First published in 1824 the North Devon Journal covers the general North Devon area. Established by John Avery, a bookseller who was a prominent liberal and Methodist in Barnstaple it had a mixture of local news and items taken from the national papers of the time. Spread over 4 pages each containing 7 columns, part of the paper was printed in Exeter by Thomas Besley before coming up to Barnstaple where the rest of it was printed in John Avery’s premises in Joy St.
In 1826 John Avery took on two apprentices John Gould Hayman and his son, William. By 1835 John had handed the paper to William who moved the business into the High Street a year later and in 1838 the original partnership between Avery and Besley was dissolved allowing the paper to be printed solely in Barnstaple.
In 1849 William Avery increased the size of the paper to 8 pages with 5 columns and purchased a new printing machine which he invited his readers to see in action! In 1852 William sold the paper to John Gould Hayman and Henry Petter and moved to Bristol. The new partnership lasted for three years before Petter sold his share to Hayman and went on to co-found Shapland and Petter.
1870 saw the publication of the North Devon Herald, the Journal’s only real rival. The Journal had always been a more liberal newspaper and the Herald was its conservative opposite. In 1871 Hayman persuaded William Avery (who had become bankrupt twice in the intervening years) to return to the Journal and he stayed until 1880 when he retired. Hayman followed Avery into retirement in 1885.
During the late 19th Century successive editors also had books published at the Journal offices these included Hayman’s Methodism in North Devon, Hugh Wesley Strong’s Industries of North Devon and William Frederick Gardiner’s Barnstaple 1837-1897 all of which are standard works of reference on the area today.
The first half of the 20th Century saw the greatest changes at the Journal. New printing machines, printer’s strikes, photographs and war all saw changes to the newspaper. The greatest change came during the Second World War when both the Journal and Herald were brought by Philip Inman who merged the two old rivals in 1941 to become the North Devon Journal-Herald.
Despite the introduction of free papers in the late 1970s and early 1980s the Journal’s readership has steadily increased and in 1986 changed size again from broadsheet to tabloid and its name back to the North Devon Journal. 1999 saw the newspaper go online via northdevonjournal.co.uk and it continues to be published weekly nearly 200 years after its first edition.