William was born in 1853 to William and Sophia Powell at Exeter. His father was a mason. On leaving school, William served an apprenticeship as a print compositor. He married Elizabeth Jane Boston of Exeter in 1873.
William started on ‘The Devon Weekly Times’ moved later to ‘The Torquay Times’ and later to ‘The North Devon Journal’ at Barnstaple. Then he became associated with the National Press Agency, London, and subsequently started papers in the Home Counties. It was from ‘The Mid-Surrey Times’ at Richmond that he came to Launceston, and was instrumental in converting the purely local ‘East Cornwall Times’ into the wider sphere of ‘The Cornish and Devon’ building it eventually into what he called ‘A Newspaper Circle’; with separate ‘Posts’ for the different towns and areas. William printed and published the first edition of ‘The Cornish and Devon Post’ for the proprietors, W. S. Cater and Co. He soon took over the paper becoming its editor.
His was the age of expansion for ‘The Cornish and Devon’, he published not only the ‘Bude and Stratton Post,’ ‘Holsworthy Post,’ ‘Callington Post,’ ‘Camelford and Delabole Post,’ ‘Okehampton Post’ and ‘Wadebridge Post,’ but also the ‘Bodmin Post’ and the ‘Padstow Post.’
William and Elizabeth first set up home at the Walk, Launceston but later moved to ‘Devonia,’ in Dunheved Road. They had no children.
William Lydra Powell found time, too, to fight and win the battle for the standard gauge railway in North Cornwall; he sat for nine years on the Town Council; he wrote various guide-books and directories; he campaigned vigorously for his beloved Liberal Party. The papers prospered under his expert leadership, and growing, it was necessary for larger premises and so in 1895 the papers were moved to the more commodious building in what was then Western Road and also called the Western Assembly rooms. New machinery was installed for the purpose of more expeditious production.
During the early months of 1904, William’s health deteriorated and he died after a hemorrhage on Saturday, April 16th, at his home, aged just 51. The funeral service held on Thursday, April 21st was conducted by the Wesleyan minister Rev. J. E. Crawshaw at ‘Devonia,’ with the following service at the interment at Launceston Cemetery being conducted by Rev. F. R. Bell. The flag on the Castle was flown at half mast in respect and the funeral was attended by a large contingent of the towns dignatories.