EIGHTY years ago today, a grand new building became the home of the Echo.
That Monday’s paper was the first to be produced from a glamorous Art Deco headquarters on Bournemouth’s Richmond Hill.
It was the paper’s third home. The Echo had started life in 1900 at a building known as The Exchange, opposite East Cliff Congregational Church in Holdenhurst Road.
In 1907, the paper had moved to Observer Chambers, which was previously the home of the Bournemouth Observer, on Albert Road – the site now occupied by Bath Travel.
But the move in 1934 was a move into an exciting new era.
Work had started in 1933 on a site half-way up Richmond Hill, between Albert Road and Yelverton Road.
The project used half a million bricks and large quantities of white Monks Park Bath stone, as well as Purbeck stone in which discerning passers-by can still spot the fossils of shellfish from a million years ago.
Art Deco had come to Bournemouth in the 1920s. The opening of the tomb of Tutaknhamun had encouraged an interest in all things Egyptian, with buildings in sandy colours bearing decorations reminiscent of hieroglyphics.
Another influence on Art Deco was the design of ocean liners, which shows itself in the prow-like curves on the corners of the Echo building.
The paper moved into this impressive building overnight on January 13 to 14 1934. At 7pm on Saturday January 13, news and sports results were still being delivered to the old premises by private wire.
After that, the process of switching over the telegraphic equipment began. Dynamos, transmitters and tape printers had to be up and running in their new home by the next morning.
The move was made harder by stormy weather much like that of this month.
On Sunday, the private wire was sent special messages to test the printer links. Meanwhile, reporters began receiving details by telephone of the overnight gale damage.
On Monday morning, 15 two-ton Linotype machines were producing lettering in lead.
The building may have been state-of-the-art in the 1930s, but within 30 years the paper needed to expand.
The paper’s publisher, Southern Newspapers, bought the New Royal Theatre next door in order to provide space for extension. Papers were getting thicker and the company had pledged to provide a social room, games room, canteen and kitchen.
In 1960, the theatre’s Grand Hall was taken over to provide more space. But the expansion involved more than knocking down some walls.
Two new presses weighed 50 tons more than the old ones, meaning the foundations had to be strengthened.
Meanwhile, a ramp was built so that lorries could fill up from the dispatch department at the Albert Road side of the building and leave at the Yelverton Road exit, uphill.
All this had to be done without compromising the existing building.
The operation involved installing a concrete basement running the whole length of the building, with reinforced waterproof concrete walls 18 inches thick and more than 20ft high.
A concrete raft carried the steel framework that would bear the load. That load could consist of 300 tons of newsprint at any one time and two new 130-ton three-unit presses, which were to be installed alongside existing 80-ton machines. Offices, processing and jobbing departments were added at the same time.
The mayor, Cllr Deric Scott, was invited to push the button that started the first of the new presses on September 18 1961. A year later, the second began to roll, after the completion of the £500,000 underpinning operation.
The newspaper industry underwent a transformation in the 1980s, with computer-set pages replacing the old hot metal technology.
Use of the new technology started on the TV pages and spread through the features sections, before it was tried on the “live” news pages. The Echo of November 25 1987 was to be the first completely computer-set paper in the title’s history.
Stonehand Geoff Liddle had, the previous day, ceremonially laid aside the tweezers used to apply spacing to pre-set lines of type. The horse racing results had been the last feature of the paper to be produced with hot metal.
The advance of technology was to mean the paper needed less space rather than more. The paper could be printed faster on new presses shared with other titles, first in Southampton and later in Weymouth.
That meant a large amount of space could be leased out and turned into an award-winning restaurant – called, appropriately, the Print Room.
The opening of the Print Room means diners can take a look for themselves at some of that spectacular 1930s architecture.
And for anyone travelling along Richmond Hill, the illuminated views of the Daily Echo’s grade II listed central stairwell provide a spectacular glimpse of Art Deco at its most elegant.