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Our History

History of the World's longest-running Methodist newspaper:

1861: THE first edition of the Methodist Recorder and General Christian Chronicle (motto: "The truth in love") appeared on Thursday, April 4, consisting of eight pages, price one penny. Editorial and business offices were at 83 Fleet Street with the paper being printed and published for the proprietors by a printing company at No 121. Although the six Wesleyan ministers largely responsible for launching the Recorder formed themselves into an "editorial council", effective editorial control is thought to have rested with one of them, the Rev William Morley Punshon, a minister in the London Islington circuit. A layman, John Willey, was named in the paper as "one of the editors" to whom all communications could be addressed. Page size was enlarged at the beginning of May, with illustrations first appearing in the advertising columns on June 6.

1862: At the end of the year, it was announced that the Methodist Recorder and its rival, the Watchman and Wesleyan Advertiser, would be jointly administered by the Wesleyan Methodist Newspaper Co Ltd.

1863: The paper moved across the road from 83 to 161 Fleet Street, where it remained for the next 76 years.

1865: The first illustration to appear in theRecorder's news pages was an engraving of the "new Wesleyan chapel" at Peckham, south London, published on March 10.

1881: The Rev George W Olver, a "scholar and theologian of note", became editor following the death of Dr William Punshon. Originally appointed for an interim period of six months, he stayed for two years.

1883: The Watchman and Wesleyan Advertiser, founded in 1835, ceased publication. The Rev Dr William Theophilus Davison was appointed editor upon the retirement of Mr Olver. Already a member of the editorial committee, Dr Davison was later to become President of the Wesleyan Conference.

1886: The Rev Nehemiah Curnock, who was said to have put the Recorder on the map "more decisively than any of his predecessors", became editor following the retirement of Dr Davison. Another of Mr Curnock's outstanding services to Methodism was his editorship of the standard edition of Wesley's Journals.

1891: A "Wesley Centenary Number" published on March 2 commemorated the death of John Wesley in 1791. It had 28 pages, ran to at least seven editions and contained many specially commissioned drawings - all of which were exhibited at the Allan Library during centenary week.

1896: The first photographs to be published appeared without comment on April 30. They were portraits of the Rev J C Greenhough (President of the Baptist Union) and the Rev George Jackson of Edinburgh.

1903: In June, the Recorder published a best-selling supplement commemorating the bicentenary of the birth of John Wesley. This was said to be the first occasion on which "tone blocks" were used in any church newspaper.

1906: The first layman to assume overall editorial responsibility was Mr J B Watson, who succeeded the Rev Nehemiah Curnock upon his retirement. Having joined the staff in 1886, with oversight of the composing room, Mr Watson was to serve the paper for 48 years.

1911: On March 30 the Recorder published its jubilee edition, including an advertising feature celebrating "50 years in the business". There was an article about the early days of theRecorder by the Rev Nehemiah Curnock, together with comment and greetings from notables like the Rev John Hornabrook (President of Conference), the Rev Simpson Johnson (Secretary of Conference), the Rev F L Wiseman, the Rev Samuel Chadwick, the Rev Dinsdale T Young and George Stamp.

1926: The Recorder was prevented from publishing for two weeks during the General Strike but produced a three-in-one edition when it was able to resume, dated May 6, 13 and 20. Its leading article was headed "After the Ordeal".

1932: In the year of Methodist union, the Methodist Recorder absorbed the United Methodist.

1934: Mr Frederick D Wiseman was appointed manager (later to become managing editor) upon the death of Mr Watson. Son of the Rev Dr F Luke Wiseman and grandson of the Rev Luke H Wiseman, one of the Recorder's six founding ministers, he had joined the staff in 1923.

1937: The Methodist Times, founded in 1885 by the Rev Hugh Price Hughes, and now known as the Times and Leader, was taken over by the Methodist Recorder, leaving Cliff College'sJoyful News (founded 1883) as the only other national Methodist weekly newspaper. Among those who came to the Recorder with the Times and Leader were assistant editor R G Burnett, columnist Margaret Harwood and photographer E W Tattersall. During this year, advertisements were removed from the front page of the Recorder.

1939: With the premises at 161 due for demolition, the paper moved to a new "temporary home" at 116 Fleet Street. After the outbreak of war, the Recorder was evacuated to the St Albans home of the editor, Mr Wiseman, from where it was published, in conjunction with the London office, throughout the war.

1946: In spite of post-war newsprint rationing, a monthly four-page youth supplement, "Young Britain", was incorporated into the paper and published in co-operation with the Methodist Youth Department.

1947: In order to economise on raw materials the Methodist Recorder, along with other weeklies, was banned from publication for two weeks by government edict. When the paper reappeared with a three-in-one edition, it attacked what it called the "suppression" of religious weeklies.

1952: Mr R G Burnett was appointed editor following the sudden death of F D Wiseman. The following year he became president of the Local Preachers' Mutual Aid Association.

1955: A prolonged national railway strike threatened to paralyse distribution of the Recorder, but the paper's legendary circulation manager, Mr Reubin Rees, improvised a schedule of air and road transport which enabled papers to reach all parts of Britain.

1956: The Recorder moved to its final Fleet Street address, No 176, where it remained for the next 27 years.

1959: During a national printing strike, the Recorder was temporarily printed with union permission (acknowledged on the back page) and was thereby able to continue uninterrupted publication throughout the protracted dispute.

1960: Mr Eric Pigott, who joined the Recorder as assistant editor in 1954, was appointed editor on April 12 following the death of R G Burnett.

1961: The Recorder celebrated its centenary with a 40-page edition on April 6 (No 5392), a comprehensive appraisal of a century of change. Among the contributors were Prof Herbert Butterfield, the Rev Prof E Gordon Rupp, Dr Pauline Webb, the Rev Allen Birtwhistle, the Rev Dr E Benson Perkins, the Rev Dr W J Noble, the Rev W David Stacey and the Rev F H Everson ("FHE"). There were greetings from the Queen and from the President of the Conference, the Rev Edward Rogers. A centenary luncheon was held in the Livery Hall of the City of London's Guildhall.

1969: One of the biggest technical changes in the production of the paper was the switch from rotary to webb offset printing, starting with the issue of June 5. This year also saw the first use of the colour masthead which, with modifications, is still in use today.

1972: The 6,000th edition of the Recorder was marked with special features on November 30.

1978: In November, the bicentenary and reopening of Wesley's Chapel was commemorated with a widely acclaimed pull-out supplement.

1980: On January 1, Mr Michael Taylor took over as Recorder editor on the retirement of W E Pigott. The new editor was the youngest ever to be appointed by the newspaper. The paper's series of Peace Platform articles attracted a United Nations Association Media Peace Prize award.

1981/82: In co-operation with the main committee responsible for deciding the content of "Hymns and Psalms", several drafts of the list of proposed hymns were published by the Recorder in supplements. These enabled a wide cross-section of the Church to scrutinise the hymns and thereby contribute to the book's final form. In 1981, the editor shared in the robing ceremony of the new Vice-President of Conference, David Ensor (then chairman of the Recorder board).

1983: On November 5 the Methodist Recorder moved from Fleet Street after purchasing the freehold property at 122 Golden Lane, London EC1. A supplement on November 10 marked the "new chapter in the life of the paper" after 122 years in Fleet Street. A plaque was unveiled on November 24 to mark the official opening of the premises, which had been substantially refurbished.

1984: The first of the Recorder District supplements was produced on June 7 on behalf of the Cornwall District. This was the start of a successful and continuing example of co-operation, with Methodist Districts preparing their own material for the specials, thereby gaining national coverage and a local edition of the Recorder for wide distribution with the District

1986: The Recorder's 125th anniversary year was celebrated with a special edition on March 27 in which the Rev Edward Rogers looked back at the Recorder's first-ever coverage of a Methodist Conference, back in 1861. Allowing for what he termed "the majestic rotundity of Victorian prose", he found "it did an excellent job". The Recorder has been covering Conference ever since. Broacaster and journalist David Dimbleby gave a Recorder public lecture in Wesley's Chapel.

1987: Epworth Press published "Every Other Inch a Methodist" by Douglas Cock on his years as aRecorder reporter.

1988: The Joint Church Press was launched, providing advertising opportunities across four denominational newspapers: the Methodist Recorder, the Baptist Times, the Church Timesand the Church of England Newspaper.

1992: The Recorder's 7,000th edition (February 13).

1993: The Recorder printed its first April Fool story, "leaking" a report about the "complete standardisation of Methodist worship" which would require local preachers to wear a "uniform" and be trained in clowning and juggling!

1996: The Blackpool Conference paid tribute to the Rev Edward Rogers and Michael Taylor (attending his last Conference as Recorder editor).

1997: Full computerisation of the Recorder began. Michael Taylor retired as editor at the annual general meeting of the Methodist Newspaper Company on March 20. He was succeeded by the deputy editor and editor-designate, Ms Moira Sleight. The new editor was the youngest to be appointed and the first woman to hold the position.

1998: The Recorder goes live on the Internet. In February, the first-ever special Ireland supplement was published, with 10,000 copies of a special edition going to Methodists throughout both the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland.