The order of things in Britain has changed over the last few years. It has changed at a pace unlike any I’ve seen in my life. Or, does it just seem to be changing faster because I’m getting older? I can’t tell. I can only view the pace of change from my own perspective, distorted or otherwise.
Many of our institutions we once thought rock solid have gone or changed so they’re no longer recognisable. It’s inevitable, I suppose. Change has altered much of the fabric of our society, none more so than the media. The BBC, long regarded as the bastion of independence and autonomy seems to have buckled with its new apparent right leaning bias.
The Newspaper industry, always powerful, now seems to have gained a renewed influence as its many independent elements have coalesced around certain powerful individuals. It wasn’t always like that.
Britain has a fine record of independent newspapers dotted around the country. The Stamford Mercury, for example, Britain’s oldest continuously published newspaper title having been running since the early 1700’s. The paper remains in print today.
Over the last few years, many established daily local newspapers gave up the ghost entirely or shrank to a weekly, full of advertising and with few real stories. Pale spectres of what they once were.
One such is what was known as the Coventry Telegraph. With, in its heyday, around 600 staff, including upwards of 200 journalists and photographers. This was the premier newspaper for this thriving Midlands industrial city from 1891 when the newspaper, then known as The Midland Daily Telegraph, was founded by William Isaac Illife.
The foundation stone of the ‘New” headquarters was laid in late 1957 by the then proprietor, Lord Illife G.B.E. And the building remained much the same until printing ceased there and the building fell out use.
The building remains on Corporation St Coventry to this day. Standing empty. A sad reflection of what it once was, with a boardroom and Lord Illife’s personal flat and staff quarters on the top floor with their delightful 50’s, currently chic, style. Offices below and largely gutted print works and reception area on the ground floor.
The building is set for conversion to a boutique hotel in a year or so. Meanwhile, it stands testament to it once being a part of an industry now unrecognisable to those who worked in there many years ago.
Long gone are the days but in my mind’s eye I can see and still hear the newspaper seller in Birmingham crying ” ‘spatch-a-mail” ( Despatch and Mail the names of local newspapers at the time). But being here, in this building brings it all back.
With a lot more than just a nod to the title, these images were inspired by the work being carried out by fellow photographer David Barrett (@streetphotouk) who publishes this genre of work under the hashtag #ukcloseddoors over on Twitter.