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The Southport Visiter celebrates its 180th birthday

4 weeks ago

The Southport Visiter celebrates its 180th birthday

One of the UK’s oldest and most cherished local newspaper titles first rolled hot off the presses on Saturday 4th May 1844. 

‘The Southport Visiter and General Advertiser’ cost threepence.

The first ever edition was originally intended as a souvenir publication and had a circulation of 400, which took six hours to print. This 12in by 7in tabloid was created on one of the two hand-powered Columbian presses, inked with large hand-rollers; the employees took turns in ‘pulling’ the paper from the press.

The Visiter was founded by Robert Johnson, who was born in York in 1807, but came here in 1837, the first year of the Victorian era, to benefit from our seaside resort’s invigorating sea air.

His first printing premises were at a small disused slaughter-house at 115 Lord Street, where the Vincent Hotel (formerly the Canon Cinema) now stands.

In context – the Southport Visiter predates most newspapers across the country, including the Manchester Evening News which not founded until 1868, the Liverpool Echo in 1879, the Lancashire Evening Post in 1886, the Yorkshire Evening Post in 1890, the Daily Mail in 1896, and the Daily Mirror (Britain’s oldest surviving tabloid) in 1903.

The Southport Visiter has been a firm family favourite in the homes of generations of Sandgrounders ever since. 

Southport Visiter
First Edition of the Southport Visiter

The origin of the name has long been a question asked, especially since the UK also has the Morecambe Visitor newspaper. 

The Southport Visiter is older, founded at a time when ‘visiter’ was an accepted spelling. 

The name of the paper says it all. It was a mix of advertising aimed at the ‘Inhabitants and Visiters of Southport’, and included a long list of all the people staying in hotels and holiday accommodation – who wouldn’t want to spend threepence to see their name in print? 

Young Master Robert Munn of Hilton House, Prestwich, who was staying at the Mansion House, was one of those happy to broadcast the fact he was in Southport. Think of it as the Victorian equivalent of posting your holiday selfies on Instagram!

Most of the visitors were from the Manchester, Bolton and Wigan areas, with a few from Liverpool, Ormskirk and West Yorkshire. But L Ward Esq. and TT Taylor Esq. had come all the way from Cheltenham and Glasgow respectively to enjoy Southport’s ‘tranquil and bracing shores’.

Southport Visiter
Southport Visiter Team. May 2018

Having a regular newspaper in the town was something new and exciting in a seaside resort that was flourishing, as a place where people in the towns and cities inland came to escape the smoke and the fog and take in the healing benefits of the sands, the sights and the sea air. 

Other major events in 1844 included the sending of the first electric telegram by Samuel F. B. Morse; the last pair of great auks died on the Icelandic island of Eldey; the first ever international cricket match took place; and Swedish chemistry professor Gustaf Erik Pasch invented the match. 

Find more information about the Southport Visiter here.

Find all the latest Southport news here.

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