- Fleet Street
Fleet Street is a street in
London, Englandnamed after the River Fleet. It was the home of the British press until the 1980s. Even though the last major British news office, Reuters, left in 2005, the street's name continues to be used as a metonymfor the British national press.
History and location
Fleet Street began as the road from the
City of Londonto the City of Westminster. The length of Fleet Street marks the expansion of the City in the 14th century. At the east end of the street is where the river Fleet flowed against the mediævalwalls of London; at the west end is the Temple Bar which marks the current city limits, stretched to that point when the land and property of the Knights Templarwere acquired.
To the south lies the complex of buildings known as The Temple, formerly the property of the
Knights Templar, which houses two of the four Inns of Court, the Inner Templeand the Middle Temple. There are many lawyers' offices in the vicinity.Publishing started in Fleet Street around 1500 when William Caxton's apprentice, Wynkyn de Worde, set up a printing shop near Shoe Lane, while at around the same time Richard Pynsonset up as publisher and printer next to St Dunstan's church. More printers and publishers followed, mainly supplying the legal trade in the four Law Inns around the area. In March 1702, the world's first daily newspaper, "The Daily Courant", was published in Fleet Street from premises above the White Hart Inn.
At Temple Bar to the west, as Fleet Street crosses the boundary out of the
City of London, it becomes the Strand; to the east, past Ludgate Circus, it evolves into Ludgate Hill. The nearest tube stations are Temple, Chancery Lane, and Blackfriars and it is very close to City Thameslink station. Chancery Laneand Fetter Laneare at the western end of the street.
Fleet Street is a location on the London version of the Monopoly board game.
Fleet Street is also famous for the barber
Sweeney Todd, traditionally said to have lived and worked in Fleet Street (he is sometimes called "the Demon Barber of Fleet Street"). An early example of a serial killer, the character appears in various English language works starting in the mid-19th century. There are some records that show he actually existed, but the authenticity of these is disputed.
"Fleet Street" is now more associated with the Law and its courts and barristers' chambers, many of which are in alleys off Fleet Street itself, almost all of the newspapers thereabouts having moved to
Wappingand Canary Wharf. The former offices of " The Daily Telegraph", drawn upon as a source by Evelyn Waughin his comic novel "Scoop", are now the London headquarters of the investment bank Goldman Sachs. C. Hoare & Co, England's oldest privately owned bank, has had its place of business here since 1690. An informal measure of City takeover business employed by financial editors is the number of taxis waiting outside such law firms as Freshfieldsat 11pm: a long line is held to suggest a large number of mergers and acquisitions in progress. [ "Financial Times magazine"]
The French-owned international news and photo agency
Agence France Presseis still based in Fleet Street, as is the London office of D.C. Thomson & Co., creator of " The Beano". The Secretariat of the Commonwealth Broadcasting Associationis also an important Fleet Street address. Since 1995 Fleet Street has been the home of Wentworth Publishing, an independent publisher of newsletters and courses. In 2006 the " Press Gazette" returned to Fleet Street, albeit only briefly. " The Associated Press" and " The Jewish Chronicle" remain close by. "The Daily Telegraph" and "Sunday Telegraph" have recently returned to the centre of London after exile downriver in Canary Wharf, but are still a few miles away, near Victoria Station. St Bride's Church, just off the eastern end of Fleet Street, remains the London church most associated with the print industry. A plaque in the church records the vigils held for journalists held hostage in Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s, including John McCarthy and Terry Anderson. [ [http://www.stbrides.com/ministry/fleet/index.htm "Heart of Fleet Street"] (St Bride's Church) accessed 5 June 2008] In the adjacent, St Brides Lane, is the St Bride Library, specialising in the type and print industry. Child & CoBankers, one of the country's oldest private banks and owned by the Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc, is based at 1 Fleet Street.
The term Fleet Street is also used to indicate that a journalist is a member of the generation that worked on newspapers prior to their move away from its vicinity, and is synonymous with a bibulous, collegial tradition characterised by such figures as
Paul Callanand Brian Vine. Gossip was exchanged over liquid lunches at such hostelries as El Vino, now a haven for lawyers of the Rumpole school. Liquid dinners were equally familiar, editors often dining in the Grill of the Savoy Hotel, returning about 10pm to see the first editions of their papers roll off the presses. These were then transported by road to railway stations to catch the night mail expresses to far-flung corners of the United Kingdom and Ireland.
A significant mythology has accreted around Fleet Street, its characters, their scoops – and imaginative expense accounts. The most durable concern, however, stories that were "not" printed, usually on account of Britain's strict
libellaws. Few of the novels referenced below constitute exaggerations, the truth being, in the cliché of the sub-editors on the back benches, "stranger than fiction". According to journalistic lore it was not editors who constituted the heart of Fleet Street but diary writers and gossip columnists, whose stories would often make the front page: the exploits of Diana Princess of Walesprovided frequent examples of diary stories transmuted into news and even news features.
The content of a Fleet Street newspaper is influenced by its proprietor, editor, journalists and columnists. Many of the owners achieved notoriety, notably
Lord Northcliffe, Lord Beaverbrookand Robert Maxwell, all of whom used their papers to support their political agenda, an approach still employed by some present day proprietors. Generally newspapers are run on more business-like lines today, with some expectation of profit, or at least manageable losses. Ownership was long considered an honour for which the proprietor was expected to pay: with it came influence, and if exercised responsibly, an honour usually followed.
A number of great editors are still recalled and their dictates followed long after being summoned to the "great newsroom in the sky" as one obituarist put it. They include
Arthur Christiansonof the "Daily Express" and Sir John Junorof the "Sunday Express". Of living editors the brief reign of Janet Street-Porterat the "Independent on Sunday" is still the subject of many anecdotes, some of them true. Each editor is supported by department heads such as the foreign editor, news editor, picture editor and chief sub-editor, all of whom attend the morning conference to determine the day's news agenda. Rule number one of Fleet Street journalism is that "The Editor's decision is final". Unless, of course, the proprietor intervenes, as Rupert Murdochis recorded by his biographers as doing on a number of occasions.
By consent the elite of journalists are its foreign and war correspondents, of whom there are many fewer than formerly. There is also a highly paid category of experienced writers, the "firemen", who are dispatched to crisis venues to report, these days often via satellite telephones. The stock of political editors stands lower than hitherto, having been the subject of both political and academic criticism for becoming too close to government press officers, notably
Alastair Campbell. The latter are accused of manipulating the political news agenda - "spinning" - by feeding stories, sometimes slanted, to certain favoured newspapers and sympathetic correspondents thereon. Some of the most highly paid journalists are the diary editors and show business reporters, whose contacts are highly valued. Crime correspondents rank lower in the hierarchy along with sports reporters, and are remunerated accordingly.
Certain reporters have achieved legendary status, their adventures still recounted admiringly. They include
Bill Deedes, immortalised by Evelyn Waugh, the Calcutta-born gossip columnist Nigel Dempster, who purported to be an Australian, fellow diarist Jan Reid who claimed to be the grandchild of Queen Victoria, the "Daily Express's" New York correspondent Brian Vine, known as "El Vino", showbiz interviewer Paul Callanwho slept, "inter alia", with his little black book containing the private telephone numbers of Cary Grantand the Pope, and profiler Geoff "The Hatchet" Levy.
Fleet Street was the home of heavyweight sports columnists who often had pens dipped in poison, carrying huge clout in the sports world until usurped by opinionated television pundits. In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s every newspaper had a columnist who helped shape the views and opinions of not only readers but the sports establishment. Giants of the genre included Peter "The Man They Can't Gag" Wilson of the
Daily Mirror, the "Man in the Brown Bowler" Desmond Hackett, of the Daily Express, Geoffrey Green and John Woodcock, of The Times, J.L. Manning and Ian Wooldridge Daily Mail, Hugh McIlvanney The Observerand, later, Patrick Collins Mail on Sunday. The first of the post-war 'personality' sports columnists was Henry Rose, Manchester-based writer with the Daily Express. He was killed in the 1958 Munich Air Crashthat wiped out the Busby Babesof Manchester United, and also cost the lives of eight football writers. Henry Rose was so revered that on the day of his funeral 1,000 Manchester taxi-drivers took mourners free of charge on the six-mile drive to the cemetery.
Columnists are not necessarily journalists, some being TV personalities like
Terry Wogan, retired police chiefs, or politicians who have failed to achieve the highest office. Examples of the latter would be the self-confessed "Champagne Socialist" Woodrow Wyattand the unsuccessful Conservative leadership candidate Michael Portillo. Each newspaper will also usually have as columnists one perky blonde housewife, and a polemicisttasked to take a contrarian view on the week's events, plus an agony auntto advise readers on their sexual problems, preferably in explicit detail.
There is a Fleet Street tradition of retaining a corpus of outside experts to pontificate on major issues. Among the most frequently employed are military historians like
Corelli Barnettand Nigel Westwhose speciality is security and intelligence. Leading academics like the historian Niall Fergusonand the philosopher Roger Scrutonare valued for their ability to summarise both sides of an argument and reach a persuasive conclusion compatible with newspaper's standpoint - all within a thousand words.
Unlike the United States where national newspapers do not exist in the European sense, and the liberal or conservative perspective of some major newspapers is not openly declared, Fleet Street has enjoyed the diversity of over a dozen national daily and Sunday newspapers with differing political stances. Indeed these newspapers are quite open about their biases: a reader of "
The Guardian" would be well aware of the liberal sympathies of its editorials, that of the "Daily Telegraph" of its support for Conservative policies. Other right-leaning papers include the " Daily Mail" and more recently the " Daily Express", whereas " The Independent" is considered to follow a more politically correctline. The " Daily Mirror" aligns itself with the trades unions and Labour Party-supporting working classes. The positions adopted by the "Times" and, more surprisingly, the " Financial Times" have in recent years been centre-left and generally supportive of New Labour. The policy of the " Daily Sport" was characterised by one commentator as "pro-nipple". [ Attributed to Brian MacArthur, media correspondent of the "Sunday Times". Such matters are tracked with care, a running nipple countbeing maintained by competing tabloids.] The Sunday versions of these papers follow the editorial line of their daily sister.
Fiction and drama about Fleet Street
A. N. Wilson: "My Name is Legion" (2003).
Amanda Craig: " A Vicious Circle" (1996) (about a fictitious British newspaper tycoon and the world of publishing in general).
Michael Wall: " Amongst Barbarians" (1989) (Similar to Lily d'Abo in "My Name Is Legion", a white British working class couple takes money from a tabloid in order to be able to help their son).
Howard Brentonand David Hare: "Pravda" (1985) (about a Rupert Murdoch-like character).
A. N. Wilson: "Scandal" (1985) (About how a political scandal is created by the tabloid press).
Michael Frayn: " Towards the End of the Morning" (1967) (a comic novel about failed and failing journalists in a 1960s newspaper)
Evelyn Waugh: "Scoop" (1938) (about a thinly disguised British Newspaper, "The Daily Beast", and one of its contributors who is sent to an African country at war called Ishmaelia, based upon the author's experiences in Abyssinia)
* 186 Fleet Street is the fictitious address of
Sweeney Todd, a murderous barber whose story has been so widely known that many people believe he, and his accomplice Mrs. Lovett, of neighboring Bell Yard, were real people.
Pete Townshend: " Street in the City" (song)
The Day The Earth Caught Fire": A 1961 science fiction film, starring Janet Munro and Leo McKernwhere concurrent Russian and U.S. nuclear tests alter the Earth's orbit, sending it spinning towards the Sun. Much of the impending disaster is seen from the perspective of staff at the Fleet Street office of the Daily Express.
* John Davidson: "Fleet Street Eclogues" (1893) and "A Second Series of Fleet Street Eclogues" (1896).
Charles Dickens: " A Tale of Two Cities": (Setting of the Tellson's Bank is on Fleet Street).
Charles Dickens: " Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club" more commonly known as " The pickwick Papers" (talks about the journalism on Fleet Street).
* The opening sequence of "
Children of Men" is set on Fleet Street. The protagonist, portrayed by Clive Owen, leaves a caféwhich then explodes in act of terrorism.
* , a musical by
Steven Sondheim, is set on Fleet Street.
Fritz Spiegl: "Keep Taking the Tabloids. What the Papers Say and How They Say It" (1983).
A. N. Wilson: "" (2004).
Alan Watkins: " A Short Walk Down Fleet Street".
Holborn, with a description of the surrounding area
History of British newspapers
List of United Kingdom newspapers
Prince Henry's Room, a museum located at 17 Fleet Street
Bahadur Shah Zafar Margin Delhi, known as the Fleet Street of India
* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/4091172.stm Farewell, Fleet Street] . Bill Hagerty,
BBC News Online. June 14, 2005.
* [http://books.guardian.co.uk/review/story/0,12084,1655516,00.html Fleet Street's finest] . Christopher Hitchens, "
The Guardian" Review. December 3, 2005.
* [http://www.ratebeer.com/Beer-News/Article-577.htm Drinking in the Street.] SilkTork, [http://www.ratebeer.com/ RateBeer] Article.
January 19, 2006
* [http://www.myspace.com/fleetstreetuk Fleet Street Band ]
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