The Caldicotts were a prominent influential family in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire for over a hundred years running a successful newspaper and publishing business and serving their community in many ways.
Such was their influence that there is a street named after the family which remains in the town of Gainsborough today (although it is situated on a very unglamorous industrial estate!).
The Caldicotts’ business was most well-known for publishing the Gainsborough News, although they also produced several other periodicals, including the eponymous Caldicotts’ Directory.
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The Caldicotts’ empire was founded by William Hargrave Caldicott (1824-1877), who began his career in the publishing industry as an assistant to printer, bookseller, and antiquary, Adam Stark, who produced the Gainsborough Advertiser each Tuesday. Adam was thought to be the son of renowned Edinburgh architect, William Stark and was well-known in Gainsborough for producing The History and Antiquities of Gainsborough, with a Topographical and Descriptive Account of Stow,B 1817, a reference still studied by local historians today.
In 1847, William took over the business from Stark and took ownership of the premises about ten years later. The home of their publishing business was 32 Market Place based in the centre of Gainsborough. He lived on the premises with his wife, Eliza (formerly Dook) and had seventeen men employed in the business, including Thomas Pearson who also boarded with the couple. (1)
By 1855, William changed the name of the Gainsborough Advertiser to the Retford, Worksop, Isle of Axholme and Gainsborough News. In 1856, an engine and boiler was installed on site to run the printing machines used for producing the “News”, manufactured by Marshalls (incidentally Alice Jean Ingall, the fiancee of William’s great grandson, William Hargrave Caldicott (1830-1980) worked in the costs department for the same firm before she married).
William had firm ideas and principles in directing the newspaper and what it stood for in the local community. It was first and foremost to be run on independent lines, tied to no political party or religious denomination and should be free to express itself for the good of the community in general, whilst supporting worthwhile organisations and championing good causes.
William died on 25 June 1877, but his son, Charles Caldicott (1857-1914) continued to develop and run the family business. He was assisted by his brother-in-law, Thomas Ayre Newball and the Rev. German W. Danks until he was aged twenty-four.
For over 100 years, from 1877 to 1988 the paper was a twice-weekly publication on Tuesdays and Fridays.
Caldicotts’ must have been an extremely busy local establishment with demanding deadlines. On 5 March 1878, a case was brought against Charles at the Gainsborough Petty Sessions for being found in breach of the Factory’s Act for employing four young persons after eight o’clock at night, on the 25th January. He pleaded guilty for only one count throughB Mr Hewlett, who appeared on his behalf, and was fined a minimum of B#2 and costs. (2)
However, the newspaper continued to thrive and demand increased so in 1880, Charles decided to publish a daily issue of the paper under the title of the Gainsborough Evening News.
Although successful, running a business this size did not come without its problems for the young Charles. In 1881 he was involved in a court case again, but this time he was the wronged party as a Caldicotts’ employee, George Wade, was charged with having stolen postage stamps, money and stationary from the company. He was found guilty and sentenced to a month’s imprisonment without hard labour. (3)
On 2 July 1895, Charles Harrison, who described himself as an agent wasB was indicted for obtaining B#1 8s. 10d. by false pretences from Charles as he placed confidence in the accused which was then abused. The court concluded that it was a “breach of trust rather than an ingenious fraud” and Harrison was sentenced to three months imprisonment with hard labour. (4)
Like his father and grandfather before him William had strong opinions about how he wanted to run the newspaper. He believed in the current trend to turn the newspaper into a form of entertainment, not just a medium for reporting the local news. He also held firm views in methods that would achieve circulation at any price.
He was a practical man who, even though he owned the business, was not above performing any task involved in the production and printing of the newspaper. Remarkably hands on, in addition to directing and managing the business, he was often known to have donned his familiar apron to lend a hand at publication times so that the “News” would go out on time.
During World War 1 the remaining staff on the production team served loyally and, despite enlistment depleting the numbers of employees significantly, the skeleton staff continued to deliver the twice weekly issue of the Gainsborough News and Gainsborough Evening News on time. They even published a special War edition which reported on the progress of the war and the many fierce battles which marked that period of the conflict.
In September 1927, the newspaper took over the North Lindsay Star.
In 1953 William and Charles hosted a convention of the East Midland Region of the Guild of British Newspaper Editors which brought editors together from seven different counties. It was noted in this meeting that the Gainsborough News would be celebrating its centenary in two years time and that the newspaper had been owned throughout that time by the Caldicott family. (5)
In 1963 the “News” premises were sold to a subsidiary of Copthall Holdings Ltd of London. Charles announced their plans:
as the actual process of printing the two Gainsborough Newspapers was now carried out at their Scunthorpe premises, it was planned to extend and develop other printing premises in Trinity Street, which have been used solely for many years for commercial printing and bookbinding.
A branch office was also opened at 2 North Street.
William Hargrave Caldicott died in 1956 and for a time the business was run by William’s only son, also called William Hargrave Caldicott (1930-1980), although he was known as “Bill”. He worked alongside his uncle Charles Hubert for several years.
In 1973 Bill became manager of the Lincolnshire Standard Group and in October 1975 there was a change of name from the Gainsborough Evening News to the Gainsborough News Midweek Edition.
But in 1977 the involvement of the Caldicotts’ in the Gainsborough News finally came to an end when Bill left to move to the Cayman Islands where he worked in public relations.
Gainsborough owes a lot to the Caldicott family who supported their community though their dedication in producing a local newspaper providing the town with a sense of identity and belonging. Yet, the family contributed to the town of Gainsborough in many ways, not least in financially supporting and giving their time to the football club Gainsbrough Trinity. Click on any of the links below to find out more about this benevolent family –
Biography of William Hargrave Caldicott (1824-1877), founding member of the Caldicotts’ publishing business
Biography ofB Edwin Tearle Caldicott 1859 – 1946 – Lithograph Artist, son of William Hargrave Caldicott
Thomas Newball Caldicott – 1862 – 1935 – Successful Ironmonger, son of William Hargrave Caldicott
Charles Caldicott – 1857 – 1914 – Gainsborough News Publisher and Gainsborough Trinity FC Chairman, son of William Hargrave Caldicott
William Hargrave Caldicott – 1885 – 1956 – Successful Gainsborough Publisher and Chairman of Gainsborough Trinity FC, son of Charles Caldicott
Charles Hubert Caldicott – 1892 – 1985 – Successful Publisher, Honorary Manager of Gainsborough Trinity FC and Special Policeman
This article has been produced largely because of research undertaken byB Gainsborough Heritage Association.B I would like to give warm and sincere thanks to the volunteers who committed their time to discovering a treasure trove of stories and information.
(5) – Gainsborough News – 20 March 1953