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Incidents from Tilebury's History

Dr Harriet Longstepp

1 June

Our Newspaper Trust.

I was a thinking about the topic for this month while I was sitting in the back office of our little village museum, doing the last of the indexing which was left for me by the museum's former caretaker. We have finally managed to get control of the place and cleaned it up. I do hope you will pop in for a chat some time as there is a lot of interesting things I have unearthed which I can show you.

Anyway I was filing some old photographs of the great manor houses in the countryside around here, when the phone rang and it was a solicitor from a partnership in Plymouth asking if I had any materials on the Tilebury Newspaper Trust. In the process of digging out copies of documents for her I discovered a lot of information about the Tilebury Newspaper Trust, including that it technically owns the freehold of the museum and the newspaper itself.

Well I thought that would be a good topic and, later in the month when I was speaking to our current editor, Fran Lennier she showed me a letter which had just arrived from the solicitor calling for a meeting to appoint new trustees. It became all the more important that we publish some details about this local institution. The rest of this article sets out what I have found.

The Trust Deed itself is being published this month. Behind that deed is a story of co-operation and, perhaps, some little coercion.

Although there may have been newsletters of one form and another before, the first regular village newsletter we have records of appears to have been created, under the name The Informer in 1976. This was a church-sponsored exercise and was largely focussed on parish activities. It quickly ran into opposition driven largely by the free spirit of the age, which objected to the apparently rather stuffy and patriarchal approach of the editor.

There are records of demonstrations outside the editor's house, including bra-burning and something called a feminist wail which lasted for three hours during one mid-summer's night. The police were called and there were a number of arrests which failed to dampen the spirit of the demonstrators. They continued to perpetrate increasing outrages as the weeks passed and the police became a regular sight in the village chasing bra-less ladies up and down T'mas Broad and elsewhere.

Who knows what might have happened if the editor had not suffered a severe eye illness which caused him to quit journalism and move to Bristol to be close to the eye-hospital. His parting words seem to have been an expression of some doubt about whether his tormentors would themselves be able to run a paper without him.

His departure left the ring-leaders of the demonstration to take up his challenge. This they did by first enlisting the help of a number of donors and by conducting a series of charitable activities and fund-raising from members of the village.

The key successes where when they were given an old ramshackle building by the Kinear family, who, despite an Irish lineage have lived in the village for several generations. In addition they obtained the promise of an hour's service each from over a hundred villagers.

They used this labour force to renovate the buildings before spending the remaining donations on printing equipment which was housed in the rooms currently occupied by the museum. In the 1990s it became too old fashioned and was sold to an entrepreneur in Zimbabwe.

Oddly enough some years later when the William Jenns school was being built, the developer was looking for a local trust to which it could gift some land as part of the planning requirements - that is the little park where the Heather Reedman sculpture is - and it identified the Newspaper Trust as the most suitable candidate. Consequently, rather surprisingly, the Newspaper Trust also owns that little park.

The newspaper itself gradually became a fixture in the village with an expressly secular purpose and many of us will remember receiving copies of the old "Tilebury Messenger" right up until 2012. Interestingly, that was not the name the original group gave it - until 1989 it was called the "Tilebury Familiar" for slightly vague reasons.

Anyway, when Fran Lennier restarted it this year, it had been silent since old Martha 'Granny' Everrett died in 2012. Nonetheless, the premises she took over and the records and materials etc still belonged to the trust and the Harbinger is undeniably the extension of the newsheets of the 70s, 80s and 90s.

I am sure it has never been such an interesting paper as it is today.

Articles from other months are linked from the side bar.

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