Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: March 10, 2018
Webpage updated: March 10, 2018

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Plymouth's only local Sunday newspaper claims an ancestry going back to 1808, when the Plymouth and Dock Telegraph was founded.  That newspaper had ceased in 1863 and had, in spirit if not entirely in fact, been taken over by the Devonport Independent and Plymouth and Stonehouse Gazette.

In 1891, with the help and support of some of his political friends, Mr Henry Francis Whitfeld formed the Devon and Cornwall Newspaper Company in order to acquire the Devonport Independent.  The last issue under that name was dated August 21st 1891 and it then became the Western Independent.

The paper was apparently published on Wednesdays and Saturdays at that time.

During his ownership, hiding under the name of "The Boy from the Back of Morice Square", he wrote a series of investigative articles about the slum housing conditions in the area around Morice Square and and followed that up with a pamphlet entitled "The Curse of Devonport".  He died on July 11th 1908.

In 1912 Mrs Louise E A Whitfeld and her son, Mr Harry Whitfeld, sold the business to a newly formed company, Messrs Whitfeld and Newman Ltd.   Their office was at 16 Saint Aubyn Street, Devonport.  Mr Harry Whitfeld became the managing director, Mr William Newman became the business manager and Mr William Sowden, owner of the Carlton Hotel, in Saint Aubyn Street, also became a director.  They were pay Mrs Whitfeld a pension of 91 per annum for the rest of her life.

Mr Sowden died in 1914 and his widow, Mrs Mary Jane Sowden, replaced him as a director.  At the same time Mr Newman resigned in order to join the army.  Three years later Mrs Lilian Edith Burton Whitfeld, Harry's wife, was allocated shares and joined her husband and Mrs Sowden as a director.  Over the next couple of years several changes took place so that by March 1921 the main shareholder was a Mr Edward Bostock Smith, of Hayward's Heath, with the others being Mr Harry Whitfeld, Mr William Newman, Mr James Alfred Bush, of Palmer's Green, London, and Mrs Mary Jane Sowden, who just had 10 invested.

Sir Leicester Harmsworth bought and merged the Western Morning News and Western Daily Mercury in February 1921 so shortly afterwards, and certainly by March 15th 1922, Lord Astor acquired the Western Independent to prevent Harmsworth from getting his hands on that newspaper, too.  Mr R A J Walling was appointed as editor.

In March 1960 it became simply The Independent but then at the start of 1976 it was renamed the Western Sunday Independent.  In 1984 it took on its present title of the Devon Independent.

Plymouth Central Library have copies from 1925 to date while the British Library Newspaper Library has a continuous run from 1912 and a good selection of earlier issues.


  During its last years the Western Independent, every Sunday, nurtured the author's interest in local history with many interesting articles and excellent photographs.