50th anniversary issue of the Oundle Chronicle

This issue is the 50th publication of the Oundle Chronicle. Although Oundle is a small town, the Chronicle manages to fill every issue with stories on local crime, property, business, politics, and the residents who live in the town.

The Oundle Chronicle is written by a team of Oundle School pupils who meet once a week, and is supervised by two staff editors. Each issue is entirely self-funded by advertising, with any profits donated to charity.

The 2019 Chronicle team

The 2019 Chronicle team

The first issue was printed in black and white in 1991 when copy needed to be pasted manually onto pre-press sheets. Hoping to attract a wide readership, the paper reported on a crime wave of six burglaries, a ghost sighting in the Talbot Hotel, the success of a pupil from Prince William School who went to Australia for a lecture course, and the appointment of a tree warden.

Crime is always a headline-attracting story. The lead article of the 2011 winter issue was titled “Return of the Ram-Raiders”, and reported on the second ATM “smash-and-grab” robbery to have occurred during the year. The Police Beat column is a regular feature.

News stories track the changing fortunes of local businesses. In 1991, a local shop was “honoured with the distinction of winning the Midlands Region Delicatessen of the Year Award”, while in 2012, Hambleton Bakery, which is currently situated on the Wharf Station Road, was named Britain’s Best Bakery by ITV.

In 2012, the cover story featured the arrival of Waitrose, which had initially been met with some objections about concerns to the future of the Market Place. By 2014, Norman’s Greengrocer closed after 65 years in the Market Place. Similarly, the building which now is the restaurant Salernos has changed hands repeatedly, having recently been ’62 Love Me Do.

A copy of every issue of the Chronicle is sent to our MP in Westminster, and once even attracted a response from the Prime Minister. In response to an article about Tony Blair and his relationship with the then Oundle School headmaster, Blair wrote: “I remember David McMurray very well – and my days at Fettes – and found your article most enlightening!”

Prominent residents and visitors to town sometimes attract a feature article. In the third issue of the Chronicle, the two editors interviewed HRH the Duchess of Gloucester Princess Alice about her birthday. In 2010, a staff writer interviewed the comedian Jo Brand, who described entertainment as “taking people away from the drudgery of their ordinary working lives”.

Flooding by the River Nene is a big news story. In the spring issue of 1998, “Spring Floods hit Oundle”; 2006 saw the council having to defend its record on flooding issues; in 2012 roads were closed, and a local resident described the flooding as the “worst flooding in Oundle for twenty years”.

Stories about technology and countryside developments reflect changing attitudes. On the contentious issue of wind turbines, the Chronicle wrote an article in 2005 about how “Turbines Plan Puts the Wind up Villagers”. Four years later the headline was “Wind Farm Regulations Relaxed”.

One obvious change the town has experienced is in its growth, and the development of new housing. Since 1991, Oundle’s population had increased by 47.9%. In 2012 articles about planning developments reported that residents “felt unease and anxiety about the new home development” and “overcrowded development raises concern”. Since then, the Neighbourhood Plan and ENC housing plans have grabbed headlines.

The Chronicle has adapted to changes in technology, communications and distribution. While the paper used to be sold at Oundle News for 50p, since 2012 the Oundle Chronicle has been distributed free to every household in town by the team of writers.

On the digital front, its website and Twitter account can keep readers updated throughout the year.

Johnny Capstick-Dale
May 2019