Happy 160th birthday to the Watford Observer. The paper was first produced by the Peacock family and published on a hand-operated printing machine, unrecognisable from today’s hi-tech production and online presence, thanks to which never has it been easier to access news and information.

The Observer has covered some of the most historic moments in Watford's history, from the Watford riots in 1902, the opening of the Harlequin in 1992, the Watford rail crash in 1996, Elton John purchasing the football club in 1977 and the club reaching the FA Cup final in both 1984 and 2019.

Thank you to all of the fantastic staff from editorial, advertising, accounts and production who help keep the paper going despite some of the more modern challenges given the rise of social media.


Despite this, the online and printed content of local newspapers is often the first port of call for many when it comes to local community news, and this is thanks to the great work of local reporters who play such an important role in promoting transparency and accountability. It is thanks to their work that the Watford Observer has been able to thrive in the last 160 years.

Dean Russell, MP for Watford

Congratulations to the Watford Observer on your 160 years reporting on the issues that matter to local residents. Over that time the newspaper has done so much to help people become part of our community. It is such a key part of life in Watford.

I believe all politics is local. So many of the services people receive are run by councils or are the result of national decisions taken by our Members of Parliament. That means we need strong local media to inform residents about what is happening and hold decision makers to account. I am glad that we have the Watford Observer locally – in far too many parts of the country we are losing local papers.

Local media is also important in building a sense of community. The Watford Observer regularly features the brilliant work that local organisations are doing to make our town a great place to live and the letters page allows people to have their voice heard to a large audience; sometimes informing, and sometimes inviting debate. I certainly don’t agree with everything written in the paper, but a free press is so important to a functioning democracy.

I think that local life in Watford would be poorer without the Watford Observer and we would certainly miss it if it ever went. Here’s to another 160 years!

Peter Taylor, Elected Mayor of Watford

I think it’s very important to celebrate the success and freedom of our local press. 160 years is a significant milestone and given the number of publications going to the wall in recent years it’s quite an achievement!

As a local politician for many years I had plenty of robust discussions with various editorial staff most notably Peter Wilson Leary and Frazer Ansell, both real old school journalists with integrity and a professional pride in the printed word. They’re perhaps a dying breed now so much have things changed, but they always listened and always tried to be fair - though it didn’t always feel like that!

A local paper has a unique role in supporting and promoting the local community. No one wants to read their local paper and feel they live in a crime ridden dump! Of course we expect our local newspaper to report the facts and tell us what’s going on but doing it with community wellbeing and morale at its heart. I think the Watford Observer always has tried to keep that balance and that’s why I continue to buy the paper version and keep an eye on the website, especially when I’m looking for news of the Golden Boys .

The community news and input from our partners and charities is a great boost for them and contributes to this more positive feeling. The times they are a changing but despite that the WOBS has survived and changed with those times. My congratulations to everyone working at the paper.

Baroness Dorothy Thornhill, former Elected Mayor of Watford