Gazette celebrates 150 years serving Hackney community

Hackney 150 years

Hackney 150 years - Credit: Archant

In the next five editions we take a look back over the newspaper’s illustrious history, as well as that of the borough it has served since 1864. This week, we look at how the Hackney Gazette began.

Hackney 150 years

Hackney 150 years - Credit: Archant

It is a true testament to the Hackney Gazette, that it has survived through huge changes in the borough. And here it is, 150 years later, still faithfully reporting community news from the front line.

But the Gazette has changed considerably from when it first landed in people’s homes, and it was not the first publication by printer Charles Potter, whose two previous newspapers had not lasted.

Not wanting a repeat of past failures, Mr Potter made sure the borough glowed with yellow handbills in the weeks leading before the launch announcing the birth of “a free liberal and patriotic journal, especially devoted to the interests of ratepayers” which aimed to provide “faithful reports of all parochial, political, religious and other meetings, together with all incidents of public interest, correspondence and historical reminisces”

The paper was still a risk, entering an already crowded market with many rivals.

Some of these were The Shoreditch Observer and Hackney Express (1857 to 1915) and the Eastern Post, as well as the Hackney Mercury (1885 to 1919).

The first edition of the Gazette was published on April 1 1864, a day early, and it was to outlast them all, taking over or seeing off its competition.

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The paper started off as a relatively amateurish effort; reporters were all volunteers from the Reform Party, and occasionally chaired the meetings on which they reported.

Eventually these honorary ‘newshounds’ were replaced by a full paid staff, appointed by Mr Potter, and the first paid editor was William “The Captain” Philips.

Early editions of the Gazette ran to just four pages, with the first heavily focused on event listings.

Page two carried the editorial, heavily featuring various opinion pieces with marriage and death announcements squeezed alongside.

Page three carried meeting reports of local government bodies and a huge space was given to the most notable sermon of the week, showing the major role Christianity played in the 1800s.

Adverts claimed the back and front of the papers and it took the outbreak of the Second World War for the front page to look how it does today, with breaking news producing a dramatic splash.

It is interesting to also see the kind of news the Gazette chose to focus on in this period. The landscape was vastly different to what it is today – much of the borough was still rural, fishing was a popular pasttime and tollgates on roads had just been abolished.

The Gazette took a stand on some of the railway schemes and claims to have played a part in ensuring the Great Eastern Railway tunnelled under Hackney Downs rather than putting a route through it. Other big subjects between 1864 and 1880 include education, poverty, housing conditions transport and of course, politics.

The Gazette was written by men primarily for men. But after the 1907 “Qualification of Women” Act, it contained more mentions of women playing a prominent role, reflecting the borough’s subsequent wealth of women campaigners.

The Gazette’s proud history spans through six reigns, two world wars, periods of great economical, industrial and societal change and most recently, awe inspiring technological advances. Here’s to another 150 years.