Webpage created: March 10, 2018
Webpage updated: March 10, 2018
LEICESTER HARMSWORTH HOUSE
Sir Harold Harmsworth, chairman of the Company, opened the new commercial and editorial office of the Western Morning News Company Limited in Frankfort Street, Plymouth, on the morning of Thursday December 1st 1938. Known as Leicester Harmsworth House, it was the most modern and well equipped newspaper office and printing works in the country.
Designed in the Queen Anne style by Messrs Herbert O Ellis & Clarke, architects, of London, the building was erected by Messrs J W Spencer, of Saint Lawrence Yard, Plymouth. Mr W Lee Clarke and Mr Spencer was present at the opening ceremony along with the Mayor and Mayoress of Plymouth, Mr & Mrs G S Scoble; the Deputy Mayoress, Mrs H G Mason; Mr James L Palmer, the editor-in-chief; Mr J Nott, the general manager and secretary; and Mr F H Padfield, the London manager.
Owing to the threat of air raids, the floors and staircase of the building were constructed of solid concrete. The exterior of the ground floor was faced with Portland stone but above that the facing was of two-inch thick hand-made sand-faced bricks. The cornice was of painted wood while hand-made, sand-faced tiles were used on the roof. The west country coat of arms used over the leader in the newspaper were carved on two small projecting balconies at either end of the building. The most outstanding feature of the exterior was the large bracket clock, which was finished in a cellulose green colour.
Black and white marble tiles paved the entrance hall, to the rear of which was a prominent staircase made of pine. The large ground floor office, rising to 16 feet in height, was entered through double swing doors to the left of the entrance hallway. It was covered from floor to ceiling in panels of pine, small ones below the dado rail and larger ones above it. The cornices were richly decorated with fine carvings. The woodwork was finished with a dull sheen, which gave the room a warm appearance. The lighting was provided by twelve satin brass electrical fittings. The plain ceiling was covered in cribble cloth to absorb the noise.
The editorial offices were on the first floor while the managerial staff, boardroom and staff dining room were on the second floor. On both floors the walls and ceiling were painted in ivory and the ceilings were covered in cribble cloth. Rooms were formed using stippled bronze metal and glass partitioning. Special provision had been made on the second floor for air raid decontamination arrangements. On the third floor was a large store room and accommodation for the caretaker.
Hidden from public view behind the pine panelling was a Lamson pneumatic tube system to carry "copy" from the front desk to the editorial department and from there to the composing room in the print works.
Behind the building, and fronting on to Frankfort Lane, was the print works. On the ground floor were the publishing office, the foundry and the composing room, with the printing presses placed two or three feet below that level to facilitate the handling of printing plates from the foundry on to the machines. The floor was covered in iron tiles because of the excessive use of this area. On the second floor of this block was the photographic department and dark-room.
With the exception of the printing works at the rear, with the photographic records, this building withstood the fires that raged throughout the City Centre during the Second World War.
Leicester Harmsworth House is no longer the home of the Western Morning News Company Limited.