazette from 1988 to 1991 to take over their general printing department. This transition occurred when the Wainwright books peaked in popularity, making it particularly hard for the Gazette’s staff. Andrew, in particular, found this development deeply disheartening.

Titus Wilson Printing Contract 1988-1991
Titus Wilson’s original four-year printing contract and print records between 1988 – 1991

When Ron Orr, the Managing Director of the Gazette, ordered the transfer of the Wainwright printing negatives to Titus Wilson, Andrew was apprehensive. Despite these negatives still being the property of the Gazette, he was concerned about their safety. Andrew knew that any damage or loss while in Titus Wilson’s custody could result in a several-month delay in producing new negatives. Compounding his worries was the fact that some original pages were missing, as Wainwright had a habit of loaning them out occasionally.

The original printing contract between the Gazette and Titus Wilson, a crucial piece of the Gazette’s late publishing history, has been preserved. It now forms a significant part of the Alfred Wainwright Books & Memorabilia archive.

Ledgers detailing the Gazette’s printing history were also transferred to Titus Wilson. These ledgers are comprehensive, encompassing details of all printing materials, including the complete range of Wainwright publications. This transfer marked a significant shift in preserving and continuing the Gazette’s printing legacy.

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

A few months after the initial transition, Thomas Reed of Sunderland acquired Titus Wilson, thereby becoming the new owner of the original Wainwright printing negatives. Despite the change in ownership, Titus Wilson maintained possession of these negatives. Concerned about the security and preservation of these valuable assets, Andrew took proactive measures by commissioning a duplicate set of negatives as a precautionary backup.

This duplication process was neither quick nor cheap. It spanned 18 months and cost nearly £5,000. However, Andrew’s foresight ensured that the Gazette retained complete control over all the duplicate negatives, securing a vital part of their publishing resources and heritage.

Duplicate Negatives Required
The order form for the duplicate negatives

In a turn of unfortunate events, Thomas Reed went into receivership, leading to the closure of Titus Wilson in 1990. Subsequently, the printing equipment, including assets from Titus Wilson, was put up for auction in Sunderland. David Rigg, the Managing Director of Dixon Printing Co Ltd in Kendal, attended this auction and purchased some equipment.

After the auction, David stumbled upon a significant discovery: piles of Wainwright printing negatives had been overlooked and were not listed by the auctioneer. Recognising their importance and the oversight, David promptly contacted Andrew at the Gazette to inform him about this unexpected find.

“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 looked carefully through everything and said, “These weren’t listed in the auction, so take them if you want.” 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

Following the closure of Titus Wilson, Andrew seized the opportunity to ensure continuity in their book printing. He approached David Rigg with a proposal for Dixon Printing Co Ltd in Kendal to take over their book printing needs. David agreed to this arrangement, much to Andrew’s relief, as it meant that the book printing could remain local in Kendal.

In a strategic move to strengthen his printing capabilities, David also acquired the Titus Wilson brand name from the receivers. Around the same time, he invested in enhancing the quality of their printing services by purchasing a four-colour Heidelberg Speedmaster. This high-end printing equipment was specifically intended for producing the Wainwright dust jackets, indicating a commitment to maintaining the high standards of production that the Gazette’s publications had been known for.

Titus Wilson 1990 1
The front section of an Heidelberg Speedmaster being delivered to Dixon Printing, Kendal
Titus Wilson 1990 4
Steady as she goes!
Titus Wilson 1990 7
A second Heidelberg printed the guidebooks for the Westmorland Gazette

In a pivotal moment for the Gazette and the future of the Wainwright books, Andrew announced in November 1990 that he would retire early at 60, effective May 1992. This decision significantly altered the trajectory of the Wainwright publications. Had Andrew not chosen early retirement, the Gazette would likely have continued publishing these books until at least 1997. However, with his departure, no suitable successor took over his responsibilities.

Recognising this gap, Andrew strategically decided to transfer the publishing rights of the Wainwright books to Michael Joseph in London. This company was also a part of the Pearson organisation, which owned Westminster Press.

Notably, the original negatives were secure with David Rigg, providing a sense of continuity. Andrew handed over the duplicate negatives to Michael Joseph as a measure of prudence. Since the original negatives were not relocating to London, this arrangement ensured that the integrity and the legacy of the Wainwright publications were preserved in the best possible manner.

In 1992, Michael Joseph succeeded the Westmorland Gazette as the new publisher

Michael Joseph’s negatives were never seen again and were likely destroyed. This loss highlighted the foresight of Andrew’s decision to create a duplicate set of negatives, which was crucial in safeguarding the integrity and preservation of the original Wainwright printing materials.

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.”


It’s been nearly four decades since the Gazette printed Wainwright’s Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells series. All surviving Gazette Wainwright printing materials are archived as part of Cumbria’s printing history.

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