Hulton, Sir Edward, baronet (1869–1925), newspaper proprietor
by Dilwyn Porter

Hulton, Sir Edward, baronet (1869–1925), newspaper proprietor, was born on 3 March 1869 at 4 Fir Street, Hulme, Manchester, the second son of Edward Hulton (d. 1904), newspaper proprietor, and his wife, Mary Mosley.

Hulton, a Roman Catholic, was educated at St Bede's College, Manchester, but left school at sixteen to learn how to manage newspapers, serving an informal apprenticeship in his father's Manchester-based business. Hulton senior was an astute entrepreneur who built up a stable of popular titles, including the Sporting Chronicle (1871), the Athletic News (1875), and the Sunday Chronicle (1885). By the mid-1890s he was ready to relinquish the day-to-day control of his business to Edward, who initiated a period of rapid expansion, adding the Manchester Evening Chronicle (1897) and the Daily Dispatch (1900) to the Hulton list. The Evening Chronicle was especially successful and quickly acquired the largest circulation of any evening paper outside London.

When Hulton senior died in 1904 Edward's two younger sisters indicated that they were unhappy to see the business pass into his hands; they shared, perhaps, their mother's anxieties regarding his interest in racing and coursing. However, he retained the confidence and support of his two elder sisters, and it soon became clear that their judgement was sound. Hulton, who registered his racing colours under the name of Lytham in order not to alarm his mother, devoted much time and expense to his sporting passions but could never have been accused of neglecting the business. His office regime, characterized by an early start to the day and a late finish, with a minimum of delegation, has been described as ‘puritanical’. By 1923, when he retired, the Hulton empire had grown to incorporate eight titles generating average pre-tax profits of around £377,000 (Griffiths, Plant here the Standard, 210).

It could never be said of the Hultons, father or son, that they grew rich by overestimating public taste. Their approach to the newspaper business perfectly illustrated the idea that journalism was simply ‘a branch of commerce’ (Jones, 173). Hulton newspapers sought primarily to entertain their readers. They offered an unpretentious diet of human interest news stories, serials, competitions, and other bright features. Though he was a Conservative, Hulton did not seek political influence through his newspapers; he was more interested in sport than politics and correctly judged that most of his readers shared the same innocent priorities. He also recognized the possibilities of picture journalism, establishing the Daily Sketch in 1909 in direct competition with Harmsworth's Daily Mirror (established in 1903). The Sketch, with its front and back pages given over to photographs, was started in Manchester but quickly moved to London, allowing Hulton to establish a base in Fleet Street. Hulton bought the London Evening Standard for £50,000 in 1915, hoping to repeat his earlier success with the Evening Chronicle in Manchester. The Standard experienced a ‘Lancashire invasion’ (Colley, 198) as Hulton imported journalistic talent from the north. His management style remained highly personal; it was said that he defused industrial disputes by dispensing racing tips to disgruntled printers (Griffiths, Plant here the Standard, 197). He was sufficiently confident of his London base by 1915 to launch a new illustrated paper, the Sunday Herald. This was not, however, the success that Hulton anticipated, principally because Rothermere rushed out the rival Sunday Pictorial two weeks before the Herald made its début, thus gaining the former a flying start which it never lost. Hulton bitterly resented Rothermere's intervention, believing that his rival had made unfair use of confidential information lodged with trade associations (Camrose, 61). This episode helps to explain Hulton's reluctance to sell his newspaper interests to Rothermere when ill health forced him to retire in 1923.

By then Hulton's private company owned eight newspapers. The morning and evening titles had a combined circulation of about 2 million; the circulation of his Sunday and weekly titles was estimated at about 4.5 million. When negotiations with the Berry brothers broke down, Beaverbrook, knowing that Hulton would not sell direct to Rothermere, intervened. Beaverbrook's down payment of £300,000 secured the Hulton papers in a deal worth between £5 million and £6 million. He then sold the titles on to Rothermere, retaining a controlling interest in the Evening Standard as commission (Chisholm and Davie, 216).

Hulton was married twice: first to a Miss Turnbull, the daughter of a Manchester solicitor. After that marriage was dissolved (about 1915) he married Millicent Warris, who survived him. There were two children, a son and a daughter, of his second marriage. His son, was also a magazine publisher, and his publications included Hulton's Weekly and Picture Post. The elder Sir Edward accepted a baronetcy from Lloyd George in 1921, having been promised it would have a special remainder allowing his son (who had been born out of wedlock) to inherit. However, this did not materialize, and the baronetcy became extinct. His son was awarded a knighthood in 1957.

Hulton retained his interest in sport almost to the end of his life. He owned two winners of the Waterloo cup, the premier prize in hare coursing, and his horses won the Gimcrack Stakes at York three years in succession in 1911, 1912, and 1913. The Epsom Derby eluded him but he did win the wartime substitute race at Newmarket with Finfinella in 1916. His most successful filly was Straitlace, winner of the Oaks in 1924. Hulton was as competitive in sport as he was in business. With his weatherbeaten complexion he could have passed for a north country landowner; he looked every inch the country sportsman.

After purchasing the Evening Standard Hulton moved from Manchester to Surrey, taking up residence in Leatherhead, first at Tyrrell's Wood in 1918 and then, a year later, at Downside. He died there on 23 May 1925, after a protracted period of illness and depression. After a funeral at Farm Street, Kensington, he was buried at Putney Vale cemetery. His declining years were stressful; according to his son ‘he could not bring himself to think about death in a rational way’ (Hulton, 147).

DILWYN PORTER

Sources  

D. Griffiths, Plant here The Standard (1996) · Viscount Camrose [W. E. Berry], British newspapers and their controllers (1947) · D. Griffiths, ed., The encyclopedia of the British press, 1422–1992 (1992) · The Times (25 May 1925) · Dorking Advertiser (30 May 1925) · Newspaper World (30 May 1925) · E. Hulton, When I was a child (1952) · A. Chisholm and M. Davie, Beaverbrook: a life (1992) · C. Shaw and R. P. T. Davenport-Hines, ‘Hulton, Sir Edward’, DBB · CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1925) · K. Jones, Fleet Street and Downing Street (1920) · W. Colley, News hunter (1936) · DNB

Archives  

 

FILM

 

BFINA, amateur film footage


Wealth at death  

£2,795,125 8s. 1d.: resworn probate, CGPLA Eng. & Wales


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Sir Edward Hulton (1869–1925): doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/34048