MA at 225

The 225-year history of The Morning Advertiser

By Nicholas Robinson contact

- Last updated on GMT

A long history: The Morning Advertiser celebrates 225 years
A long history: The Morning Advertiser celebrates 225 years
The Morning Advertiser is officially 225 years old this month and to celebrate the history of the title and the trade it supports, we're laying it all out in a special issue released today. We start here with a look at how the title has evolved over the years.

From the off, The Morning Advertiser’s​ publishers were clear the newspaper’s duty would be to support the licensed trade, at the time of its founding in 1794 and beyond.

In the first issue’s editorial, it was stated that “unlike any others” prior, MA​ would pledge itself to becoming a success for the on-trade.

It is well documented throughout this issue that the paper was published by the Society of Licensed Victuallers (SLV), just a year after the charity itself was founded, to raise money in support of the trade. The charity later became known as the Licensed Trade Charity, the name it operates under now.

The first edition of MA​, dated Saturday 8 February, was published at a cost of £686 11s 9d and was the second highest-selling paper after The Times, priced half a penny lower at 3½p. Up until the mid-20th century, MA​ covered all news, but with a leaning towards the pub trade.

Revenues for the first quarter of the publication were more than £2,175. However, with costs at £40 a week and government taxes and duties in excess of £1,790, the proprietors were left with a profit of just £111.

Despite this, the paper was deemed viable and raised enough money to support the needs of the SLV, enabling the opening of its first school for children of the licensed trade in 1803. The new school was based in Kennington Lane, south London, and played host to 14 girls and six boys, chosen from those already assisted by the charity. Not only that, but profits from The Morning Advertiser helped to buy equipment and pay the school’s running costs.

Early London public houses

MA​ wasn’t a phenomenon of its time, but one of many broadsheets and pamphlets distributed in early London public houses and coffee houses.

Although the longest continually running publication in the UK, MA​ is certainly not the oldest, with many advertising sheets, including the still existent Lloyd’s News​, printing 100 or more years prior.

The first issue carried adverts for theatres, lotteries and jobs, as well as news about parliament and the Royals.

Peculiarities and trends of the time were also shown on the cover, including adverts for medicines with patents pending, such as those used to “dulcify the blood” or “eradicate impurities of the most complicated nature”.

Along with questionable medicines, readers advertised for children to breastfeed, with requests including: “Wanted, a child to wet nurse, by a healthy young woman, with a good breast of milk, who has recently lain in on her first child. Please apply at No 6 Carthusian Street, Charter House Square.”

A significant day

In 1794, The Morning Advertiser​ was founded from Catherine Street, the Strand, London, by those who set up the Society of Licensed Victuallers (SLV) to promote the society’s interests and raise money to help fund its charitable activities.

They hoped to raise enough money to purchase a school for orphans from the trade. The first edition was published on 8 February and initial circulation was ensured by insisting that all members of the SLV were to take a paper daily.

Meanwhile, other ads call for the likes of a “good sober, active single man” for a waiting role. The successful candidate, according to the advert, would be of an “obliging turn”.

In the early 1800s, the decision was made to launch a Sunday paper, The Sunday Advertiser, meaning the title would publish seven days a week instead of six, as well as the Weekly Register – both with the aim of making more money for the charity.

The Sunday title continued for more than 20 years, but didn’t fly in the same way as The Morning Advertiser, never selling more than 2,000 copies per issue.

By 1815, MA​ was contributing £30,000 to the SLV, despite the tax pressures faced by printed publications, and was the first newspaper to move to the now famous Fleet Street in London, taking up premises at number 127.

Further on in the century (1858), MA ​played its part in the future of a major news provider. Paul Julius Reuter was given his first contract to supply news stories to publications by this title. Reuters offered foreign news, which was wired in by telegraph.

At the time, The Morning Advertiser was still running national and international news. Other influential people to have worked for the paper over its history include Charles Dickens and Alastair Campbell, while Karl Marx is also reported to have had a letter published in its pages.

Pressure from prohibitionists

In 1929, the paper once again moved premises, taking up a freehold in a three-storey building in St Andrew Street, in the City of London. The move came at a time when the licensed trade was under increased pressure from prohibitionists and the church.

In his book, The Pub Trade “Our Trade” – covering the history of the SLV and MA ​– Ted Elkins quoted the then publisher Cecil Chisholm as saying: “Perhaps no trade has been so persistently and so unjustly attacked as that of innkeeping.

“But attack always provokes resistance. And that is perhaps why the licensed victuallers’ trade is one of the best organised in the country. With attacks levelled at it continuously from fanatics, competing interests and busybodies all over the country, it had need to be well organised… I question whether prohibition would have become law in the United States if the liquor trade and hotel trade had such a well-organised fighting body in its organisations and trade press as exists in this country.”

In 1941, the title’s offices were burned out during the Second World War, so it needed to be published elsewhere.

Moving on, in 1969, the decision was made to pull general news and instead focus on the on-trade only. To drive this change, Terence Cockerell was appointed editor in 1972 to ensure the staff could produce enough news about the trade for a daily title.

“He built a national network of correspondents whose coverage, added to the high-standard racing news, put The Morning Advertiser in a class of its own,” said Elkins in his book. The focus on the trade led to readership reaching 40,000 by the end of the decade.

During his editorship, Cockerell said: “We have constantly tried to ensure that our coverage makes the paper national in its approach.

“At the same time we have extended our interest and our coverage to serve the wholesale side of the trade, and the catering industry. We look at the trends in our trade, and as their daily newspaper, we go where they do.”

The title has continued to tell the trade the latest news as well as deliver useful advice to operators about every-thing from the latest food and drink trends to legal tips and breaking news.

Award-winning events

Of course, it has since developed a range of award-winning events including The Publican Awards, the Great British Pub Awards, as well as its Top 50 events that celebrate high-quality dining and cocktail venues.

No longer a daily publication, MA ​is now printed twice a month, having earlier gone bi-weekly and then weekly.

The print title is now sent to more than 25,000 operators with a readership in excess of 72,000. Of course, www.morningadvertiser.co.uk has become an important part of the brand, attracting more than 200,000 unique users a month. News is no longer covered in the print title, rather long-form features aimed at helping operators deliver a better and more profitable offer.

Current editor Ed Bedington said: “It is an honour to lead a title with so much heritage and trust. Our history is rich, yet our support for our readers and the wider on-trade has remained central throughout.

“To celebrate 225 years of MA​, we have looked back at the magazine’s and the trade’s past throughout the pages of this issue.”

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