Saffron Walden Reporter marks 35 years of publishing

First Reporter front page

First Reporter front page - Credit: Archant

For 35 years, the Saffron Walden Reporter has proudly been at the heart of the town’s news and events.

Lady Godiva

Lady Godiva - Credit: Archant

Our first edition was published on September 5, 1980, with the ambition of providing varied and interesting news and features stories – the key aspects of our ethos today.

As a way of showing our roots were firmly in town, the Reporter planted a tree in the Common as part of the then mayor’s campaign to replace 40 trees cut down after suffering from Dutch Elm disease.

Terry Grote, the first editor, went on to become the managing director of the Capital newspaper group, which was later bought by the Independent group.

He was the MD of The Independent until 2009, when he was awarded the OBE.

When the Reporter was first published, a four-bedroom home would set you back £35,000. Now, prices start around 10 times that price.

One of the highlights from the first few months of publishing was Brenda Fuller, landlady of The Black Bull, in Great Sampford, who did her best Lady Godiva impression.

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Mrs Fuller rode through the village on horseback while naked, save for a white wig covering her modesty.

The daring event was captured live on BBC Radio One with Noel Edmunds, now of Deal or no Deal fame, and Paul Burnett.

Mrs Fuller raised £1,000 for muscular dystrophy – a total boosted by a cheque from Mr Edmonds himself after he flew in by helicopter following his show.

Though some times has changed, some things have been cyclical - in 1981 Saffron Walden welcomed its first Vietnamese refugees when two sisters and their families moved in. Next year, the area is set to home Syrian refugees.

Stansted Airport has remained in the headlines throughout, from its terminal building opening in 1991 with a visit from the Queen, to expansion, plan for a second runway, and some times as many as four, and flight paths.

The Reporter also covered the crash of the Korean Air cargo flight in 1999, which killed the four on board.

Housing around Saffron Walden has also been controversial throughout, with planners at Uttlesford District Council recommending developments for approval, which were recommended for refusal by town and parish councils, with two parish councils threatening to leave their posts over the plans.

Controversy surrounded the development of the former cattle market in Market Square, which now houses Boots, as the building projected over the pavement and perhaps would set a precedent of encroaching walkways.

A daylight bank robbery in the Natwest in Saffron Walden September 2008, first broken by the Reporter, was described as the biggest thing to happen to the town.

Though since then, Saffron Walden has also seen two iconic events pass through. First was the Olympic torch in July 2012, where Blue Peter focused its national coverage on the Common as former County High School student Dan Thomas and Clare Thomson were chosen to carry the flame through their home town.

Few who saw the Tour de France forget the experience as one of the world’s most famous races pedalled around the district.

Stefan Bartlett, Editor, said: “We are extremely proud to have reached this milestone anniversary of serving our readers and advertisers.

“We have been at the heart of the community for 35 years now and will strive to maintain our high standards long into the future.

He added: “Although the way people receive news has changed, through the internet and social media outlets, we are still committed to our print editions which remain a favourite with our readers.”

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