Morecambe Visitor | British Newspaper Archive

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Hot Off The Press – New Titles This Week

This week we are visiting the seaside town of Morecambe with the addition of brand new title the Morecambe Visitor. Meanwhile, in all, we’ve added 102,467 brand new pages over the last seven days, with updates to 24 of our existing newspaper titles from Banbury to Batley, from Chorley to Crawley, from Market Harborough to Motherwell.

So read on to discover more about this week’s new title the Morecambe Visitor, and also to learn more about one of the town of Morecambe’s claims to fame: being the home of the UK’s longest running national beauty contest, Miss Great Britain, for over thirty years.

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Before we get on to Miss Great Britain, let’s first of all take a closer look at the Morecambe Visitor. First published on 4 June 1874 with the slightly longer title the Morecambe Visitor and General Advertiser, it was founded by George Bingham as publication for the town of Morecambe’s holiday makers.

A town on the coast of Lancashire, Morecambe was a thriving seaside resort in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It was particularly popular with holidaymakers from Yorkshire, gaining it the nickname of ‘Bradford-on-Sea.’ Indeed, its new publication, the Morecambe Visitor, was set to service these visitors, and it was only to be published in the summer mothers. However, due to the newspaper’s success, the production of this publication extended throughout the year, serving Morecambe’s permanent residents as well as its more fleeting ones.

In 1898 Arthur Caunt joined the Morecambe Visitor’s staff, and eight years later in 1906 he took over as the paper’s editor and proprietor. Thus begun a long association between the Caunt family and the Morecambe Visitor, Arthur’s son James taking over the reins in 1938 upon his father’s death. James’s son Arthur then succeeded him in the position in 1959, but sadly his was only a short tenure as Arthur was killed in a car accident some twelve months later. The paper then passed to Arthur’s sister Muriel, who was at the helm for another two years.

Whilst the Caunt family ran the paper, the paper was often a mouthpiece for their political views. For many years the Morecambe Visitor ran with the strapline ‘founded in 1874 when income tax was 1d in the £.’ This was editor James Caunt’s way of taking a direct hit at the high-taxing post-war Labour government.

Covering the news from Morecambe and its surrounded districts, including Overton, Middleton, Heysham, Slyne, Hest Bank, Bolton-le-Sands and Carnforth, the Morecambe Visitor appeared every week. In the early 1900s the newspaper was published every Wednesday, and filled eight pages. During this period the publication claimed that ‘The Sales of the Visitor exceed by thousands of Copies weekly that of all other Morecambe newspapers combined,’ whilst its focus was mainly on reporting local news.

For example, the Morecambe Visitor captured a range of news from the local community, reporting on the deaths of notable local people, alongside events like balls and strikes. The newspaper reported on sport too, its focus mainly being on football, with columns also devoted to short stories, local religious organisations, and reports from the police courts. Furthermore, the Morecambe Visitor featured a ‘Ladies’ Column,’ as well as snippets of national and international news.

True to its roots as a paper for visitors to the town, the Morecambe title printed ‘Local Information’ for holidaymakers. Such information incorporated details around ‘postal arrangements,’ ‘churches and chapels,’ as well as a railway timetable.

Keeping its Wednesday publication pattern well into the 20th century, the Morecambe Visitor is still published to this day.

That may be it from our exciting new title of the week, but there is still plenty for you to explore among our 24 updated titles of the week. The largest update of the week are the over 24,000 brand new pages we have added to the Banbury Guardian, whilst nearly 9,000 brand new pages join the Rugby Advertiser.

We’ve also updated five of our Scottish titles, with updates to the likes of the Arbroath Herald, the Kilsyth Chronicle and the Bellshill Speaker this week. Representing Northern Ireland are a duo of updated titles, namely the Derry Journal and the Londonderry Sentinel, whilst from the Channel Islands, we’ve added new pages to the Guernsey Evening Press and Star.

August 1956 – Miss Great Britain Comes to Morecambe

In 1945 the seaside town of Morecambe hosted the first of a competition which would come to be known as ‘Miss Great Britain.’ Starting life as the ‘Bathing Beauty Queen’ contest, in 1956 the competition returned to Morecambe, where it stayed until 1989. Miss Great Britain is now the country’s longest running national beauty contest.

Looking through the pages of the Morecambe Visitor in 1956, when Miss Great Britain returned to Morecambe, we can clearly trace the importance of the competition to the town. In June 1956 the Morecambe Visitor advertised the Miss Great Britain contest that would be held at the Super Swimming Stadium.

With £2,350 in prize money (nearly £60,000 today), the competition was organised by the Sunday Dispatch, Mecca Dancing and Butlins Holiday Camps, with the grand final occurring at the end of August. In the meantime, heats were being held at Morecambe every Wednesday at 3pm.

On 29 August 1956, the day of the grand final, the Morecambe Visitor looked forward to the competition, as it asked:

Which lucky lovely will leave the Swimming Stadium as Miss Great Britain, the richer by £1,000, the Sunday Dispatch solid silver rose bowl, the embroidered sash of honour, and the chance to compete in the Miss World contest?

The newspaper described how the winner would receive £1,000, whilst ‘the second prizewinner will be presented with £200 and a rosette, and the third £100 and a rosette.’ All the other finalists would ‘receive [a] £10 cash consolation prize.’

34 women were set to participate in the 1956 Miss Great Britain final, with two local Morecambe women, Joyce Taylor and Antoinette O’Dowd competing. The Morecambe Visitor details how:

Miss Taylor is a 21-year-old hazel-eyed beauty with light brown hair, who won the opening local heat. She was one of Morecambe’s beautiful girls in the TV Top Town show of 1954. Seventeen-year-old Antoinette O’Dowd has chestnut hair and brown eyes. She won the Miss Ireland title in the ‘Sunday Dispatch’ photographic contest. She is a Morecambe Old Grammarian, and works as a model.

However, Joyce and Antoinette were pipped to the post, with the Morecambe Visitor reporting on the results of the Miss Great Britain 1956 final on 5 September:

Before a crowd of 6,059 spectators, in brilliant sunshine (after a week of heavy rain), 21-year-old Miss Iris Waller, of Wallace Gardens, Springwell, Gateshead, was chosen for the coveted Miss Great Britain title from 40 of the country’s most beautiful girls at the Swimming Stadium on Wednesday.

Placing second was model Leila Williams of Walsall, whilst 17-year-old Margaret Helsby, of Middlesex, who was still at school, claimed third.

Winner Iris Waller had already seen some success upon the beauty contest scene, having come forth in the Miss Universe contest, held in the summer in Long Beach, where she represented England. This was the highest placing that the country had yet to achieve. Meanwhile, the Morecambe Visitor reported how Iris’s ‘only regret’ over her Miss Great Britain win was ‘that her mother was not able to see her success… because of a recent illness.’ She planned to make this up to her with her £1,000 prize money, telling reporters how:

…the first thing I shall do is get something for my mother. She can have anything she wants.

Iris Waller would then go on to represent Great Britain at the Miss World contest in October 1956, which was held in London. Miss Great Britain is still running to this day.

Find out more about the history of pageants, beauty queens, and much more besides, in the pages of our newspaper Archive today.

New Titles
TitleYears Added
Morecambe Visitor1900, 1917, 1952-1954, 1956-1962, 1964-1968, 1987
Updated Titles

This week we have updated 24 of our existing titles.

You can learn more about each of the titles we add to every week by clicking on their names. On each paper’s title page, you can read a FREE sample issue, learn more about our current holdings, and our plans for digitisation.

TitleYears Added
Arbroath Herald1988
Banbury Guardian1929, 1931-1945, 1964-1977
Batley News1991
Bellshill Speaker1987
Biggleswade Chronicle1967-1969
Bo’ness Journal and Linlithgow Advertiser1889
Chorley Guardian1988
Crawley and District Observer1985
Derry Journal1996
Eastbourne Gazette1927
Guernsey Evening Press and Star1917
Hemel Hempstead Gazette and West Herts Advertiser1869
Kilsyth Chronicle1986-1987
Londonderry Sentinel1967
Luton News and Bedfordshire Chronicle1986
Market Harborough Advertiser and Midland Mail1981-1982
Motherwell Times1974
Northampton Chronicle and Echo1987
Prescot Reporter1873
Retford, Worksop, Isle of Axholme and Gainsborough News1973
Rugby Advertiser1980-1981, 1985, 1989
Wigan Observer and District Advertiser1986
Worcester Journal1917
Worthing Herald1983, 1985

You can keep up to date with all the latest additions by visiting the recently added page.  You can even look ahead to see what we’re going to add tomorrow.

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