So it was unsurprising when newspapers began to be printed in the 18th century that the first thought of government was to tax them. They imposed a stamp duty of 7d on every newspaper sold. Newspapers became a luxury item. After some lobbying the stamp duty was reduced to 4d in 1815 but it was still too high. More people were becoming literate in the 19th century but for most a newspaper was unaffordable. Some relief came in 1836 when a new act reduced the stamp duty to 1d. The newspaper industry was about to take off.
This was the signal to many entrepreneurs to acquire a printing press and satisfy people's hunger for news and information. This occurred too at the same time that railways were developing and it was possible for London newspapers to be distributed across the nation. The Sunday Dispatch was at least one of the newspapers that was devoured by readers in Wolverton's Reading Room. I have seen a letter written by George Weight, the first vicar of St George's, complaining that men were wasting their time reading "that vile newspaper, the Dispatch."
The real trigger for the development of local newspapers cam in 1855, when the 1d tax was completely abolished. Newspapers could now be printed and sold at a reasonable price. Sales grew exponentially.
The first local man to take advantage of this was Alfred Walford of Stony Stratford, who started The Cottage Advertiser in 1857. He was a printer and stationer at 73 High Street. It was later known as Stony Stratford and Wolverton Station Advertiser. The name subsequently changed to the North Bucks Advertiser in 1868, and so it continued. In 1902 or thereabouts, George Eadley acquired the business and the North Bucks Advertiser continued until 1909, when it closed. I do not know if it was acquired by another newspaper.
Also quick to take advantage of the new tax free regime for newspapers was Henry Croydon, who had a similar printing and stationery business in Newport Pagnell, and he started a weekly newspaper known as Croydon's Weekly Standard. The first issue came out in 1859. After Croydon died in 1887 the business was acquired by James Line and the newspaper was re-named as the Bucks Standard. In 1967 it changed its name to the Bucks Standard and Milton Keynes Observer. In 1975 it was absorbed, like so many North Bucks papers into a larger Milton keynes entity.
The Wolverton Express was a latecomer. It published the first of its weekly newspapers in 1901. Curiously (because nothing is known of these newspapers) it claimed to incorporate the Stantonbury Herald, the Stony Stratford Standard, the Bletchley Journal and the Towcester Times. In 1903, the Name was changed to the Wolverton Express and Bucks Weekly News, which title it held until 1951. Then it was simply the Wolverton Express until it became the Milton Keynes Express in 1967.
It was based at 103, Church street, although the paper was never printed there. It appears to have been the brainchild of Albert Edward Jones. He was born in Winchester in 1870 to a career army officer who came to Wolverton in 1890 as a Sergeant Instructor, presumably to drill the local militia. The family took up residence at Radcliffe Street. Albert Edward Jones, the eldest son, went into the works as a coach painter but by 1901 he was living on Church Street with his family and is listed as a "Bookseller and Shopkeeper". The Trade Directory of 1903 describes him as "manager Wolverton Express; newsagent & stationer and agent for the Aylesbury Brewery Company." In 1907 he was described as "proprietor" of the Wolverton Express. On this basis it might be reasonable to assume that Jones originated the whole thing.
|Emerton's, home of the Wolverton express.|
Around 1910 he took on a young reporter Alfred Emerton, who had grown up on Ledsam street. Emerton volunteered to serve in the 1914-18 war in 1915 and it seems that his shorthand and typing skills were immediately seized upon and he was appointed to staff headquarters in Egypt. He rose to the rank of Sergeant and was gazetted by General Allenby in 1918 for "distinguished and gallant services and devotion to duty."
After the war he returned to the Wolverton Express and when Albert Jones retired in 1930 was able to take over the business. The shop became known as "Emerton's" - a name it carries to this day.
He retired from the business in 1950 and Bert Foxford, who had been brought up by the Emertons, took over as editor. Another key member of the business at this time was Len Allen (always known as "Joey") who was chief reporter and advertising manger. Later his brother Frank Allen joined the business.
The first 60 years of the 20th century were all prime years for the Wolverton Express. Almost everyone in the district had the paper delivered very Friday and it acquired the nickname, for reasons that are probably unknown, "The Buster."
We can look back now upon an era of almost 100 years where small, locally owned and operated newspapers served their districts. There're still local newspapers but they are usually part of a newspaper publishing group and depend on a larger market area.