Apologies for the lack of updates this week, I have been busy with amongst other things editing and publishing the Friends of the Common Newsletter. I hope you will take a few minutes to pop along to the website of the Friends and have a look at my work, you'll find a great birding column written by my wife and also some words from online friends who have contributed all of which are new to this issue.
Following all that hard work I now have a good idea how Matthew Edwardes felt. Who is he, you ask? Well, to this day you can still read the work of Mr Edwardes on a weekly basis, that is if you purchase the Kent & Sussex Courier, the paper he founded in 1872.
The only newspaper at the time of launch in Tunbridge Wells was the large dull broadsheets of Colbran's Tunbridge Wells Gazette, remember him? Mr Edwardes felt that the area needed a smaller and livelier paper that also covered neighbouring areas, and he delivered it in an easier to read, prettier and more importantly, cheaper way.
Printing out of humble premises in Grove Hill Road with inferior presses, the steely determination of Mr Edwardes proved itself as The Courier battled for readership with the Gazette, and after a few years its circulation had grown to more than its rival and in 1892 it took over the Gazette completely.
With this and the acquisition of other newspapers published in neighbouring areas, the Kent & Sussex Courier expanded into West Kent and East Sussex over the following years. Mr Edwardes passed away in 1902 and his widow, Susannah took over and played a leading role in the business until her death in 1926.
The passing of the Edwardes' was a sad time for The Courier but the paper carried on, even when on the afternoon of 20th June, 1932, The Courier's premises was destroyed by fire. Even after this disaster, the paper was there on the shelves that Friday as usual, thanks to the efforts of local businesses and townsfolk chipping in to help, and largely I feel to the quick thinking of a neighbour to the printers who thoughtfully threw a tarpaulin over the printing press to protect it. I feel Mr Edwardes would have been very proud of the typesetters who travelled up to London and back to produce lines of type, the workmen who helped the offices move into temporary premises, the cleaners who got every last speck of soot out of the printing presses and even the firemen who battled the inferno against the odds of their inadequate equipment.
Today you can find The Courier on Longfield Road, where they moved in 1974 after the rebuilt premises in Grove Hill Road were finally demolished, and this morning you can find the result of all those years of history and all that effort on my dining room table with a cup of coffee, ready for me to enjoy as Mr Edwardes intended. Happy reading.