Our local newspaper will be 143 years old on January 5.

Before that date in 1878, Basingstoke, with a population of some 6,000, had no local newspaper, but its potential as a growing town was attractive to entrepreneurs.

The town had excellent railway connections, industry with Wallis & Steevens, clothing manufacture and retail.

Thomas Burberry was opening shops in Winchester and Church Streets and in 1879 the town got its first hospital in Hackwood Road.

1878 also saw Basingstoke Town Football Club’s first match, beating Andover 2-0.

Twenty-three-year-old John Bird (1845 – 1905) saw his opportunity.

Moving from Somerset where, aged 16, he had been a printer’s apprentice, he and his younger brother, Sidney, (1864-1939) acquired premises in Church Street roughly opposite where the ramp leads to the Library in Festival Place.

He bought an 18-year-old second-hand Arab Platen Print Press and began publication.

The first title of the paper was the Hants & Berks Gazette and Basingstoke Journal and soon added the Middlesex and Surrey Journal.

In 1969 it became the now familiar Basingstoke Gazette.

Printing in Church Street ceased in 1975.

John Bird was a staunch Methodist and a teetotaller, for which reason he fell foul of the Massagainians in the brewers’ riots against the Salvation Army in the 1880s.

For this, the windows in Church Street were broken by the mob.

He made his home in Cliddesden and was instrumental in getting the old Methodist church from Church Street moved and rebuilt in Cliddesden.

The newer, larger church in Church Street was demolished in town development.

A local newspaper is a precious thing and the archive of the newspapers at Pelton Road will be safe, although sadly not in the town where it ought to be.

Maybe one day a space for it will be found here.