The Gazette and family connections

The Hemel Hempstead Gazette was founded in 1858 and was purchased by my Victorian grandfather, Edgar Needham, in 1901.  He was a good businessman who always dressed smartly in a suit and waistcoat, complete with watch and chain.  He had run a successful advertising agency in Fleet Street for twelve years before taking on the new venture of a country local newspaper. After only three years, on 1 Oct 1904 he founded the Berkhamsted Gazette and Tring and District News, with the first office at 5-7 Lower Kings Road in the premises, which are now occupied by Barnardo’s charity shop.

Berkhamsted Gazette

Berkhamsted Gazette

The Needham family, which consisted of six boys and three girls, lived in Hemel Hempstead.  The sons went to Berkhamsted School when the Headmaster was Charles Henry Greene and my father was in the same class as the young Graham Greene.

Five of the sons worked for the Gazette at some time but only my father, Lyonel, devoted his working life to the paper. He took great pride in the fact that it was printed every week without fail, despite some difficulties at times. Hugh was employed briefly before he joined the Royal Flying Corps. Wilfred was a reporter until he died in a rugby accident  aged 21 in 1923. Eric, the youngest brother, worked in the office until he left to create his own garage business near Gerrards Cross on the A40 Oxford Road in the early 1930s. Douglas took over the management of the office at the time of Edgar’s retirement. He was known as ‘Mr Douglas’ and my father ‘Mr Lyonel’ Needham to save confusion!

After my father’s death in 1968 and the retirement of ‘Mr Douglas’ in 1971, the business was sold to another local family, the de Fraines, owners of the Bucks Herald, Aylesbury. This ended seventy years of Needham ownership of the Gazette but not the family’s strong connections with Berkhamsted.

Jennifer Honour, Chronicle, v.XI, pp.58-60