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Canterbury Cathedral to mark Kentish Gazette’s tercentenary

By Bob Bounds

The Kentish Gazette will celebrate the 300th anniversary of its first ever edition with a Cathedral service attended by dignitaries, current and former staff and a host of other people associated with the newspaper.

A special evensong will be led by the Dean of Canterbury the Very Rev Robert Willis on Wednesday, October 11, from 5.30pm.

It is hoped that as many readers as possible will join dignitaries, plus current and former staff, in a landmark celebration that only one other local paper has enjoyed previously, the Gazette being the second oldest in the country.

An early copy of the Kentish Post, the forerunner of the Kentish Gazette
An early copy of the Kentish Post, the forerunner of the Kentish Gazette

The milestone will also be marked by a special souvenir supplement charting the history and highlights across three centuries since the first issue of the Kentish Post, the forerunner to the Gazetter, was printed on October 16, 1717.

The Gazette’s remarkable longevity will be on display at the service and reception and in the supplement, including the early days when one of its earliest proprietors – and editor – James Simmons turned the paper from the Kentish Post and Canterbury Newsletter into the Kentish Gazette.

Starting out covering national and international events to an audience without mass media to keep them in touch, it became a truly local paper, containing detailed reports on council meetings, the courts, weddings and local sports.

The service and supplement will also mark the 1942 Baedeker Raids on the city in which the Gazette’s offices were bombed and it was later forced to moved to offices in St George’s Place, where it remained for half-a-century.

Dean of Canterbury, Robert Willis, will preside over the service
Dean of Canterbury, Robert Willis, will preside over the service

The Cathedral has played a significant part in the paper’s history and the Gazette later successfully campaigned for the firewatchers who saved the building during the same raids, and other properties near by, to be officially recognised with a memorial in the Nave.

KM Media Group chairman Geraldine Allinson said: “We are honoured that the Cathedral is allowing us to celebrate this milestone with an anniversary service, and that the Dean will be presiding over the event. Given the strong relationship the paper has had with the Cathedral over its entire history, it is fitting we will be holding this special occasion there.

“Everyone in the KM Media Group is really proud of the Gazette’s long and distinguished history and delighted that we are celebrating the paper’s tercentenary. We hope that as many people as possible who love the paper as much as we do will join us for the service on the 11th.”

Dr Willis added: “The 300th Anniversary of the Kentish Gazette is an event which the Cathedral will celebrate with great enthusiasm and I am so very happy that we are having a special service of evensong to mark that event.

James Simmons founded the Gazette after its merger with the Kentish Post
James Simmons founded the Gazette after its merger with the Kentish Post

“Over the 300 years the Gazette has recorded so much of the story of our city and Cathedral and many of its articles and photographs have become a treasured archive.

“The service will attempt to use a spread of music and words reflecting the 300 years of a proud history and I know it will also have as one of its themes our good wishes for the years which lie ahead.”

The paper has changed its format and look considerably over the years and more recently even the way it transmits the news, but the key elements and values of trusted reporting that have stood it in good stead over 300 years remain.

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