On this day … 11 February 1888

The Preston Guardian reported the death, at 8, Ribblesdale Place, of George Toulmin, JP, aged 74, eminent Liberal politician, Free Church leader, one of the country’s best-known teetotallers, owner of the Preston Guardian and founder of the Lancashire Evening Post.

Toulmin and his brother James had bought the Guardian from their fellow teetotaller Joseph Livesey in 1859 for £6,600 (roughly £1 million today). With James as more of a sleeping partner, George embarked on an expansionist drive, buying and launching titles across the county, and putting a firm Liberal stamp on all of them. Toulmin controlled his papers ruthlessly, making sure they reflected his views and stamping down hard on any editor who stepped out of line.

He had started work as a printer in Preston and then joined the Bolton Chronicle, a Conservative publication, becoming manager and continuing as part-owner until 1888. He steered that paper to a more balanced political persuasion, broadening its appeal and boosting its profitability.

In 1867, he sacked Anthony Hewitson, his chief reporter on the Preston Guardian, who went on to buy the Preston Chronicle and carry on a lengthy rivalry with Toulmin. Hewitson, who is now best known for his many publications on the history of Preston, was reputed to have called Toulmin a ‘grey-headed old devil’.

The Lancashire Evening Post was launched by Toulmin in 1886. It changed its name later to the Lancashire Daily Post, before reverting to the ‘Evening’ title. Members of the family retained a connection with the paper until a few years ago.

Two books by Andrew Hobbs, which can be accessed for free on line:
A Fleet Street In Every Town: The Provincial Press in England, 1855-1900
The Diaries of Anthony Hewitson, Provincial Journalist. Volume 1: 1865–1887

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