History of Newspapers
In tracing the history of the Whitchurch Herald, it is as well to sketch in a little background to the general history of newspapers, weekly in particular, and trace the early business life of the founder of the paper.
The price of newspapers before 1855 when the tax on knowledge was abolished was often 7d (imperial) or more because of the heavy impost. The first tax to be levied on newspapers and printed pamphlets was on 12th August 1712, ostensibly to increase revenue, but in reality, it was an attempt to interfere with the freedom of the Press. It started as a tax of 1/2 d on half a sheet of paper, 1d on a whole sheet or 2d on a large sheet and in addition, a charge of one shilling per advertisement.
These taxes were doubled in 1757, an in 1776 the newspaper tax was increased to 11/2d and 2d in 1789 with an advertisement tax of 2s 6d per advertisement. This tax increased to 3d in 1797, 3 1/2d in 1804 and 4d in 1815 with an advertisement tax of 3s 6d. In 1836, fortunately, the newspaper tax was reduced to 1d, and in 1853, the advert tax was abolished completely and in 1855 there was the abolition of the newspaper tax on knowledge by Gladstone and so once more, the Press was free.
This gave tremendous impetus to the Industry and hundreds of newspapers blossomed around this period, with many of the original editors and proprietors either booksellers, clergymen and ministers, social reformers or jobbing printers with the presses situated in old chapels, newsagent shops and even inns. It was in such a climate that the infant Herald was born to record the activities and aspirations, successes and failures of its locality.