The story of CHAIN 1977 -2012

by Ron Rowlands


Early  Editions

 With appropriate timing, nine months! after the Steering Committee first met,  CHAIN MAIL was born.  The 1st Edition – April 1978  – was five double sided sheets of A4 with pale yellow sheets front and back and three brownish sheets in the middle. There is no mention of the Editor’s name.

Some extracts from this 1st Edition are:-

 ‘Welcome to the readers of Hungerford Volunteers Force’s own paper!  CHAIN hopes to publish CHAIN MAIL on a regular basis and make it available free to all in this Hungerford area.  It will tell you how you can help and be helped by CHAIN – and a lot more besides.  We hope it will develop into a regular local paper produced by volunteers, and be a real focus for this caring, well informed and happy community in Hungerford’.

‘What have we got?  Our infant, whatever else it may have (and we are aware of its limitations) has two strong legs. One is the network of neighbourhood LINKS and the other is the central OFFICE.  Both are vital for any progress.’

‘Dominant among the requests for help has been the need for transport.  While CHAIN aims to be more than a voluntary taxi service, we recognise that one of Hungerford’s main needs is an improved transport service.  Maybe CHAIN can lend its weight to agitation for better bus and train links, at the same time as doing its best by bridging what gaps it can in the existing transport.  The office staff feel quite strongly that there is much more to be done than just arranging transport. They have a list of volunteers who are waiting to be called upon for a wide variety of jobs’.

‘CHAIN is about people who care for the quality of community life. It has no monopoly of such care and recognises its limitations.  But a growing child needs to be stretched to develop its latent talents, and CHAIN looks to YOU for requests for action, suggestions of things that need doing, and maybe your own participation in its continuing growth’.
CHAIN’s 2nd newsletter, a double sided A4 sheet appeared in Spring 1979. There was mention of a proposed ‘Town Twinning’ and coverage of youth organisations but it was mainly all about CHAIN including notice of the first Annual General Meeting on 30th April 1979. As with the 1st Edition there is no indication of who compiled it.
The 3rd CHAIN MAIL was produced in November 1979 by a Jim Whyman living at 11 Firgrove Court, Hungerford, the first time an Editor’s name is promulgated.. It was four sides  of A4 and covered the start of Hungerford Historical Association (conceived on 29th May 1979 and born in The Town Hall on 26th September 1979) and more about the impending Town Twinning. 
Jim Whyman suggests ‘an eight or twelve page magazine every other month going free to every household  in the town, to be financed from advertising revenue and CHAIN’.  He goes on to appeal for contributions and help with typing and production.
The 4th, in June 1980, is not by Jim Whyman but by R.S.(Bobbie) Winser, Chain’s first treasurer. This is also on A4 sheets; eight pages with a double sided cover featuring on the inside a full page advertisement about the new Estate Agent, Burrough & Co. and on the  back page eight other advertisers. There are five pages about CHAIN, and Community activity. There is also mention that CHAIN MAIL goes to 2000 homes and advertising rates will be 18p per column inch.
September 1980 sees the first CHAIN MAIL in A5 booklet style; a format to last for the next thirty two years.  There is a substantial increase in general information on ten pages plus a centre spread with 17 advertisements.  The advertising rates had increased to £40 for a page and £2.15 for a sixteenth of a page.
Surprise, surprise; three months on there is a ‘Christmas Newsletter’, it is not numbered and is a double sided A4 sheet.  It starts:-
‘This, as you will see, is not Chain Mail.  The reason is the publication (which took us by surprise) of The Hungerford Crusader edited by Tony Williams to promote the Hungerford Football Club.
As you know CHAIN is keen on a Community paper but there is no point in having an overlap.  So, we are going to have a discussion with Tony Williams to see if we should combine in some way or another – or go our separate way.   In the meantime we thought we would send out a newsletter…………….
Chain Mail issue no. 6 duly appeared in April 1981 The ‘perceived problem’ about The Hungerford Crusader had been resolved.

A New Start  –  Regular  Issues

For some reason, probably lack of an editor, there is a gap of eighteen months i.e. December 1982 before the appearance of another CHAIN MAIL and then it is only one sheet of A4 folded to A5 size. This one, not numbered, starts:-
It is so long since we were able to publish an issue of CHAIN MAIL that there must now be many people in and around who have forgotten. I hope that this new issue will help  to  clarify matters.

The editor’s name  does not appear but on 10th January 1983 the committee thank Philippa Marshall from Burbage, Marlborough for producing the 1st edition of the ‘new’ CHAIN MAIL. The next edition in March 1983 is also not numbered but the June 1983 one is prominently numbered ‘3’.  From then on, all are numbered with number 113 appearing as the December 2011 issue, thus indicating fairly regular quarterly publications over the years.

The first 35 issues are all on just white paper with a sheet of A4 folded into A5 to produce 4 pages and it is not until 1986 (Issue 14) that the size increases to 8 pages.  By December 2011 (issue 113) the number of pages has increased to 40, and on occasions have been 48 pages.

Coloured covers appear regularly from issue 36 – December 1991, and over the years the style of the publication has become much more professional looking.  It is interesting to see that editor Bob Bennet in 2005 when seeking a new editor to replace him writes:-
“Use of MS Publisher would be an advantage, although previous editors used Word, Printer, scissors and Tippex”He could have added that the original editors produced CHAIN MAIL typing onto  skins using an old fashioned typewriter and then duplicating it on the old  style duplicating machine after inking and turning the handle !!   In 2012, David Piper still uses Desktop programme of Publisher (part of Microsoft) He also uses PDF  – for the benefit of other computer experts.

Editors  As far as can be ascertained the early editors (from 1978 to 1991) were:-
Bill Acworth  (standing in when others not available!)
Jim Whyman
Bobby Winser
Phillipa Sage
David Cath
Carol Collins and Jean Beard  (Joint editors)

There could be others, so apologies to anyone missed out.  With six. perhaps more, editors covering 13 years it means that there were fairly regular changes.  However in issue  No 34 there was an entry that reads:-
“We are pleased to announce the appointment of a


She is ELIZABETH DAVIS of The Birches, Chilton Foliat and we welcome her to the CHAIN team. Although she does not live in Hungerford itself Elizabeth is currently press officer to our theatre club.  She is, by profession, a free-lance editor and has good ideas about the content and presentation of CHAIN MAIL”

Elizabeth successfully edited CHAIN MAIL for a record thirty eight issues for 9 years in which she expanded the contents to cover more of the social activities in Hungerford,  particularly HADCAF (Hungerford and District Crafts and Arts Festival) in which she had and still has in 2012 a leading role.

In 2001, Elizabeth was looking for someone else to take over as editor.  Ron and June Rowland had just taken over the distribution arrangements and as June had been involved for many years with ‘Village Views’, a magazine covering the Lambourn area, they agreed to take on both roles, i.e. editing and distribution. 

However, two and a half years later  Ron took over as CHAIN Chairman and Bob Bennett who had previously edited a local Great Shefford magazine volunteered to be editor. Bob was very much a computer man so production of the publication became much more sophisticated.

After three years, (eleven issues) Bob found it necessary to give up because of health problems and work pressures but fortunately  another ‘computer whizz kid’, David Piper, came along and developed the publication still further, in particular expanding the advertiser content to help offset the cost of printing etc..  At the time of writing (2012) David is still producing the quality CHAIN MAIL that started way back.

So, to add to our list of early-short term -editors, we have:-
Elizabeth Davis  9 years   –  38 issues   –  (34 to 72)
Ron & June Rowland 2 years)  –    6 issues   –  (73 to 78)
Bob Bennett 3 years   –  11 issues   –  (79 to 95)
David Piper 4 years & on, 18   – issues    (96 & on)

Beryl Fowler was appointed Editor between Bob and David but resigned almost immediately because of ill health.

Minutes show that apart from setting out broad guidelines and just occasionally commenting on the balance between news and advertising the management committee relied on the editors for content of the publication and also for ensuring printing on time etc. 

From time to time the editor would have some help on layout or typing etc but in the main the job was the sole responsibility of the editor(s) of the day.  This may account for the difficulty in obtaining editors prior to Elizabeth Davis.

For thirty three years CHAIN MAIL has:-
 recorded the activities of CHAIN, advertised much of the social activity in the town and supplied information about help available to those in need.

As such the publications are invaluable documents recording the activities of enthusiastic, willing volunteers from 1978 until 2012 – and no doubt well beyond then.

The  Town  Council  Newsletter

With a well established voluntary distribution team covering all homes in Hungerford, CHAIN welcomed a suggestion from the Town Council that the Council should produce a quarterly News Letter and distribute it as an insert in CHAIN MAIL.  This was very much in line with CHAIN’s aim to use their publication for dissemination of useful information and  the Council’s newsletter (4 x A5 pages) appeared regularly every quarter from December 1989 (issue 29) until March  1997 (issue 57) – 28 issues.


Updates from 2021

David Piper retired in December 2021 with issue 151 a total of 55 issues with just two issues missed due to the COVID pandemic in 2020/2021 due to distribution problems.

Keith Knight the new Editor produces issue 152 for March 2022