Last month marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the pioneering newspaper proprietor, James Henderson, who lived in East Dulwich from 1864 until shortly before his death in 1906.
He founded the South London Press among many other publications.
To celebrate his bicentenary, historian Dr Mark Bryant, who has written Henderson’s entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, has put his name forward to be considered with the honour of a Southwark Blue Plaque.
He was born in Scotland on November 26, 1823, the nephew of the British Attorney-General in Greece.
At the age of 32, Henderson founded the Glasgow Daily News, which has been claimed as the first daily penny paper in the UK.
He was then appointed manager of the Leeds Express, followed by the Manchester Guardian, and in 1861, he set up The Weekly Budget which combined, for the first time, stories with daily news.
It was such a success that he transferred his offices from Manchester to Fleet Street in London, and by 1865 the Budget claimed to have the largest provincial circulation of any newspaper in the UK.
The same year he founded the weekly South London Press and in 1868 he launched The Evening Mercury, London’s first ever halfpenny evening paper.
In 1871, came Young Folks, the first halfpenny illustrated magazine, which first published three of Robert Louis Stevenson’s novels in serial form before they became books – Treasure Island, The Black Arrow and Kidnapped.
In 1874, came Funny Folks, the world’s first modern comic, followed by numerous other publications.
Many future great newspaper men had been employed by Henderson in their youth, including Alfred Harmsworth (later Lord Northcliffe), founder of The Daily Mail and owner of The Times, and Sir Arthur Pearson, founder of The Daily Express.
As well as working as a newspaper proprietor, Henderson was a noted horticulturist (his gardens were open to the public) and property developer, and stood (unsuccessfully) as MP for Dulwich, supported by the then Home Secretary, Hugh Childers.
When he died, James Henderson was buried on the Wood Vale side of Camberwell Old Cemetery, East Dulwich. (Dr Bryant’s house near Lordship Lane is built on the site of Henderson’s mansion and its extensive gardens.)
Mark Bryan, East Dulwich
Picture: James Henderson. Picture courtesy of Neil Henderson, great-grandson of James Henderson
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