Robert Barrow Jones, was the founder and original proprietor of the first Herald and he had succeeded at an early age to the printing and stationery business of his father in Pepper Street, Whitchurch, at what is now the Anchor Hotel. This business was started in 1924 to be more than 200 years old but was then situated at 44 High Street, once JC Lloyds, then 2nd Seekers and Pruniers Jewellers and now another similar business and was the birthplace of the Herald on 13th March 1869. The actual steam engine printing press was situated in a room adjacent to the Red Lyon Hotel yard, just on the left as you enter the archway from the High Street.
From its early days, the Herald realized the growing influence and advantage of an expanding agriculture to the local community and spared no efforts in giving this topic ample coverage. It is surely no coincidence also that the paper’s advent came hot on the heels of the decline of the district’s old establishment industries – malting, oak acid production for the use of calico printers, shoemaking for the Manchester market which was the town’s chief trade in 1824 and the closure of the silk mill in 1850 – Sherry Mill Hill links this industry to the present – all industries helped no doubt, by the arrival of the canal link in the 1st decade of the 19thg century and how apposite this topic is now with the link hopefully to be re-established.
Then came even easier communication with the opening of Shrewsbury – Whitchurch – Crewe railway line, local industry now took on a fresh complexion. The Foundry was well established as were Joyce’s Clock manufacturers, the local brewing and cheese making industry but it was to agriculture again that the town looked hopefully for its future prosperity and it is absorbing to read the ample coverage given to the auction and farm sale reports of by-gone days, the long and lengthy discussions on the new Smithfields at Whitchurch and Wem, both closed now, articles of agriculture interests and records of disastrous outbreaks of swine fever, foot, mouth and fowl pest over century, and still, unfortunately, reporting on problems of similar outbreaks.
It was into this background and into the cobbled and unlit streets of Whitchurch and its district that the Herald took its first faltering steps and its founder could hardly have regarded success as a certainty when he took the plunge, for the scope for both circulation and advertising were strictly limited by a small trading area and importantly, the number of people able to read as several years to elapse before school attendance became compulsory.