Herts Advertiser celebrates 160th anniversary

The Herts Ad's offices in Dagnall Street

The Herts Ad's offices in Dagnall Street - Credit: Archant

Exactly one hundred and sixty years ago this week, the first edition of The St Alban’s Times and Herts Advertiser was produced from a small print business in The Clock House at the base of the city’s present Clock Tower.

The Herts Ad's offices

The Herts Ad's offices - Credit: Archant

This inaugural issue came out on Saturday July 7, cost one-and-a-half pence in old money, and contained eight pages of syndicated news - including an account of the Crimean War - which was brought from London by stagecoach for setting in Market Place.

Just 300 copies of this first edition were produced, using a hand-held press at the rate of 50 an hour.

The Herts Advertiser (The St Alban’s Times title was subsequently dropped) was founded by Richard Gibbs the Elder following his brother’s success with the Aylesbury Times in 1836. Owning a newspaper at this time provided a considerable amount of political clout, and allowed the Liberal Gibbs brothers to smite the Tories, nobility and squires in defence of the common man.

Some of the diverse events the newspaper has covered over the past 160 years have included the IRA bomb attack on the Alban Arena in 1991, the 19th century fight to save and restore the Clock Tower, the campaign against a Tesco supermarket on the Eversheds site some 10 years ago, St Albans becoming a city in 1977, the founding of the Ryder Cup in 1927, the Verulamium archaeological excavations of the 1930s, the funeral of comedian Eric Morecambe in 1984, the opening of Britain’s first naturist club in Bricket Wood in 1930, the birth of St Albans City FC in 1908, and the introduction fo a disastrous one-way system designed to solve the city’s traffic problems in October 1988.

Richard Gibbs the Elder

Richard Gibbs the Elder - Credit: Archant

Today the Herts Advertiser continues its mantra of offering quality journalism on every platform readers want to access it through, but now this is no longer just print, but through the internet, mobile phones and tablets.

The newspaper’s team of journalists strive to engage their audiences on all of these platforms in a professional and comprehensive manner, with accuracy and accountability at the forefront of all content - we don’t just cut-and-paste from press releases, everything published is subject to scrutinous checks and balances.

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Editor Matt Adams, just the 13th person to hold that title in the newspaper’s history, said: “As the foremost media in the St Albans district, and the only newspaper based locally, we are very much at the heart of the local community.

“Whether it’s through our support of the Chamber of Commerce and the City Centre Partnership, our links to Grove House Hospice and St Albans City FC, our campaigns backing The Odyssey cinema project or opposing a rail freight depot, or our involvement with the Herts Business Awards, the Mayor’s Pride Awards and the Herts Advertiser School Awards, you can be sure to find us doing whatever we can to promote this great district in which we live - and long may that continue.”

Five Herts Advertiser editors

Five Herts Advertiser editors - Credit: Archant

Key figures in the St Albans community have paid tribute to the paper’s anniversary this week:

St Albans MP Anne Main: “A free and robust press that holds policy-makers, and those in a position of power and authority, has been vital for the democratic health of our country and our community. The sheer longevity of the Herts Ad is testimony, not only to its success, but to its importance for our city.

“Its punchy editorials, witty headlines, insightful news reporting and fierce independence are only part of its success. The Herts Ad’s true success lies in its ability to, in equal measures, both reflect public opinion and influence it at the same time.

“Although there is a rapidly changing media landscape, I am sure the Herts Ad will continue to adapt and I hope the paper goes from strength to strength.

“If it’s important for St Albans, you’ll find it in the Herts Ad.”

District council leader Cllr Julian Daly: “Congratulations to the Herts Ad on reaching another milestone in its long history. My party’s recent manifesto noted that ‘local newspapers are an important source of information for local communities and a vital part of a healthy democracy’. We are lucky to have our paper with its 160 year record of doing that for this part of Hertfordshire.”

Cllr Annie Brewster, heritage portfolio holder: “In an era of global social media I marvel at the continued popularity of our 160 year-old local newspaper, the Herts Advertiser. It has been in the heart of our city since Palmerston was Prime Minister and, being such a strong believer in the benefits of a fully engaged community, I applaud the Herts Advertiser for maintaining the pivotal role it has played within our city and district for generations. Many happy returns.”

Radio Verulam DJ Danny Smith: “The Herts Advertiser continues to be a cornerstone in local news gathering and an advocate for the local community. Everyone on the Drivetime show wishes the Herts Ad team every success for the next 160 years and is grateful for the support received from our local media partner!”

City centre manager Richard Marrett: “As a resident and business owner in St Albans, I thoroughly enjoy reading the Herts Advertiser each week. The paper encompasses the community spirit of our city through its accurate coverage of news, business and events. Congratulations on your anniversary and here’s to many more to come.”

St Albans Cathedral: “Congratulations to everyone at the Herts Advertiser. We all very much enjoy working with the Herts Ad team and value the community focus each issue displays. We look forward to working with the paper on the next St Albans Literary Festival and truly appreciate the role our local media plays in supporting the work and activities that take place at the Cathedral.”

Civic Society chairman Tim Boatswain: “Congratulations to the Advertiser for 160 years of campaigning on local issues, highlighting businesses and societies, and encouraging its readers to get involved, through championing local people, who are playing their part to make St Albans a better place to live.”

Lawrence Levy, co-owner of St Albans City FC: “I have been a Herts Ad reader for some 35 years and can say that its reporting as well as its presentation has always been of high quality and very informative on local community issues. Whatever goes on in the wider St Albans district will always be in there which is why it has a large readership.

“As the co-owner of St Albans City FC and vice president of Rennie Grove Hospice Care, I have experienced both sides of reporting - both positive and negative - and I can say that there is nothing fairer than a true and unbiased view which is what I feel the Herts Ad stands for. I wish you a happy 160th birthday and may you keep up the good work for the people of St Albans.”

Peter Crumpler, curate at St Leonard’s Church in Sandridge: “Congratulations on a massive achievement. The Herts Ad has been a key part of the community for all those 160 years and has played an important role in local life. A lively, enquiring local newspaper is vital to local democracy and much more. Long may the Herts Ad continue to serve the area with energy and dedication.”

Rennie Grove House Hospice: “Happy 160th Herts Ad! It’s fantastic that this paper is still going strong at the heart of our local community. At Rennie Grove, we have benefited so much from the team’s support since the early days of Grove House. The paper has been hugely instrumental in the charity’s growth: by pledging a regular space to promote our work and fundraising activities, the Herts Ad has helped us keep caring for local families coping with cancer and other life-limiting illness.”