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Saunders, William (1823-1895) (DNB00)


SAUNDERS, WILLIAM (1823–1895), journalist and politician, born 20 Nov. 1823, at Russell Mill, Market Lavington, Wiltshire, was youngest son of Amram Edward Saunders. He was educated at a school in Devizes, and went to work at his father's flour-mills in Market Lavington and Bath. About 1844 he opened extensive quarries near the Box tunnel on the Great Western Railway, and on 27 April 1852 married Caroline, daughter of Dr. Spender of Bath. With the assistance of his father-in-law, he started the ‘Plymouth Western Morning News’ in 1860. Journalistic ventures in Newcastle followed, but his greatest success was at Hull, where he founded the ‘Eastern Morning News’ in 1864. He remained proprietor of this paper until within a few months of his death. He had meanwhile been experiencing great difficulty in obtaining news for his provincial papers, and in 1863 started the Central Press, the first news-distributing agency. In 1870 this became the Central News Agency, still under the direction of Saunders. One of his most memorable achievements in connection with this agency was to persuade the dean of St. Paul's to permit him to carry a special wire into St. Paul's gallery on the occasion of the thanksgiving service for the recovery of the Prince of Wales in 1872.

Saunders was a well-known personality in the politics of his day. He was one of the first English champions of the theories of land nationalisation as advocated by Mr. Henry George, and for the last ten years of his life was prominently connected with the agitation for nationalisation of land in England. He entered parliament in 1885 as liberal member for East Hull, but was defeated at the general election of the following year. Meanwhile he took an active part in London politics, particularly in connection with the attempts which the radical clubs made to keep Trafalgar Square open for public meetings in 1887. In 1889 he was elected by Walworth to the first London County Council, and the same constituency sent him to parliament in 1892. Latterly his views took too pronouncedly a socialistic complexion for his party. He died at Market Lavington on 1 May 1895.

In addition to numerous pamphlets chiefly on the land question, Saunders wrote: 1. ‘Through the Light Continent,’ London, 1879. 2. ‘The New Parliament, 1880,’ London, 1880. 3. ‘History of the First London County Council,’ London, 1892.

[Weekly Dispatch, 5 May 1895; Illustr. London News, 13 Feb. 1886; private information.]

J. R. M.