End of an era for an "old friend" the Epworth Bells - buy your historic last edition

This week will see the end of a great local newspaper – The Epworth Bells – that has faithfully recorded Isle news since 1872.

By Nigel Booth
Tuesday, 25 June, 2019, 11:11
Isle community organiser, Peter Barnard (right) with Lys St Georges musicians Dave Prebble and Kate Billmore in 2016

Many across the Isle have reacted with great sadness to the news that the Bells will no longer be sold in its regular weekly slot.

Former North Lincolnshire Mayor, and North Lincolnshire Ward Councillor John Briggs, said: "I was really sad to learn that our local newspaper, originally published in 1872 and titled The Epworth Bells, Crowle and Isle of Axholme Messenger, would be lost forever from the newsagents shelves.

Andrew Percy, MP, is joined by councillors Rob Waltham, David Robinson and Liz Redfern, to promote the Wheels to work scheme in 2012

“This old friend has been a source of information for generations and will be truly missed because of, in part, being overtaken by the present day immediacy of modern electronic communications. I accept that change can be a good thing, but nevertheless I did enjoy the printed format and will certainly buy the final edition as a bit of local history to keep."

Former North Lincolnshiere Council leader, Baroness Coun Liz Redfern, said: “I remember when coming to live in the Isle when my mother-in-law called to give me my first copy of the Epworth Bells – as a new resident the paper focused on all local news rather than at a national level

“Everyone enjoyed reading and seeing the local photos whether it was about sport, matches, entertainment, trade or commerce it made good reading weekly and was part of Isle life.

It reflected our small communities and held peoples interests, concerns and passions

“I will always remember Fridays and the Bells as going hand in hand together and I know people will miss reading the Bells and not seeing the  paper in the stands - Fridays won’t be quite the same again - fond memories.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Respected Isle community organiser, Peter Barnard said: “The closure of the Bells was perhaps inevitable once the decision was made a few years ago to remove the local office from the town and base it in Doncaster. However, so long as the weekly local news digest continued to feature news of the Isle, where the editor was located didn’t really seem to matter.

“So, it was a shock to read – buried deep inside at page 14 rather in the way the House of Commons hides unwelcome news – last week that there would only be one more edition of the Bells and that it would close at the end of June. The Bells has been part of our family’s life since we moved here in 1987, and I have been pleased over that time at how Stephanie and Nigel – and earlier reporters and editors - have given the paper’s support to the various activities I help to run: Epworth Music Day, folk dances run by Isle Dance for Health or AVID, apple pressing with Apple of Your Isle and so on. It is a common feature of local newspapers that they contain some cringe-worthy errors, but even allowing for occasional frustrations in the type setting or editing, this has been our local paper which has reported on and advertised the goings on around here. It won’t be the same when we have to rely on a differently named newspaper based somewhere else and with a different population to serve.

“Perhaps it was also likely given the difficulties that all print newspapers are facing. So, maybe JPI Media – the owners – could instead set up an online version of the Epworth Bells? It would show that their heart really is in local news management. We still need a platform for news, events and comment without feeling that we can only get this via social media. Tennyson’s words – Ring out the old, Ring in the new, Ring out the false, Ring in the true – are as important today and for the future as they were 147 years ago.”

North Lincolnshire Council leader, Rob Waltham, also reacted with sadness at the end of the Bells, but said: “Following the news that the historic Epworth Bells with cease printing, the council will produce a special Isle version of News Direct.

“The council’s residents’ newspaper, News Direct, is delivered to over 80,000 homes across North Lincolnshire. From the next edition in November 2019, Isle of Axholme residents will receive a localised version of the paper, with specific Isle stories, news and events.”

He added: “The Isle of Axholme is an incredibly special place with a unique sense of identity and community. Producing an Isle-specific News Direct is my commitment to the Isle community and will help keep residents connected to the latest news and developments on their doorstep.

“The council has invested millions of pounds into the Isle of Axholme over the last few years: from the new Axholme North Leisure Centre and Belton Visitor Centre, improvements to the A161 and at Epworth Pool, through the shopfront grant scheme which keeps the traditional character of its towns, and investments in our important Isle schools.

“The Isle is a fantastic place to live and we want it to continue to be so.”