‘A leading newspaper … must present to its readers a daily conspectus of the news of the world, and it must present it in its most attractive form. … It is the practice of The Daily Telegraph to serve up honest, unadulterated news. … Though prompt, if occasion requires, to criticise with candour, The Daily Telegraph is entirely free from all social or religious bias. It expresses its political opinions vigorously but fairly, and is ready to weigh and make allowance for the best arguments of the other side. It dislikes, as it distrusts, extremes. It is loyal to King and Country, to Constitutional Monarchy and Democracy, and it loves liberty as it loathes licence.’[1]

J.B. Firth, a columnist on the paper from 1897 to 1943, summed up The Daily Telegraph thus in 1937, to introduce loyal Morning Post readers who had seen their newspaper taken over and swallowed up by this 83-years’-younger upstart, but it is as good a statement of The Daily Telegraph’s overarching policy over the years as has been in the paper since its launch on 29 June, 1855. It may not have quite have lived up to these aims throughout this period, but from unprepossessing beginnings it established itself as Britain’s best-selling quality newspaper and has continued to hold on to that crown for many years despite numerous vicissitudes, whilst proving itself, despite its somewhat fusty reputation, as quite an innovative title.

Compiling a history of The Daily Telegraph has never been an easy task, as quite surprisingly for a newspaper of its image and reputation it has not kept too much material from its own history. As the 4th Lord Burnham, a general manager whose great-grandfather, grandfather and uncle ran the paper for 71 years, observed when writing a history of the paper for its centenary: ‘The Daily Telegraph may have broken records, certainly it kept none’, which hardly helped his cause, and little has changed 60 years on. Nevertheless, enough does survive to enable a story of the paper to be told.


Early Days

It all began with a man with a grudge. Colonel Arthur Burroughes Sleigh was a Canadian-born army officer and writer who for reasons lost to the mists of time pursued a vendetta against the Duke of Cambridge, cousin of Queen Victoria and destined to be the army’s Commander-in-Chief. The Daily Telegraph and Courier, as it was originally called, was launched as a vehicle for this vendetta, not that Sleigh advertised this fact, the paper proclaiming in its debut issue that it was extending to ‘this country the benefit of a cheap and good Daily Press’, and, moreover, a press which was ‘the safeguard of the Throne, the improver of morality, and the guardian of the subject’.[2] The Crimean War would unsurprisingly dominate the initial coverage of the paper, and in its second day of existence news came through of the death of the Army’s commander in the Crimea, Lord Raglan, leading to the publication of a special afternoon edition, setting a trend for major events that would continue over the years.

Why the name The Daily Telegraph and Courier? Well, as the first issue spelled out, news came into the paper’s offices by means of the recently-invented electric telegraph, and came out via courier to find its way into the nation’s living rooms.

Taking advantage of the repeal of Newspaper Stamp Duty that came into effect on 1 July, 1855, Sleigh priced his paper at 2d, cheaper than any of the other London morning newspapers. However, the state of Sleigh’s finances and a lack of revenue meant that he had problems paying the printing bills, and needed help. Enter printer Joseph Moses Levy, manager and printer of The Sunday Times, who provided the necessary capital to keep the newspaper afloat six weeks after it had been founded. Legend would have it that at this point Sleigh departed the scene and Levy took control, and it was not until The Daily Telegraph vacated its Fleet Street offices in 1987 that documents were discovered which disproved this theory. Sleigh’s involvement continued until February 1857 with Levy becoming more influential, first as Business Manager and then in a 50/50 partnership, until a payment of £2000 bought Sleigh out and left Levy in sole control. By then he had lost a court case over the purchase of The Sunday Times and it would seem decided to concentrate on The Daily Telegraph, but it was not the last time the two papers would be entwined in the shape of common management.

Soon after Levy’s first involvement came the dramatic decision to drop the cover price, although it is not known who actually decided to make this radical step. On 17 September, 1855, The Daily Telegraph became the country’s first penny newspaper. It proved a canny move, making the paper affordable and meeting the need of a public whose literacy was steadily increasing, and with it a curiosity about the world at large. The paper thus reconfigured itself as the paper for an aspirant and growing middle class, expanding itself from just news to cover literature, drama, music, sport, and the latest advances in science, something which distinguished it from most of its loftier peers.  It also established offices abroad to bring back news from foreign parts, starting quite early with Paris, and then Toronto, leaving it well-placed to respond when the introduction of the telegraph system around the world enabled speedy transmission of articles. Such wide-ranging foci even led to the sponsoring of expeditions in the 1870s. First came British Museum curator George Smith’s expedition to find cuneiform tablets in the ruins of Ninevah, and then, in co-operation with The New York Herald, of Henry Morton Stanley’s exploration of the Congo. A number of subsequent expeditions, such as attempts to fly an airship across the Atlantic or climbing Mount Everest would follow over the next six decades. 

Circulation steadily grew as the paper found its voice, from the first official figure of 27,000 in January 1856, to 141,662 in December 1861. An issue containing a special supplement for the arrival of Princess Alexandra of Denmark in England prior to her marriage to the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) in March 1863 sold a then world-record figure of 205,884 copies. By 1865 it was confident enough to advertise the fact that it had the largest circulation of any newspaper in the world, and the fact that nobody chose to gainsay this claim was enough to justify what might have been hyperbole. However, by the time another decade had passed there was little doubt of its claim, with an average circulation of 242,215 by 1877.


The Later Victorian Era

In its early days the paper was on the centre-left of the political spectrum, confident enough to attack British institutions if it felt the necessity (although given Colonel Sleigh’s aims in founding the paper perhaps this should not be too surprising) and decidedly behind the Liberal Party, even coining the term ‘the People’s William’ for Liberal titan William Gladstone. However, the 1870s saw its opinions diverge from those of Gladstone, and a growing admiration for his arch-rival Benjamin Disraeli saw the paper ‘cross the floor’ into the arms of the Conservatives. It has been decidedly on the ‘right’ ever since, even refusing to use the terms ‘Liberal’ and ‘Labour’ for many years when referring to those political parties, preferring ‘Radical’ and ‘Socialist’ instead.

Under Levy The Daily Telegraph developed its editorial structure, with the newspaper’s proprietor as its Editor-in-Chief, and an Editor working under him nominally responsible for the paper’s content. The first man to hold this post, Alfred Bate Richards, lasted just a few months, but the lengthy tenures of his successors Thornton Leigh Hunt (1856–1873) and Edwin Arnold (1873–1900) helped give the paper an editorial stability. Hunt was the son of a Romantic poet and essayist with a long career in radical journalism, while Arnold was an Oxford graduate, poet and former school principal in India. Indeed, numerous of the newspaper’s editorial staff had some claim to academic or literary pretension, another facet which enabled The Daily Telegraph to adopt a distinctive tone. Other notables in the first 50 years were drama critic Clement Scott, who decided to broaden play reviews from mere reports to something livelier and more picturesque, and war correspondent Bennet Burleigh, one of the greatest of his breed. The most significant figure, though, was the bombastic, larger-than-life George Augustus Sala, a polymath who could turn his hand to just about any subject. In one famous incident, he ignored the request for him to produce an article about fish prices at Billingsgate, preferring instead to travel to St Petersburg to report on the situation there in the wake of the assassination of Tsar Alexander II!

Yet despite the employment of such colourful characters, the newspaper remained true to its readers, realising that the public particularly liked crime and scandal. There was plenty of both in its pages during the Victorian era. Indeed, there was an abundance of this type of content at times – take the case of Percy Lefroy Mapleton in 1881, who killed a man on the London to Brighton train. This case is notable in The Daily Telegraph’s history for its publication of a drawing of Lefroy when he was an on-the-run suspect, the first image to be published in the newspaper. If you took just the articles about the case in the newspaper and put them together you’d get a book the size of a lengthy novel.

But neither was The Daily Telegraph afraid to dip into more public-interest campaigns either. Hence in 1882 it ran an ultimately unsuccessful campaign to stop the sale of London Zoo’s popular elephant Jumbo to Phineas T. Barnham’s circus. It also frequently generated debates in its columns – the ‘Is Marriage a Failure?’ debate in 1888 proving particularly notable. It was also keen to show a charitable side to itself and its readers, launching an appeal fund in 1862 to help the Lancashire cotton workers starved by the American Civil War. In so doing, the newspaper inaugurated a tradition which survives to this day (albeit in the form now of an annual Christmas appeal), a tradition which has proved remarkably wide-ranging. W.G. Grace’s 100th century, an RNLI boathouse in Eastbourne in memory of a murdered actor, a statue in honour of World War I nurse Edith Cavell, and the preservation of Sulgrave Manor, ancestral home of George Washington, being just four cases in point. Add in the likes of hosting 30,000 children in Hyde Park to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee and you have a newspaper which could use its wide readership as a force for good.


Fall and Rise Again as New Owners Take Over

The Daily Telegraph had gone from strength to strength over its first five decades, but by the turn of the twentieth century new rivals had been launched, such as The Daily Mail in 1896 and The Daily Express in 1900, both of which were aimed squarely at The Daily Telegraph’s middle-class readership. The paper was resting on its laurels, and was either unable or unwilling to square up to the challenges posed by its new competitors. Its management was ageing; Edward Levy-Lawson, who succeeded his uncle as Editor-in-Chief on the latter’s death in 1888, had been ennobled as Lord Burnham, but was more interested in his country estate as he entered his eighth decade in 1903. He passed effective control over to his son Harry Lawson the following year. Le Sage, who succeeded Arnold in 1900, was more interested in notching up six decades at the paper (which he would achieve in 1923) than moving the paper on.

There had, nonetheless, still been innovations during this period. A Sunday Daily Telegraph had been launched in 1899, which had ultimately felt the force of a societal wrath of a nation unprepared for a surfeit of newspapers on the Sabbath. It was forced to cease publication after just seven weeks (as had a counterpart from The Daily Mail), although it left a legacy in the shape of a weekly women’s page, which after its demise was transferred to the Saturday issue. In 1925, The Daily Telegraph became the first national daily British newspaper to publish a crossword puzzle.

Significantly, the newspaper could still lead the news agenda. Dr E.J. Dillon’s reporting on the Armenian atrocities in 1895 caused a sensation and a diplomatic stir, while a provocative interview with Kaiser Wilhelm II in October 1908 (‘You English are mad, mad mad as March hares’) did nothing for Anglo-German relations in the run-up to the First World War.[3] A controversial letter in November 1917 from former Foreign Secretary the Marquess of Lansdowne calling for peace negotiations with the Central Powers was another case in point.[4] The Telegraph was also able to call upon literary luminaries such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling to provide articles, but fewer and fewer people were reading a newspaper whose large size was beginning to be out of step with contemporary fashions; by 1927 readership had dwindled to a mere 84,000.

It had become clear to Harry Lawson, who succeeded his father as Lord Burnham in 1916, that The Daily Telegraph needed to modernise. Despite there having been an investment in new presses in the early 1920s, this modernisation process would require new, more flexible presses, for which his family was no longer able to provide the capital. He therefore took the drastic step of offering the newspaper to an up-and-coming pair of brothers originally from Merthyr Tydfil, Seymour and Gomer Berry, who he felt would provide an ownership sympathetic to the culture of the paper, but also provide the finance and leadership to rejuvenate sales. The Berry brothers had gradually built up a publishing empire, and had acquired The Sunday Times in 1915, but one thing they lacked was a daily national paper. Now the opportunity to rectify this was being handed to them on a plate, and, even better from their point of view, a newspaper with a reputation ripe for reviving, and one which would provide a good fit with the Sunday title. Negotiations progressed rapidly, and on 23 December, 1927 came the news that the Berrys, in partnership with Lord Iliffe, would purchase the newspaper, which they did the following month for £1.2 million.

There was naturally some uncertainly among those working for the paper as to what would be the result of a change of ownership, but this was soon allayed by the Berrys, who embarked upon a policy of evolution rather than revolution. Editor Arthur Watson was kept in office, much to his surprise – a scion of the old ownership; Fred Burnham, nephew of the 2nd Lord (later 1st Viscount) Burnham, was made managing director, thus maintaining a link with the newspaper’s past.  Although the first tangible evidence to the staff of the new ownership was a rebuilding of the Fleet Street headquarters to make it more fit for purpose, the first obvious result to the readership of the new management came a year later, as the women’s page was made a daily feature, giving birth to The Daily Telegraph’s features section. By the end of 1929 the new presses were installed, marked by a special supplement, with a redesign to improve the display of the paper’s contents completed. On 17 February the following year, the newspaper’s size was reduced to make it more manageable, although still of broadsheet proportions. The impact of more advanced presses was shown at its best in November 1930, when, as a belated marking of the newspaper’s 75th birthday, a 24-page newspaper and 32-page supplement were printed.[5] This equated to 40 full broadsheet pages and was a new record for a newspaper printed in London. At the start of the following month the proprietors took the brave decision to halve the price back to a penny (it had been raised to 2d in March 1918), amid considerable scepticism as to whether a penny broadsheet quality daily newspaper would be viable. The Berry’s instincts in this matter were soon proved right though, as this slightly new-look newspaper recovered its market, and sales soared again, breaking three-quarters of a million by 1939.


The 1930s and Approach of the Second World War

The 1930s proved to be an interesting time for The Daily Telegraph. They started with a brush with the law, after Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett’s report of the arrest of Mahatma Gandhi saw the police visiting the paper, sent by a government annoyed that the paper had discovered the occurrence of this event and thus decided to report it. Watson stood his ground and refused to name his source, invoking journalistic privilege, which considering it was actually the Home Secretary J.R. Clynes himself who had provided the tip-off, was probably best for all concerned. Four years later it was the turn of the Nazi authorities to vent their wrath, banning the newspaper over its coverage of the Night of the Long Knives, which told truths they did not want to hear. The ban was lifted but revived at various other times when the paper’s coverage of Germany was not to Josef Goebbels’ liking – the Telegraph was not an admirer.

In 1935 it showed itself ahead of the curve by purchasing a television, and making Wireless Correspondent L. Marsland Gander its Television Correspondent as well, almost 21 months before the first regular BBC broadcasts were made. In 1937 William Berry bought out his partners and took sole control, with The Sunday Times staying with brother Gomer, despite being printed on The Daily Telegraph’s presses. Berry then bought the ailing The Morning Post when it was offered to him, and concluded that the best way forward was to merge his two titles. Thus on 1 October, 1937 the paper was formally renamed The Daily Telegraph and Morning Post, although it was essentially The Daily Telegraph with a smattering of new blood from the staff of the older newspaper, including a young William F. Deedes whose involvement with the newspaper would become legendary. The final change of note this decade came in 1939, when on 25 April news replaced classified advertisements on the front page, although the internal news pages would retain their position, located in what seems to modern-day readers an odd position in primarily the second half of the newspaper. With the clouds of war looming it was an apposite time to make this change, and as the first front page with news explained:

‘The daily news – home and foreign – is now so vital in the national life that it is obviously wrong that the most important page, the one which is seen first by the reader, should be occupied by advertisements. Actually the custom of printing advertisements on the front page of daily newspapers has for many years been peculiar to this country; in every other country the contrary has become the invariable rule. We believe that the new arrangement will be found both convenient and appropriate.’[6]


Adaptation and Innovation: The Second World War

On 29 August, 1939 readers of that day’s newspaper found in the centre top of their front-page news the headline ‘1,000 Tanks Massed on Polish Frontier’. Reporter Clare Hollingworth (anonymously by-lined in the article as ‘From our own correspondent’) had discovered German forces preparing to invade Poland, and sent the scoop back to London, making it clear that war was inevitable.

Five days later the country found itself at war for the second time in little over two decades, and the newspaper had to adapt to more difficult times. Gone was the steadily increasing size of the newspaper, as wartime restrictions unseen during the previous conflict saw newsprint at a premium, and within nine months the newspaper was forced to print a maximum of six pages and just over 737,000 issues a day. A trade-off had to be struck to achieve this, as the management were forced to decide whether to print enough copies to satisfy a readership gradually approaching the magical million mark, or keep enough pagination to provide as comprehensive a coverage as possible. They decided in the end upon the latter, as a better means of maintaining the newspaper’s standard and reputation. This reduction of pagination also impacted on revenues – less pages meant less space for adverts – but the paper cunningly split its print run in two and put different adverts in each edition, thus enabling a greater amount to be run. With air raids threatening the Fleet Street building and occasionally damaging it (most notably in the major raid of 29 December, 1940), an office was opened in Manchester which not only enabled an edition to be prepared covering the northern half of the country, but which could provide a back-up in case of major damage in London. Mercifully, this never occurred.

Possibly the most notable aspect of The Daily Telegraph’s war record was its crossword. On 10 January, 1942 a crossword competition was held on The Daily Telegraph’s premises, ostensibly sponsored by a Mr. W.A.J. Gavin. He promised to give £100 to the Eccentric Club Minesweeper Comforts Fund if anybody could solve the puzzle in a time of under 12 minutes. With four people successfully solving the puzzle within this limit the wager was won. But for a number of those taking part they soon found that they had another invitation coming their way, as the competition was in fact a covert recruiting exercise for Station X at Bletchley Park. However, the crossword would soon alert the attention of the authorities for other reasons. Alarm bells started to ring when Dieppe appeared as an answer two days before Operation Jubilee raided the town in 1942, and when Utah appeared in the crossword of 2 May, 1944, followed by Omaha on 22 May, Overlord on 27 May, Mulberry on 30 May and Neptune on 1 June (all code words connected with the upcoming D-Day landings), MI6 were beating a path to setter Leonard Dawe’s door, worried he was alerting the foe. Dawe managed to convince the authorities it was a coincidence that these words had appeared and went to his grave without explaining how he’d managed to come up with quite so many connected words; schoolboys who he taught at the time later claimed they’d heard the words bandied about by troops stationed nearby and suggested them to Dawe as answers.


Towards the ‘Swinging Sixties’: The Post-War Years

Once the war was over and restrictions of newsprint were gradually lifted, the newspaper could resume its quest to achieve the million-copies-sold mark, which it managed in April 1947, as the front page of May 8 that year was happy to proclaim. It would still be a long time before the paper was able to expand to its pre-war size though, not managing this until the 1960s. Although there would be change at the top, firstly when Arthur Watson resigned as Editor in 1950 to be succeeded by Colin Coote, and then in 1954 when Viscount Camrose died, his second son Michael Berry succeeding to the role of Editor-in-Chief, the paper carried on its stately way. With sales remaining strong, it seemed to be a case of ‘if it isn’t broke don’t fix it’. It was still able to call upon some impressive names to write for it, with the likes of Malcolm Muggeridge (leader writer), John Betjeman (fiction reviewer and architectural correspondent), and Philip Larkin (jazz critic) on board in the first two post-war decades.

However, the sixties came in with a dramatic change for the Telegraph brand, as the paper of 20 July, 1960 announced the launch the following year of The Sunday Telegraph. Berry had decided that the time was right to make The Daily Telegraph a seven-day title, although the Sunday was to be a standalone brand with a different look and separate editorial staff. The Sunday Times was asked to move its printing operations elsewhere, and once the presses were free, The Sunday Telegraph emerged blinking into the daylight on 5 February, 1961. But it was not the most successful of launches, and the assumption that loyal Daily readers would automatically switch to a Sunday stablemate was not borne out in reality. For the first few years the Sunday was a loss-making drain on The Daily Telegraph’s resources, but eventually found its niche in the market.

The Sunday title indeed brought about the first major controversy of the decade for the Berry titles, when it published a special supplement containing the Denning Report on the Profumo Affair in 1963. It may have been the biggest Government scandal for many years, but the precedent of a newspaper printing a Government report was not one that many of the establishment were comfortable with, and attempts were made to squash the supplement.

The next advance was colour printing. Readers opening their newspaper on 12 December, 1963 might have got a bit of a shock when they turned to page nine to see an advert for Rose’s Lime Juice staring out of them in full colour. Having proved it could be done, the Sunday edition then embarked on a colour supplement in January 1964 to commemorate the visit of Pope Paul VI to the Holy Land. Emboldened by the success of this, and catching up with The Sunday Times which had launched a weekly colour magazine supplement in February 1962, it was decided to create one for The Daily Telegraph. To maximise its impact though, the magazine was not released with The Sunday Telegraph as a direct rival, but with the Daily. Thus, in a decision that might seem decidedly odd half a century on where weekend supplements are commonplace, this new ‘Weekend Telegraph’ supplement, as it was called, was published not at the weekend, but on a Friday, with 25 September 1964 seeing the first issue. This gave the paper new scope for innovation, and the following year it could claim another first, with the first colour photograph published by a newspaper which had been transmitted by satellite.[7] Churchill’s death provided another excuse to print a colour supplement, and it was here to stay, but it would be another four decades and more before the newspaper went over to full colour itself.

More innovation came in 1968, when the paper reached an agreement with Cunard to print a special QE2 edition of the paper, the first newspaper ever to be printed entirely at sea. This would be an eight-page special containing a digest of articles in that day’s paper, combined with ship-specific news and information, which would be transmitted in punched tape form to the ship, where a computerised machine converted it back into pages which could then be printed on an on-board press. Until 1976 the paper provided this service for the ship.

The final change of the sixties was the most radical of all, as the paper underwent a complete redesign. Hints had come in that change was in the offing, as the clock and motto which had adorned the leader page for over a century were dropped at the end of January 1969, and on 21 October the full scope of what had been contemplated was evident in a new-look paper. Gone was The Morning Post, as the paper reverted back to being merely The Daily Telegraph, whilst news moved from its position at the back of the paper to the front, displacing the business pages which moved to the latter half of the paper, and sport which went to the back, thus creating a newspaper format familiar to twenty-first-century readers.


Expansion and Struggle Towards the End of the Century

The 1960s had seen steadily increasing sales, with the paper able to announce on a number of occasions a new record average daily sale over a month during the decade, rising to over 1.4 million in 1967. Whilst it was able to maintain this, and indeed increase again to over 1.5 million, when industrial action shut down The Times for 11 months in 1978–9, industrial action would impact adversely on the newspaper itself during the 1970s and into the 1980s. The unions increased their grip across Fleet Street, and were never slow in downing tools if they were unhappy about any management decisions, despite the respect most of the staff had for Michael Berry (now Lord Hartwell) himself. The Telegraph papers for this period are littered with missing editions, editions with blank spaces, and days with no newspaper at all due to industrial action by a number of unions, prompting it to print apologies when normal service had been resumed. Even when it wasn’t affected in this way, the presses used were becoming outdated, and the paper was far from looking its best, with typos blighting many an article and print quality often leaving something to be desired.

Despite the best efforts of those in charge, the intransigence, Spanish practices and occasional greed of the unions constrained what could be done with the newspaper, and it suffered accordingly. From the 1979 circulation highs, readers started haemorrhaging as a revitalised The Times hit back, and the finances suffered from lost revenue through strikes and lower readership affecting advertising. Whilst the circulation drop was nowhere near as bad as that in the 1920s (which saw the Burnhams sell up), the wheel had come round full circle for the Berrys. While they desperately needed new, more advanced presses, ideally away from the Fleet Street stronghold of the print unions, they were unable to finance them fully themselves. Even though two new plants were set up, first at Trafford Park in Manchester, and then, in partnership with The Express, in Westferry on the Isle of Dogs, the Telegraph needed a new influx of money to pay for them.

In a reversal of the situation of 1927, it was the Berrys who needed a white knight. Although the Burnhams had intended to sell the newspaper, in this case the Berrys were looking for somebody who could provide the finance while still allowing them to run the titles. What they eventually got was quite different. They alighted on Canadian businessman Conrad Black, a man with some experience in the industry, albeit overseas. But Black was not prepared to be manipulated. His hardball negotiations manoeuvred the Berrys into a position where they found themselves inadvertently handing over the company to Black through his Hollinger company at the end of 1985. Although Hartwell was given the chairmanship of the reconstructed board and ostensibly still remained as Editor-in-Chief, this was more as a gesture to the lifelong Telegraph man, as the effective management of the titles devolved upon Black’s right-hand man, Andrew Knight.

Thus it was under new management that the Telegraph resumed the Canada connection of 130 years’ previously, entering a brave new world. Trafford Park went online on 31 December, 1985, and the following February saw the first issue to be produced fully using electronic technology. The first significant change to readers came in March, as editor W.F. Deedes stepped down after 11 years in the role; he had made it clear that he expected new management to want a new editor and was quite happy to yield his chair. Max Hastings was therefore brought in to succeed him. Hastings’ first few months saw a gradual reformatting of the paper, with a regular front-page cartoon (initially provided by Marc Boxer) and the creation of a fully-fledged obituaries department under Hugh Montgomery-Massingberd. The latter provided regular and more comprehensive obituaries for the first time. The title also reverted to The Daily Telegraph, the definite article having been dropped to the annoyance of many readers three years earlier. The Westferry printing plant came on stream in September, and by now plans were afoot for the newspaper to follow its printing to the Isle of Dogs. This duly ensued the following summer, as the operation was moved to a new building on South Quay Plaza. When Lord Hartwell retired as Chairman and Editor-in-Chief at the beginning of September 1987, it seemed to represent a symbolic fracturing of the newspaper from its Fleet Street heyday.

The advent of new printers saw expansion for the paper. In quick succession the first 40-page, 44-page, and 48-page paper were all produced.[8] The Saturday edition saw the first standalone supplement (entitled Weekend) in April 1987 and the magazine changing day again to accompany it in September 1988, whilst the sport section obtained its first standalone supplement (albeit only on a Monday) in 1990.[9]

On the production side, there was another office move, to Canada Tower, Canary Wharf, in 1992. The newspaper still showed itself to be pioneering, introducing a Fantasy Football competition in 1993 and launching an electronic form online in November 1994, becoming the first British newspaper to do so.  It also proved strong enough to cope with a price war initiated by Rupert Murdoch, who cut the price of The Times in June 1994 in an attempt to undermine his rival. By dropping the price from 48p to 30p, the management showed they were prepared to fight back and could afford to do so (tellingly, it would be another seven years before the price was as high again).


The Advent of the New Millennium

Yet while the paper stood strong as the new millennium approached, turbulent times were to come. Charles Moore’s departure from the editorship in October 2003 initiated a merry-go-round in the chair which would see five other men hold the post over the next 11 years. The following year, it emerged that Conrad Black’s financial probity with Hollinger left something to be desired, leading to his dismissal and the Telegraph titles put up for sale. As a result the Telegraph acquired its fifth set of proprietors when in June 2004 entrepreneurs Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay purchased the titles for £665 million. Under their management it would move out of Canary Wharf to Victoria, where it pioneered a new style of journalistic seating known as a ‘news hub’. It would later change printers both in the south and north, introducing full-colour printing in the process. In 2009, it achieved its greatest-ever scoop with the publication of the ‘Expenses Files’, awakening a shocked nation to the expenses claims of its Members of Parliament. While the twenty-first century as a whole has seen a greater focus on the internet version of the newspaper, The Daily Telegraph remains the market leading quality title in the UK. Today, it still seeks to uphold the traditions of those who have produced the newspaper throughout its colourful history. J.B. Firth’s desire for the newspaper to deliver ‘honest, unadulterated news’ is as valid now as it was in 1937, despite all the changes in both the media world, and the world at large in the interim.

[1] The Daily Telegraph, 1 October, 1937.

[2] The Daily Telegraph, 29 June, 1855.

[3] The Daily Telegraph, 28 October, 1908.

[4] The Daily Telegraph, 29 November, 1917.

[5] The Daily Telegraph, 5 November, 1930.

[6] The Daily Telegraph, 25 April, 1939.

[7] The Daily Telegraph ‘Weekend Telegraph’ magazine, 9 June, 1965.

[8] The Daily Telegraph, 5 June, 1986, 29 January, 1987 and 30 January, 1987 respectively.

[9] The Daily Telegraph, 12 March, 1990.


Fuller, Gavin: "The Story of the Daily Telegraph.The Telegraph Historical Archive. Cengage Learning, 2016




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