Guide to Old Hertfordshire


Aylesbury News

Bucks Advertiser



The Aylesbury News and Advertiser for Bucks and the surrounding Counties
continued as


continued as

Bucks Advertiser

This paper was founded by my great great grandfather John Gibbs, whose brother lived in St Albans and later founded the St Albans Times and Herts Advertiser.

Some year now available on the British Newspaper Archive


ON A MURKY night at the beginning of December, 1836, two men and a boy were standing by a hand press in the poky back room of a small printing office in Aylesbury. A forme of type-small handset type, for there were no linotypes in those days-had been lifted and laid flat on the bed of the press, and one of the men and the boy were busy inking it with a large roller.

The other man stood watching. A master man by the look of him; he was short and rather thick set. He was partly bald and had a Churchillian type of face. His choker collar, stock and sober dress made him look more mature than his years, for in those days men looked elderly before their time.

He watched while a sheet of paper, damp and already printed on one side, was laid on the type. He watched the bed slide under, the lever pulled and the impression made, then as the bed swung out again he leaned forward, peeled the sheet off the type and began to study it.

After a few moments, he nodded to the man and the boy to carryon with the rest of the sheets. He turned and slipped into an adjoining room. There he sat down at his table, and warmed the sheet in front of the fire till the steam rose from it and it crackled under his fingers.

Then he took a quill from the table, sharpened it, dipped it in the ink and wrote carefully on the top left-hand corner of the dry hard sheet, "The first paper printed: JG: Decr. 2nd, 1836."

He folded it and locked it carefully away in the drawer where he kept his cherished papers. [This sheet, with its faded brown handwriting in the top left-hand corner, is framed and hanging in the office at Luton.]

He went out and got another sheet, took it into his room and began to read. The handpress creaked rhythmically from the next room and the clock ticked on. As he read, never missing a word in that damp and smelling sheet, there welled up in his heart a great feeling of pride and satisfaction. He had created a newspaper. He was its editor and proprietor. Here was a new life in a changing world, the child of his brain, the creature of his moods and judgments.

The fascination of it gripped him. He leaned back in his chair and his thoughts ranged over the past and far into the future. He was tired and he dozed. Then he woke with a start. This would never do. He must concentrate on next week's issue, and the next, and the next. . . For how long?

John Gibbs of Aylesbury was never a newspaperman before that night, but from then on he was a newspaperman to the end of his days. He was by profession an auctioneer and appraiser (as they called them in those days) and he had an insurance agency. By some queer chance he had some years before become a printer as well, with a small bookseller's and stationer's shop. His two brothers had learnt the trade of printing with him, but they had moved to St. Albans some time earlier.

Family Group, 1952

Some comments on this dramatised account are misleading. From the first issue John Rolls Gibbs (John's eldest son) is shown as the editor, although he is only briefly mentioned in Family Group. He was just 21, and as all John Gibbs' sons were launched into business shortly after their 21st birthday, there can be little doubt John Gibbs was the controlling force. The bound office copy of the first year's issue [in the Buckinghamshire Records Office] has initials against various news items. "JG" wrote the more political items, many others were by "JRG" while a few relating to Liverpool were by "GWG" - George Washington Gibbs - John Gibbs' brother .

The observation that John Gibbs "was never a newspaperman before that night" is possibly also untrue. For a few years before 1836 accounts of political events relating to Aylesbury appeared in The Times which clearly reflected John Gibbs' viewpoint - so he may have been The Times local correspondent. Unfortunately The Times has no records to establish who wrote the articles - but it is very likely that before the Aylesbury News was first published John Gibbs wrote newspaper reports on the Buckinghamshire political scene.

John Rolls Gibbs died in 1845 and was succeeded as editor by his brother, Robert Gibbs. Robert Gibbs was a local historian who wrote a number of books relating to the history of Buckinghamshire - the most significant being his History of Aylesbury. Most relevant from the Hertfordshire viewpoint is Buckinghamshire Local Occurrences, which was published in four volumes listing events in chronological order from earliest times until 1880. For entries throughout the 19th century it seems likely that he had access to old newspapers (his own from 1836) and a number of Hertfordshire entries occur, such as the following:

4th April 1841. --- The question of establishing a rural police for Hertfordshire was debated at the late Quarter Sessions at Hertford, and carried by a majority of 1.

4th January 1842. --- There was this morning another fire at Tring silk mill, and the damage is estimated at 3,000 or 4,000.

8th December 1842. --- There was an accident to the railway train at Northchurch; the axle of the engine broke and the engine ran down the embankment. Mrs Bye, of Aylesbury, was killed, as was also Mr. Tompkins of Boxmoor.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.

Page updated May 2007