Burnley Civic Trust Heritage Image Collection

Special Burnley Express History by Eddy Rawlinson

Many thanks to Eddy Rawlinson ...Burnley Express 1943-1953


Amongst the photographic items we have been donated by the Express were some old glass negatives and in this article we have been able to produce a short article using the images revealing some history of the old processes that all newspapers must have once had to undertake to produce the papers.

We are incredibly lucky to have the former Burnley Express photographer Mr Eddy Rawlinson living within the borough and to have been able to engage his personal recollections to add invaluable information to the images shown, naming people who worked at Bull Street with him and teaching him in his apprentice years.

1943 Wartime Burnley. (Eddy's own photograph)

The photo-engraving and photographic department of the Burnley Express was situated on the flat roof of the Burnley Express in Bull Street, Burnley. A pre-fabricated building it housed the photographers dark room and a photo-engraving department. Mr Fred Simcock was the staff photographer as well as being the newspapers block maker (engraver) and I joined him as a 14 year old apprentice. Within two months I was going out taking pictures as Mr Simcock was nearing retirement age and did not enjoy good health, I was also learning the art of making photographs into metal blocks to print on the newspapers printing press. I am stood by the small printing press used for proofing news pictures after they had been made into half-tone blocks for inclusion in the bi-weekly editions of the Burnley Express.. Mr Simcock is stood by the acid baths in which we used nitric acid in the engraving process for the zinc metal blocks on which all photographic images were been transferred.
1930s photograph. When the Brothertons , who were owners of the Burnley Express joined up with the Burnley News, a Preston based national newspaper company with its editorial office on St James Row, Burnley, Mr Simcock moved to the Burnley Express, which had been a family business. Here he is transferring a photograph from a glass plate negative to a piece of zinc which hardens an acid resistant solution to the metal plate when exposed to carbon lights. The opaque parts of the negative where the light had not penetrated were etched away when placed in the bath of nitric acid.
1930s photograph In the darkroom after being developed negatives were placed in an enlarger and prints on photographic paper were made and sent to the editor for him to choose a picture for inclusion in the paper. Boxes of photographic paper and filed negatives are seen alongside the enlarger with the chemicals used for developing prints on the floor. When I arrived in 1943 the man using the enlarger had left the Burnley Express to join the forces.
1930s photograph. Pictures taken for the newspaper were made into metal plates and put on the printing press this being done by another photographic process. The photographers picture was put up on an easel and photographed through a screen of 65crossed lines per inch which was inside the large process camera. A slide with a sensitised plate was put on the camera with the screen making contact to a photographic plate and the screen creating a half-tone negative. In this photograph Mr Tom Lambert in charge of the engraving department is making a negative ready for transfer onto a metal plate (as seen being processed by Mr. Simcock in the second picture).
1930s photograph. In the process of making a wet plate negative to go on the large process camera Mr Tom Lambert is coating a large piece of glass with collodion which is then placed in a dish of silver nitrate and sensitised to light before being put in the slide and onto the camera. (Mr Lambert was the father of Miss Nora Lambert who became a well known Burnley photographer with a studio on the corner of Manchester Road and Trafalgar Street, Burnley.)
1930s photograph. This is the Process Department of the Burnley Express, an earlier version to the one in which I am photographed in 1943 although it had not altered much then to when I arrived. On the right is Mr. Lambert with Mr Fred Simcock in the background by the window and the gentleman who joined the forces when war broke out (left).
1930s photograph. This is the press room of the Burnley Express which was installed by the Brothertons when new after the First World War and with the man in charge a Mr. Frank Bradley, a resident of Burnley Lane. In the late 1940s it was taken out and replaced by owners Provincial Press with a second hand much larger machine when the privately owned Coulsons Nelson Leader was taken over by the Burnley Express group. What were the bedrooms of the Bull Hotel and then owned by the Burnley Express were demolished and headroom made for the old worn out printing press which was brought from the Yorkshire Post office in Leeds. It was sad to see those gas lit mantled parquet floored bedrooms with their old fashioned wall papered rooms be destroyed. Jack Washbrook, myself and the other apprentices had spent some time there when they were part of the building. It was only with afterthought did they realise had they dug down and placed a base just two feet into the ground and they could have kept those historic rooms
1930s photograph. The Burnley Express had their own commercial printing business and here is the bookbinding department which was housed above what had been part of the Bull Hotel stables another interesting part of old Burnley in which we ventured. Mr Jim Astin was in charge of the commercial printing department with a young apprentice bookbinder working there, Raymond Threadgold. Also working in the commercial printing department when I returned from National Service were apprentices Alan Crossley and Albert Marsden, Albert became an executive of the company owning the Burnley Express.
x1930s photograph. Showing one of the commercial printing machines which was housed on the first floor of the Burnley Express building and used for commercial. Then the second floor was where all the editorial linotypes were housed with the pages in metal type being made up and the Burnley Express put together. On the same floor as the commercial printing department was the editorial department with its lone single telephone line ( tel number Burnley 3050). The reporters and editor Clifford Harman were housed in a large smoke filled room alongside the commercial printers. After a turn around the commercial department was moved up to the top floor with the hot metal printers and linotype machines moving down to be at all at one level on the first floor with the editorial department.
1930s photograph. Walter Berry, one of the men responsible for the printing of the Burnley Express is about to take an imprint of complete metal newspage with what is known as a flong. A flong is a negative mould made from a page of metal type after a sheet of pliable card like paper is placed over the made up solid page of type so it can be bent to go on a rotary press, the process is called stereotyping. Hot metal is cast from the bent flonge into a half round round plate and fitted on the rotary press ready for the press to roll.
1930s photograph. Rolls of newsprint arrive in Bull Street ready for the press to print the two editions of the Burnley Express published on a Wednesday and Saturday. During the war petrol was rationed and a handcart replaced the delivery van taking editions of the BLADDER as the Express was known by the some to nearby Burnley bus station. Bundles of newspapers were then loaded on to local buses travelling to outlying districts with the conductor dropping off bundles of the Burnley Express at various stages along the route.