St Albans-based newspaper the Herts Advertiser is about to celebrate its 150th anniversary. Now part of the Archant stable, it was set up when newspaper stamp tax was repealed.
Advertiser editor Noel Cantillon looks back…
The Herts Advertiser was founded by Richard Gibbs the Younger whose father, Richard Gibbs the Elder, had been in St Albans since the 1820s and who had a print business in the town centre.
In 1855 when newspaper stamp tax was repealed his son decided to have his own newspaper and the first edition of The St Albans Times and Herts Advertiser was born.
That first edition cost 1 1/2d and contained eight pages.
Six of these were of syndicated news — including an account of the Crimean War — which was brought to St Albans from London by stagecoach. The front page had advertisements and the back page had advertisements and local news including the midsummer quarter sessions and a cricket match.
Just 300 copies of the first edition were produced at the rate of 50 per hour on the hand-operated press.
They were sold from The Clock House at the base of the Clock Tower which quickly became known as the “gossip shop” as people gathered to discuss the weekly news.
Richard Gibbs died in 1909. Until the Herts Advertiser (as part of Home Counties Newspapers) was acquired by the then Eastern Counties Newspaper Group in 1997, it was still run by the same Gibbs family who founded it, making them one of the oldest newspaper publishing families in the country.
These days the Herts Advertiser — running to about 200 pages a week — is distributed to 52,000 homes in St Albans and the surrounding towns and villages and is looking forward to the next 150 years.
Meanwhile we will be running a series of celebrations, supplements and events involving staff and readers to mark the anniversary.