The central building in this view of the High Street is the premises of J C Holmes, who besides selling a range of fancy goods and stationery, was also the fourth proprietor of the Andover Advertiser. Notice the range of billboards propped up on the pavement, the decorative frieze of cast iron above the fascia board and the Andover Advertiser sign above the first-floor windows.

Holmes was born at Dorchester in 1825, son of Thomas and Mary Ann. Sadly, his father died soon afterwards and his mother then married Samuel Loader, a tailor. By 1851, James, still living at home, was able to call himself a journeyman printer, which meant he could command a daily rate for his work. He married Maria Geall in 1854 and the couple had two daughters, Maria and Emma Anne. By then he was a bookseller and stationer in a printing office – which sounds pretty much what he was later to do in Andover.

His first wife died in 1865 and he then married Sarah Ellen (or Helen) Budden in 1869. Their first son Alfred James was born the following year but then a business opportunity presented itself, whereby he moved up to Hull, going into partnership with 28-year-old Henry James Amphlett, to publish the Hull Packet newspaper at 22 Whitefriarsgate.

The Hull Packet was long established but had been left rudderless with the death of its proprietor Richard Wallis in 1871. Both Amphlett and Holmes were in Dorchester at that time with their families and young children. They may have already worked together as Amphlett was a newspaper reporter when he married Louisa Willcocks in 1864.

Once the ownership of the Hull newspaper had been secured, the Amphlett family moved up there straight away, while James C Holmes left his family in Dorchester and temporarily boarded with the Amphletts – James’ new wife had just given birth to a son and would follow later.

An October 1871 notice in the Hull Packet explains the new arrangements and that the paper would be reduced to 1d. News correspondents, agents and newsmen were all required. While Amphlett was clearly the editor, Holmes was in charge of the commercial side and any money orders and cheques were to be made out to him.

The two men continued to work together for nearly five years but a notice in the London Gazette states that the partnership was dissolved by mutual consent on 8 April 1876. What happened is unclear but the Hull Packet continued to be printed long afterwards under new owners.

At this point James Charles Holmes took over the Andover Advertiser, buying the title from John Burgiss Brown who had run it for the previous seven years. Tradition has it that Holmes chose Andover rather than Falmouth where the newspaper for that town was also up for sale. A second son, Frederick Charles, had been born in Yorkshire in 1873 and so the two daughters of his first marriage and the two sons by his second wife all arrived in Andover to live at 10 High Street. Another daughter, Beatrice Mary, completed the family in 1878.

The Advertiser had already been running for 18 years and Holmes bought all the fixtures and fittings outright for £1,600 and leased the building for £80 a year. The following year the freehold became available, which he bought for £1,430. It was described as a ‘substantially-built dwelling house, with modern mahogany and plate-glass shop front, and a range of commodious and well-lighted printing offices’. Repeating the innovation at Hull, the price of the paper was reduced to 1d, which increased sales.

In those days, all the type was set in the office by hand, letter by letter, which must have been a laborious process. However, four pages of national news were still printed in London and sent down every Wednesday to be included in the weekly paper.

As can be imagined, in all the ‘sleepy’ market towns up and down the country, there were quiet weeks when virtually nothing happened. Consequently, a good local story would be reported in every detail, far more than would happen today. Any court case would have every utterance repeated and there was no hiding for unfortunate defendants whose minor misdemeanours were published for all to read. Monthly council meetings were also reported in similar fashion.

James C Holmes ran the Advertiser and the stationery shop for 32 years until his death in 1908. It then passed to his elder son and then to his grandson who lived long enough to celebrate ‘A Centenary of Homes’ in 1976.

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