The Bucks Herald 1832-1963

THE title of the first edition of The Bucks Herald was The Bucks Herald, Farmers' Journal and Advertisers' Chronicle for Bucks, Beds, Herts, Berks, Oxon, Northamptonshire with which was incorporated the Windsor and Eton Journal.

It was published each Saturday. The front page was made up simply of adverts. Front page stories would not find their way to The Bucks Herald for more than 100 years. Items inside included an advert for 'fashionable dancing'.

There were magistrates' court reports. In one report, a single paragraph was longer than 500 words. The case was ofWilliam Butler, sentenced to three months hard labour for stealing 2lb of butter. Page six of an edition in 1844 was dedicated to a 'dreadful fire at a Liverpool sugar refinery.' Many stories in the early issues focused on national and international news and politics.

The Bucks Herald was a staunch Conservative supporter. The Liverpool fire story reported: "Those in the lower parts of the buildings managed to escape without much difficulty but those who were situated at the top of the premises fared much worse. They ran to the staircase but found there was no escape in that direction in consequence of the volumes of smoke which were making their way upwards and in their agony of despair they rushed to the windows and called for aid. In the meantime the alarm of fire had reached the fire police station and an engine was immediately got out. Perceiving the immediate danger of the men, Mr Hewitt returned to the station and brought others to the rescue of the poor fellows who were standing on the outside of the buildings in a state of nakedness."

The articles were written in chronological order of events. Modern journalism is written with an 'angle' – the most important fact first, followed by the second most important and so on. A page 7 editorial column in the same edition can be described only as an anti-Irish rant. By 1856, The Bucks Herald had changed little. The price had dropped to 4-and-a-half pence. The readership had increased. The front page boasted an advert for Holloway's Ointment. It was absorbed through tiny holes in the skin and could cure 'any ailment'. The advert included the case study of a man who had been bed-bound for years having had 16 bones removed from a shattered leg. Within weeks of applying the ointment, he was cured.

On the same page another advert was selling a book warning of fraudulent doctors! A report on page three was a story from the magistrates court. It read: "Olney: On Saturday night about 12 o'clock, as three men were leaving the town of Olney in an excited, if not a drunken state having had more beer than was desirable for the peace and quietness of the inhabitants of Bridge Street, a scuffle ensued on or near the bridge when one of them named Howson, finding his own knife was not sharp enough to inflict the injury he seemed to wish borrowed one off his companion and with it stabbed a man named Leveritt, a gamekeeper, in the cheek, cutting a frightful gash, which extended very near to the jugular vein." He was sent to the county gaol in Aylesbury.

In January 1856, The Bucks Herald came under new management. The announcement on page 2 said: "The principle on which The Bucks Herald has hitherto been conducted will remain unchanged. As the ONLY Conservative newspaper in the county it will staunchly advocate Conservative progress and will be ever found warmly attached to our own Institution in Church and State."

The Bucks Herald offices were in Market Square, Aylesbury. On the first edition under new management, the editor wrote: "To undertake the production of a first class journal at a time like the present, when the functions of the Press are violently disputed, and its performances are severely criticised, is probably a bold, if not a rash step, the difficulties of which are not diminished by the fact that increased means of rapid locomotion as they bring each part of the country nearer.

"But bold as the step may be, we nevertheless attempt it without doubt or misgiving.We go for a high position. It is our ambition to offer to the county a first class paper, every way worthy of a hearty and continuous support and we have a more than merely reasonable hope that we shall succeed."

By 1872, the paper, now 50 years old, had dropped its price to 2d. The proprietor was William Gurney. The headline story on page 4 was entitled: "A Lion Tamer Torn to Pieces in Bolton". In 1881, public notices were a feature of The Bucks Herald. A job advert read: "Nurse wanted. Applicants must be single women or widows, not under the age of 25, able to read and write well and must be prepared to make themselves generally useful under the orders of the Matron, and to take charge of Female Tramps. Salary 20 per annum." The first edition of the 20th century, January 6, 1900, had many of the paper's features which can still be found today. The paper had a jobs section, lost and found, situations vacant, for sale, letters and property. One of the letters urged readers not to celebrate the turn of the century until 1901.

It read: "Let us in common justice refrain from killing our century on its 99th birthday and keep our sentimental and effusive greetings to its successor till the proper time – January 1, 1901.

"Of course, it is very amusing to date our letters for the first time without an eight in the figures, but is that a significant excuse for the way in which the popular error has extended even to our religious observations? "I am, Sir, your obedient servant, Tempus."

By 1912, the paper had expanded to ten pages and the price dropped to a penny. November 16, 1918 was the first copy of the Herald after the end of the FirstWorld War. After news of the end of the war was made known by The Bucks Herald, Aylesbury marked the event in some style. The Bucks Herald reported: "The news spread like wildfire and in a remarkably short space of time, the town became jubilant with excitement. Flags were hoisted on all the prominent buildings of the town and there was scarcely a house where there was not some flag on display.

"The Market Square, the scene of many an historic gathering, presented a remarkable scene. The school children's lessons were cut short and they marched on to the Market Square and made it ring with their cheers.|

"In the exuberance of their joy there was a spontaneous cessation of work in shops, factories and office and congratulations were exchanged on all hands. Everybody donned the national colours and gave vent to their gladness in all sorts of ways and without let or hindrance. A general half-holiday was proclaimed by employers.

"In 1932, the Bucks Herald celebrated its 100th anniversary with a special supplement, called The Story of the Bucks Herald.

The supplement begins: "It has been a hundred years more full of change and decay, invention and progress, enlightenment and advancement, than any other century in the whole long history of newspapers. It is a period which may be said virtually to have embraced the birth and development of modern England.

"The supplement looks at Aylesbury as it was in 1832 - then in the throes of a serious cholera epidemic. The embyonic publication was bitter rivals with fellow local newspapers the Bucks Gazette and the Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Chronicle. That was, until 1872 when George Turner De Fraine became proprietor and absorbed the rivals into The Bucks Herald.

"The bitter, at times venomous rivalry of the journalists of previous generations was thus silenced forever. The lion and the lamb were brought to live together," the supplement reported.

Insults between the rivals had been traded with regularity. The Bucks Gazette referred to the Bucks Herald in print as the Beaks Herald in an effort to discredit it and smear the paper's reputation.

The Bucks Herald's mature response was to call the Bucks Gazette the Bugs Gazette and Humbugs Gazette. The Bucks Herald was changed from a book format to broadsheet in 1851. The paper went from strength to strength to become the undisputed premier newspaper in the district, easily outselling its eight rivals. But the boom nearly burst with the onset of the FirstWorld War when paper became a scarce resource, driving production costs sky high.

It was not until 1921 before the Bucks Herald recovered. Intriguingly, the 1932 supplement ended with a look to the future. The author speculated on what the next hundred years would bring to the Aylesbury Vale: "So, after accompanying the Herald throughout its course from January 7, 1832 until today's issue, January 1, 1932, I leave it to take its first step – never more confident – into its second century.

"Many thoughts leap to the mind and many visions crowd the imagination when one attempts to conjecture all that the new century has in store for it. It would be an imaginative genius indeed who could foresee and forecast the changes yet to take place.

"In the year 2032 life should be far speedier than today; it may be positively hectic.We and our lives and doings will be a matter only of record. Ours will then be regarded maybe as an age of semi advancement and half enlightenment. More than likely it is so."

In the Bucks Herald edition September 8, 1939, there was only one story dominating the news. The beginning of the Second World War. Sporting events were cancelled, men were called up to serve their country, guidelines were issued on surviving air raids. Aylesbury was directly involved in a massive project to help the war effort – the evacuation of more than 4,000 women and children from London to the Bucks county town.

The children were told by their schoolteachers they were going on a trip to the country. When they arrived in Aylesbury, many youngsters asked the locals which country they were in.

The Bucks Herald comment article echoed the mood of the nation when it said: "The time of testing has come and the Prime Minister's statement on Sunday morning that Great Britain must enter into a state of war with Germany was received by the peoples of Britain with a calm confidence that in itself bespeaks what the ultimate issue will be.

"The immediate case of this tragic collapse of all hopes of peace is too well known for restatement. The position cannot be better described than in the words broadcast to the peoples of the empire by His Majesty the King – 'We have been forced into a conflict. If we are called with our allies to meet the challenge of a principle which if it were to prevail would be fatal to any civilised order in the world'."

After six long, hard years, The Bucks Herald of May 11, 1945 brought the news everyone had been waiting for. The headline simply read: "VE Day Thanksgiving". Like the end of the FirstWorld War, Market Square was again the focus of jubilant celebration. Winston Churchill's address to the nation was broadcast over the radio to the thousands of people standing in Aylesbury town centre. The Bucks Herald reported the event: "VE Day – the day of victory and peace in Europe.

As so often during the trials and stresses of the war in Europe, so now, at 3pm on Tuesday Aylesbury – relieved, joyous, but reminiscent and deeply thoughtful – was once again to be found in its ancient Market Square.

"The clock in the town centre tolled, momentously, three times. Then the hushed silence which for so many years past has been peculiarly associated with the Armistice Day halt at 11am on each November 11 fell upon man, woman and child. But there was a difference. This was not an Armistice. It was Unconditional Surrender.

In August, 1963, the Bucks Herald published the biggest story in the newspaper's history - The Great Train Robbery. No story would come near it until 2005, when Aylesbury was again etched into the history books as the home of one of the July 7 bombers who brought Islamic extremism and suicide bombing to Britain for the first time in the nation's history. The Great Train Robbery was reported in the Bucks Herald on Friday, August 9, 1963. the headline said it all: "Daring Bandits Hold Up The Night Mail Flyer. The article's superbly constructed introduction read: "Commando-style bandits brought off the biggest and most daring train robbery in history when they raided the Glasgow - London night mail express near Cheddington in the early hours of yesterday (Thursday) morning. "A brilliantly planned ambush produced a haul estimated at up to 1 million.

A gang of 20 to 30 masked men halted the train on a lonely stretch of track by using a fake signal." The following week – as journalists from all over the world swarmed Aylesbury, The Bucks Herald reported: "Police Hold Men As Dragnet Tightens". The Scotland Yard-led operation had arrested some of the men responsible, although many, including Bruce Reynolds and Ronnie Biggs, were still at large.

The report read: "Aylesbury has this week been the centre of the nation's biggest ever manhunt. Bucks CID, augmented by Scotland Yard experts, have been conducting a round the clock search for the bandits who last week robbed the night mail train of more than 2.5 million near Cheddington. On Monday the police seemed to have few clues, then came a tip from Oakley herdsman John Maris that he had his suspicions about isolated Leatherslade Farm." The farm turned out to be the base used by the robbers. Arrests were made on the south coast after police gathered clues from what they had found. In the following week's edition, dated August 23, The Bucks Herald reported on five suspects appearing in court in Aylesbury.

The Bucks Herald reporter was one of only 15 journalists to secure a seat in the crowded courtroom. Barry Keen, who recently retired from The Bucks Herald, was on hand to capture on film history in the making. When the paper hit the streets, The Bucks Herald newsroom was hit with a flurry of telephone calls. A photograph of onlookers on the day of the court appearance appeared to show Bruce Reynolds, who was still on the run, standing among the crowd. The Bucks Herald dutifully contacted police, who found that 'Bruce Reynolds' was, in fact, Bedgrove resident Roy Hearn, who bore a striking resemblance to the hardened criminal.