Sunday, 3 May 2015

12 years as Lord of the Manor draws to a close

Last year's trainees from the Daily Mail, MailOnline and the Telegraph at the Manor
I first visited the Bishop’s Manor in Howden in 2003. The Press Association had won the contract to train the Daily Mail’s subs - a pioneering scheme which involved taking youngsters from journalism courses and turning them into national newspaper sub-editors. PA needed help with the training and Pat Pilton, who I had worked with at the Mirror five years earlier, asked me to lend a hand. Instead of running the course in London, the training was to be in East Yorkshire. PA had taken over the town's manor during one of its acquisitions and it had become its Northern outpost. When the operation got too big for the manor, PA moved around the corner and took over the old police station and magistrates building. The manor was empty - and made an ideal training centre. It was kitted out with lecture rooms, Macs and PC suites, the latest publishing software, plasma screens and later came a technology and video suite. With its history, its thick stone walls and big creaking wooden door, the 12th century building became a place where the past and the future met. It was simply a great place to train and to learn. The Mail’s subbing course has continued every year in the manor since then, with myself and Mike Watson being the ever-present trainers. The building also hosted training schemes for MailOnline, The Daily Telegraph, The Sun, Al Watan (a Saudi newspaper) and PA itself. Senior training courses for newspapers in the North were also held there and I redesigned many newspapers on the manor’s computers. For a few months each year the Manor was my home, as I lived in one of the two flats on the top floor. 
Hundreds of today’s national newspaper journalists have passed through the manor and many editors and executives have visited. They are in good company. In days gone by at least three kings also stayed there. Edward II, Henry V visited and King John spent the Christmas of 1211 there. But, as I have long learned in the newspaper game, nothing lasts forever. The manor is now surplus to requirements and is up for sale. There is plenty of spare space in PA's main operating centre which will house a state-of-the-art training centre. It will be first class and the Mail subbing intake for this year is already destined to go there in September. So Howden will continue its tradition of hosting the newspaper stars of the future. They will continue to do the quizzes in the White Horse and Wellington, enjoy the cheap curry nights at the Zolsha and get the best fish and chips from the Minster Fish Bar. Closing the manor undoubtedly makes enormous sense ... but it is a little sad nonetheless. In the great scheme of things the last 12 years are just a small part of its amazing history. But for me, and many others, they were hugely significant. 

If you are interested in taking over the lease of the manor the details are here

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