Diss Express celebrates 150th birthday

Diss, Express. Luke page with the first and latest copy of the Diss Express to mark it's 150th aniversary
Diss, Express. Luke page with the first and latest copy of the Diss Express to mark it's 150th aniversary

The Diss Express is celebrating a grand milestone this year. In 1864, 150 years ago, a new newspaper was launched for the people of south Norfolk and north Suffolk.

The first ever edition of The Diss Express and Norfolk and Suffolk Journal, as it was then called, was published on November 4.

This year we will be looking back at our newspaper’s history and asking for your help in marking our publishing landmark.

And perhaps the best way to start looking back is to go right to the very start.

The newspaper then cost one old pence and came with this opening address, on the front page.

“The steady and continuous advance made by the town of Diss has rendered it not only desirable but necessary that it should be represented by a weekly newspaper.

“Our aim is not to clash with existing local journals, but to supply a felt want, viz; a newspaper which shall be specially devoted to the requirements of the town and neighbourhood.

“In the matters of Religion and Politics, we shall endeavour to maintain and “armed neutrality” not neglecting however, to advocate what we conceive to be right, just and good - all parties being fairly represented - and in order that this may be the case, a general invitation is given to all to apprise us of any meetings etc, which they may wish to have reported.”

It continued: “We respectfully solicit the co-operation of all in endeavouring to make the EXPRESS a permanent institution of the town.”

Perhaps little did the then editor, and proprietor, imagine that 150 years later, the Diss Express would still be an institution in the town, and one of the longest lived.

The front page editorial then tries to sum up Diss as a town. It states: “We are not about to assert that there is no town like Diss, but we may indulge a little gratulation, nevertheless.”

It describes a “nice little country town” and picks out features which those trying to sell to the town today would also highlight.

It talks of the “far-famed” Mere and “pleasant” park. Diss Corn Hall is described as a “model building” and St Mary’s Church is “spacious and comfortable.”

Of the church, the piece states: “Our PARISH CHURCH has much about it which deserves a commendatory note, although it has been hinted that the Antiquary or Archaeologist would not find much worthy of note.”

Of Victoria Road, it states: “A finer Promenade than our Victoria Road cannot be desired, nor a better entrance to the town.”

It concludes: “We have lots of good things then in Diss, and we have some bad things, so it will be; but we take it that Diss has reason to be proud of its social amenities.”

That assessment and a reader letter underneath complaining about speeding in the town (albeit horse and carts) and some might draw the conclusion that, 150 years later, Diss would still be recognisable in many ways to our Victorian ancestors.

n Help us celebrate 150 years. If you have any saved cuttings or editions of the Diss Express, or have memories of a moment covered by the Diss Express, get in touch. Email editorial@dissexpress.co.uk or call 01379 658002.