Essex County Standard: Static HTML image
Hervey Benham, right, with Miss Kate Walling and her father FW Walling, general manager

Like a trusted friend, the Essex County Standard aims to bring you news of what is happening in Colchester each week - and has been doing just this every week for the past 180 years.

The Essex Standard was founded in 1831, before the Great Reform Act of 1832, and having won freedom of expression, Radicals mobilised the Press to make Parliament answerable to the people.

This upset the vicar of Wormingford, the Rev George Tufnell, a leader of Conservatives in Essex. He was convinced that the majority of readers and possibly voters, supported the Crown, the aristocracy and the Church of England and the existing political system.

The paper was intended to promote the Conservative cause, and was launched in Chelmsford, but soon moved to Colchester.

Papers rarely made a profit and George Tufnell's publication was no exception. It lurched from one crisis to another until rescued by John Taylor, of Colchester.

He can be regarded as the father of the Standard. He sold his own business as a bookseller and managed to make the paper pay. The Standard was based at 15 and 17 High Street, its home for the next 130 years.

Essex County Standard: Static HTML image
The hand-composing room on the top floor of the Culver Street printing works

But all was not plain sailing. In 1850, the Colchester Conservatives were persuaded to accept as their candidate Lord John Manners, a friend of Disraeli and heir to the Duke of Rutland.

John Taylor was faced with a dilemma. He was expexted to support a Conservative candidate, but was opposed to Manners, who supported government funding for a Catholic university in Ireland.

Taylor broke ranks, started denouncing the Catholic church and criticising the MP. This led 13 local Tories to form a rival newspaper, the Essex Gazette.

But the Standard survived, partly because Taylor was a popular figure. He had campaigned for public footpaths, a Colchester Museum and the founding of the Colchester Co-op.

By 1867, Taylor was a dying man and sold the Standard, its printing press and all its equipment to his fellow bookseller, Edward Benham for £2,525.

But within two years he too had died, at the age of 47. The paper then came under the control of his widow, Mary Benham. She managed the Standard until her son Gurney Benham took over the editorship in 1884. When he became Mayor in 1892 his brother Charles joined him as co-editor, the paper was enlarged and renamed the Essex County Standard.

Under the guidance of the Benhams, the Standard became one of the most successful provincial newspapers.

Gurney Benham, who lived until 1943, is regarded as one of the all-time greats of Colchester. He knew everyone and the County Standard carried immense authority within the community.

Essex County Standard: Static HTML image
The newsroom in Culver Street in the early 1970s, producing the Essex County Standard and the Evening Gazette

The Standard was inherited by Gurney's son Hervey. He promptly announced that it would become neutral - not Conservative - and began to modernise it.

News and pictures were put on the front page, and from 1967 it was printed at the Sheepen Road printwork on the first offset litho press in Europe.

In the 1970s the Essex County Newspapers group was sold to Reed International, owners of the Daily Mirror, countless local newspapers, magazines and journals.

Today, our present owners are the Newsquest Media Group, part of the American Gannett company. But after 180 years, the heart of the County Standard is still with the community of north Essex.

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