AFTER the First World War, The Northern Echo, under the guidance of its managing director Sir Charles Starmer, began buying up all the little local newspapers in the area and merging them.

In 1919, it bought the Durham County Advertiser, the North-East's oldest surviving newspaper as it had been formally established in 1814, although its roots probably went back as far as the 1790s. It was once the only newspaper between Newcastle and York, and it was so virulently pro-Tory that in 1820, the more Liberal Durham Chronicle was established to oppose it. In 1919, the Echo also bought the Chronicle and merged it with the Advertiser, so the old political rivals suddenly found themselves sharing a bed.

In the Echo archives there exists a picture of the Durham Chronicle's original offices shortly after the takeover. Every bit of the picture is magnificent, from the grubby urchin in the bottom left, wearing an oversize scarf, to the lady in her finery and furs on the right – that appears to be an entire fox around her neck.

But where were these offices? Is the Gothic writing above the doorway on the right hand side a clue as to the location? Could it be the entrance to a pub named after an Earl?

There is a telltale as to the date of the picture in the Echo billboard below the window: "What is Stinnes doing?" This must refer to the German industrialist Hugo Stinnes who, liked the Echo, was born in 1870. He became a millionaire before the First World War through his steel and coal interests, and got richer still during the conflict. In the early 1920s, he was elected to the German parliament as a conservative, and – just like the Echo – began buying up newspapers.

As the German economy went into hyperinflation, Stinnes made a fortune by repaying his debts in worthless Reichmarks, and by 1923, he was so influential that he was known to the Americans as "The New Emperor of Germany". All of this is what he was up to, to answer the Echo's question, but he died a year later and most of his businesses – he owned 4,500 companies and 3,000 manufacturing plants – collapsed.

Another of the Echo's purchases in 1919 was the Auckland Chronicle. Formed in 1868, it was the only survivor of four newspapers in its area. The first was the Bishop Auckland Herald, which was published between 1854 and 1856. Then came the Auckland Times, which lasted from 1862 to 1910. It was followed by the short-lived Auckland Mercury, which started in 1875 but closed in 1878.

The Auckland Chronicle lasted as a title until 1970 when it was subsumed into the Durham Advertiser, but it must have had offices and outlets in the Auckland area. Indeed, we have several pictures of Auckland Chronicle buildings, but no one has recorded where they were. It is so frustrating!

If you can identify the locations of any of our newspaper buildings, please email

The Northern Echo:

A marvellous picture of a newsagent at the door of his shop, probably in the 1920s. The Echo's billboard, "Russian grain for Britain", doesn't give us many clues as to the date, although the Auckland Chronicle poster on the right is announcing that it has pictures of the war memorial ceremonies at Shildon and Barnard Castle. At the top of the window, there's an interesting poster advertising an appearance by Bert Coulbeck. "Blind Bert" was a visually-impaired Primitive Methodist preacher whose regular home was the beach in his native Cleethorpes, where he ranted at holidaymakers three times a day during the season, but he was also popular further afield – but the picture isn't sharp enough for us to see where he is visiting in our area. Can you locate the shop?

The Northern Echo:

The shared offices of the Advertiser, the Chronicle and the Echo at 64, Saddler Street, Durham, probably photographed in 1941. This was next to the Shakespeare Tavern, and is now a Pizza Express. At the top of the building, the brickwork says "AD 1898" – can anyone tell us the story of this landmark?

The Northern Echo:

A splendid picture of the Auckland Chronicle's offices which must have been in Bishop Auckland – can you tell where? The windows are full of pictures of people at local events – in the days before every phone was a camera, such displays were the only time people saw pictures of themselves. It must be a 1920s picture – the Echo billboard on the left must refer to Lord Curzon who was Britain's highly regarded Foreign Secretary from 1919 to 1924. He died in 1925

The Northern Echo:

Another great shopfront, we think from Newgate Street in Bishop Auckland. The newsagent ED Walker was known as "the WH Smith of the north", as he was a railwaymen who in 1870 took on the lease of station bookstalls in the Darlington area, and made a fortune. In 1895, he bought the Echo, probably at a time when it could have collapsed, and in 1902, he moved it on to the Rowntree family of York who wanted it to continue promoting the Liberal message. Walker was knighted in 1908, was three times mayor of Darlington and has the attractive retirement homes in Coniscliffe Road, Darlington, named after him