The Founding of the Craven Herald, 1850-1875

Reported by W R Mitchell

When members and friends of the North Craven Heritage Trust met in the Village Hall at Long Preston on 8th November 2005, Ian Lockwood, Editor of the Craven Herald & Pioneer, informed and entertained them with an account of the founding of the Herald. He gave a résumé of early newspaper production in Victorian Skipton.

Setting his talk against an account of a town awakening to the industrialised world after centuries of torpor, Ian outlined traits and rivalries, plus a libel case involving an M.P. that was spicy enough to claim national attention. With the banishment of the newspaper tax, the mid-nineteenth century turned out to be a boom time for periodicals that scarcely lived up to their names. They were virtually devoid of news. Advertisements contained flowery statements that were assessed by the speaker as “polite begging”.

The first newspaper, which commenced publication in December 1852, was the Skipton Advertiser and Monthly Recorder (prop. John Garnett). The Craven Herald, produced in 1853 by a printer named Robert Tasker, appeared monthly with a circulation of several hundred copies. Early issues contained a timetable of rail services that linked Skipton with Lancaster and Colne. The audience heard that the flat-bed press on which early issues of the newspaper were printed might be seen at the entrance to the Craven Museum at Skipton.

The Herald, enlarged to broadsheet size in 1857, had a short life. Tasker was debarred from newspaper production on becoming the Skipton postmaster. That year, the West Riding Pioneer was founded, promoting Liberalism. The Conservatives, keen to re-assert their cause, and to provide a counterbalance, set up a company that revived the Craven Herald. John Dawson, a keen supporter of the Temperance movement, ran a journal called The Home Visitor.

Letters from readers were published in the Herald at an early date, one letter lamenting the development of “harmonium-mania”. A photograph of a society marriage was published as early as the summer of 1905. The accompanying text, spread over six columns, listed the guests with details of their individual gifts. A newspaper merger between Herald and Pioneer was arranged in 1937. The Craven Herald & Pioneer is today one of only two newspapers to retain advertisements on the front page. In a year when April Fool’s Day coincided with Friday, which is publication day, a spoof item announced an impending change (after 150 years) from adverts to editorial. This stimulated much anguished talk and a host of letters.

Between 1900 and 1982, the newspaper was printed on a press that had been acquired second hand. Current issues emanate from the press of the Telegraph & Argus in Bradford. The circulation of the Herald, dubbed The Voice of the Dales, is now rather more than 19,500 copies.