The Watford Observer has teamed up with Watford Museum and its curator Sarah Priestley to take a journey back to the town’s past through items or places of historical significance.

The fifth item in ‘a history of Watford in 50 objects’ is a piece of machinery that is significant in the history of this newspaper and the town’s industrial past – the Columbian Press.

Sarah said: “The Columbian Press was made in 1820 and we think it came to Watford in approximately 1823 when John Peacock opened his print works in the Lower High Street.

“On Saturday 24th January 1863 it was used to print the first copy of the Watford Observer. In recent years it was restored to working order by local printers and donated to the museum.

“Printing is hugely important in the history and development of the town – at one stage Watford was thought to be the centre of printing in Europe.

“The press is popular with visitors because of this link to the town’s industrial past, the Watford Observer, and the beautiful decoration that has very interesting meaning.

“The golden eagle represents the American inventor of the press, the green dragons represent the Chinese origins of printing, and the Staff of Hermes, the messenger of the gods, represents printing taking the news to the people.”

Watford Museum has reopened to the public. You can visit on Saturdays at present with pre-booking essential. Housed in the former Benskins Mansion, the Grade II listed building holds treasures of Watford history from Cassiobury to printing to Watford Football Club. To find out more, visit