TODAY is the Adver’s 160th birthday. It was on Monday, February 6, 1854, that William Morris produced the first edition of what was called The Swindon Advertiser and Monthly Record.
The 28-year-old was the newspaper’s owner, editor, printer and journalist. He even delivered each newspaper himself.
Swindon was in a state of flux. At the top of a hill was the small market town whose first inhabitants had lived more than a thousand years earlier.
At the bottom of the hill were the Railway Works and the burgeoning New Town it had spawned. It would be nearly half a century before the old and new were united as a single borough.
Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who had chosen Swindon as the location for the Works, was still at the height of his powers.
Oscar Wilde was born that year, and so was French poet Arthur Rimbaud.
Victoria was Queen and Prince Albert her consort – it would be more then seven years before his early death plunged the monarch into near-permanent mourning and seclusion.
The Prime Minister was George Hamilton-Gordon, Earl of Aberdeen, and the White House was occupied by Franklin Pierce, an obscure president said by historians to be one of America’s worst.
1854 saw Charles Dickens publish Hard Times, highlighting many of the social injustices which vexed Adver founder Morris.
Major national events that year included the introduction of gas street lighting on certain cities’ main roads and a cholera epidemic that killed 10,000 Londoners.
The Swindon Advertiser has chronicled the life of the Swindon area ever since, covering both major national events and the day-to-day local ones that are a vital part of the fabric of every community.
We have never missed a scheduled issue, even if it meant hastily running off improvised copies on single sheets of paper, as happened during the Nazi bombing campaign of World War Two and the often bitter industrial strife of the 1970s.
Today we mark our special occasion with a supplement. It’s a tribute not to ourselves but to you, the readers, without whom none of our work would be possible.
Don’t miss our special souvenir celebrating 160 years of the Swindon Advertiser, FREE inside the newspaper today
Still the town’s community champion
THE TOWN’S great and good have joined together to wish the Adver a happy 160th birthday.
Festival of Literature organiser Matt Holland said it was still his first port-of-call for local news.
He said: “I always read the Adver with my toast and boiled eggs every morning. For all its faults, and I’m not saying it is faultless, I think it is an absolutely key instrument of local news and a means of getting everything from sport to disaster to culture.”
Robert Buckland, MP for South Swindon, said: “In the year that the great William Morris founded the Adver, the Crimean War had started and Charles Dickens’ serialised books were increasing newspaper and periodical readership in a population whose interest in news was growing. In an ever-changing world I hope that the Adver will be with us for the next 160 years.”
Swindon Council leader David Renard added: “The Swindon Advertiser clearly has a long and distinguished history and has played a very important part of Swindon life for many years. At 160 it is even older than local government, with the first council forming in 1894 and there has been a long relationship between both which I hope will continue.”
And Justin Tomlinson, MP for North Swindon, said: “Forthright, challenging and entertaining, the Adver is 160 years young, modernising, adapting and still Swindon’s community champion. Happy birthday.”