A 191-year-old Lake District newspaper, which claims William Wordsworth as an early backer, is ditching its traditional broadsheet format to go tabloid.
From today the Newsquest-owned Westmorland Gazette will hit newsstands in its new smaller form following publication, last week, of its final broadsheet edition.
Conversion to tabloid size closes its time as one of the few remaining local weekly broadsheet newspapers in the UK.
The weekly paper, founded in 1818, claims a rich literary heritage. In addition to its Wordsworth connection, Thomas de Quincey, author of Confessions of an Opium Eater, acted as one of the paper’s early editors.
Originally produced solely in Kendal, the last week’s commemorative edition detailed some of the events covered over the course of the paper’s rich history.
In 1848, between accounts of public hangings, fox hunts and the discovery of dead bodies, the Gazette offered up to the minute advice on sartorial elegance, the Queen’s health, and the growing tourism industry in the Ambleside region.
By 1866 the tone of the paper had taken a darker turn as it reported on the ‘cattle plague’ which had disrupted agricultural shows and meant that only sheep and horses could compete.
Later stories with particular poignancy for the Gazette’s readers included reports on the Great Frost of 1929 when thousands enjoyed skating on Windermere and the death of noted author and walking enthusiast Alfred Wainwright, in 1991.
Following a shake up of Newsquest’s North West operation last year, the paper is now overseen from the publisher’s local centre in Blackburn, 56 miles from Kendal.
Group editor Kevin Young said: “This is a big milestone in the history of a much-loved newspaper and something not to be embarked upon lightly.”
According to the most recent figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, the Gazette sold an average of 29,009 copies each week during the second half of last year.
Changes to the paper, Young said, were carried out only after extensive reader research.
He added: “Apart from the format change, we have introduced a lot of new content and our aim is to give our readers a much improved all-round package.”