Nominated by: Katherine Gwyn
One object that sums Buckinghamshire up? Well that’s easy, nowhere is the everyday life of the county more tangible than in its newspapers. If pushed, I would have to pick an edition of the Bucks Herald from September 19, 1914. Why this one? It’s from the start of WW1, and it’s full of contrasts: life continuing as normal alongside people adapting to life under wartime conditions…
The Bucks Herald was founded in 1832, as “The Bucks Herald, Farmers’ Journal and Advertisers’ Chronicle for Bucks, Beds, Herts, Berks, Oxon, Northamptonshire”. Over time the newspaper became increasingly associated with Aylesbury, but it was common for each edition to carry reports from other towns in the county. For example, this edition tells us about a boy, Samuel Higgs, who was run over by a motor vehicle in Spittal Street, Marlow and got a broken arm. In Wycombe, the Town Council were appointing twelve men to guard the town’s reservoir, there was much debate as to whether they should be armed or not.
Unlike today, newspaper readership was almost universal; there was no radio or television or internet to communicate news – people relied on local papers to find out what was happening. In Buckinghamshire Archive’s collections cuttings from local newspapers are common, and can be found amongst papers from the full social spectrum.
I think that newspapers are a fantastic way of engaging with the past: spotting similarities between life then and now, as well as the wide gulf in culture. In this edition there is an advert for Harrisons Hair Colour Restorer, promising to speedily restore your original hair colour! Renting was as common in 1914 as it is today, and there are many adverts for cottages and flats to let.
And there are reminders of how farming dominated the economy of Bucks: adverts offering chickens and other livestock for sale, and reports of the summer’s agricultural shows. There is also a notice placed by a farmer in Monks Risborough who has lost a cow.
In between all this are signs of war: reports of War Relief Committees being set up to raise money for those in financial hardship because of sons/husbands/fathers signing-up to fight; Committees to manage the influx of Belgian Refugees who were arriving in the county, fleeing the German Army. One advert extolls Bucks people to carry on with “Business as Usual”; whilst another add placed by an Aylesbury pawnbroker uses the war, and the economic uncertainty it brought, to encourage people to sell them their possessions for cash.
Towards the back there is a notice that local man C.J. Phipps has been injured at the front: hit by shrapnel in the shoulder…a harbinger of worse to come as the Bucks Herald would report weekly on increasingly large numbers of deaths and injuries of local men as the war proceeded.
If this was all getting too much…then what’s on at the cinema? The paper carries an advert for the Gem Picture Hall in Tring, where they were showing silent movies: Lost in Mid Ocean, a romantic Hollywood drama, set on the high seas.
All this from one newspaper! Buckinghamshire Archive has a full set of Bucks Herald back-copies, from 1832, through to today, as well as many other titles from around the county – find our more on the Buckingamshire Arcives website.
This edition of the Bucks Herald was nominated by Katherine Gwyn, Senior Community Outreach and Projects Archivist for Buckinghamshire Archives.