Your Doncaster Free Press celebrates 90 years of bringing you the news

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In 1925, when local printer Dickie Crowther first published the grandly titled Doncaster Free Press and Courier Of Coming Events for the very first time on June 18, he could scarcely have believed that 90 years on from the birth of his publication, it would still be going strong today.

Introducing the paper for the first time, he wrote: “We beg to be excused for referring briefly to ourselves. The changes taking place in our town are of such a sweeping nature that we believe the time is ripe for a publication such as we now put before you.”

Rather prophetically, he also foretold readers’ hunger for news, now common place in the digital age, writing: “Who cares to wait until the weekend for news which can be obtained hot upon its occurence?”

And since we first hit the streets with a guaranteed circulation of 12,000 and a price of 1/2d, we’ve continued documenting all of those changes he talked about and the major events that have helped to shape Doncaster over the decades.

Things have certainly changed over the years. Nowadays, our www.doncasterfreepress.co.uk website is where we publish the majority of our stories, videos and photographs – and Twitter and Facebook are both ways we’ve embraced new media to present what matters to you in Doncaster in a brand new publishing format.

But our printed product remains just as important now as it ever was and each and every week, dedicated reporters bring you the news from across Doncaster and beyond – because we know that you, our readers always come first.

The paper was the brainchild of a printer who moved his five year old business from Market Road to Sunny Bar in 1924.

Dickie Crowther, or Richard to give him his full name, had already been publishing a weekly entertainment guide at Sunny Bar and decided to make the break into full time publishing with the Doncaster Free Press.

The weekly newspaper was free from the outset of any political allegiance and was sold to local households by a team of part-time workers who collected an old halfpenny for every copy. Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t free!

The first edition was just four pages and contained only a handful of news snippets – the front page being devoted to adverts for Morris’s wallpaper specialists, ladies and childrenswear outfitters Fieldens and furniture firm Jackson’s Stores.

Inside, columns mused over “ramshackle objects on wheels that are masquerading as motor omnibuses and crawling about the Doncaster district” and “Doncaster getting an awful place” following what was described as “the Arbitration Street shooting.”

Few further details were provided, other than to add that the police and courts were struggling to cope with the town’s increase in crime.

There was also a competition for readers - offering a 10s reward for deliberate mistakes found in adverts.

The Free Press proved an instant hit and needing more space for printing, additional premises were acquired in Hallgate and later Chequer Road while the editorial and advertising offices remained at Sunny Bar.

Dickie died in 1955 at the age of 67, with William Brackenbury, his nephew taking up the reins and installing Leonard Peet as editor, who remained in the seat until 1963 when Maurice Coupe took over and held the post for the next 23 years.

By June 1967, the Free Press was selling more than 40,000 copies a week and new printing premises were again found in Greyfriars Road – it was also the year that readers could purchase the newspaper from newsagents for the first time.

By 1971, the cumbersome broadsheet format had been abandoned and US firm Regis International took over in 1978. Reed International acquired the business in 1982 and the paper is currently in the hands of Johnston Press who have been owners since 1996.

In 1987, Richard Tear followed Maurice Coupe in the editor’s chair and since then there have only been a handful of other editors, Martin Edmunds, Merrill Diplock, Graeme Huston and Chris Burton, who left for pastures new earlier this year, all taking a stint in the chair.

The Free Press was based in Sunny Bar for 89 years, right up until our move into new premises on the corner of Printing Office Street and Cleveland Street in 2014.

And while we may have moved not just offices but in the way we bring you the news, our pledge remains to keep you abreast of current affairs in this great town of ours – hopefully for many more years to come.

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