Working with Wikipedia to bring history facts to light

Posted on July 18th, 2014 by The British Newspaper Archive

The Wikipedia Library

We’ve recently donated 100 subscriptions to the Wikipedia community through the Wikipedia Library, a grant-funded programme which makes it easier for experienced volunteer editors to access research materials.

It’s very exciting to be involved in this new partnership. It allows us to contribute to Wikipedia, one of the most frequently used reference tools in the world, and demonstrates how local British and Irish newspapers can help improve public information about historical topics from around the world.

We asked Simon Tushingham, one of Wikipedia’s volunteer editors, to explain how The British Newspaper Archive has helped with his recent contributions.

Simon, a Wikipedia contributor 

I have a History degree from the University of Cambridge and Wikipedia has always been a way for me to explore my interest in Indian and local history. When I got access to The British Newspaper Archive through the Wikipedia Library, I saw it as an opportunity to explore one of Salford’s local history mysteries.

Sir James Farmer

I discovered the mystery by speaking to several people who had been apprentices at the Sir James Farmer Norton & Co Ltd engineering firm at the Adelphi Ironworks in Salford.

None of them could really tell me anything about Sir James Farmer, though they knew lots about the products the company had manufactured. These were sold worldwide and many are still being used and resold now. Some of the products were truly innovative, such as a fast printing press.

The only information they really knew about Farmer was that he was once Mayor of Salford. Although the company did produce a celebratory booklet for an anniversary, there really doesn’t seem to have been much written about the man who started it all.

Starting Sir James Farmer’s Wikipedia article

Sir James FarmerBecause of his impact on my friends and our community, I suspected that Sir James Farmer may have been one of the more notable of the many self-made, often world-changing, engineering men who inhabited Manchester, Salford and the surrounding areas in the 19th century. He needed a Wikipedia article!

Wikipedia’s model for article development supports the ‘from little acorns…’ approach. If I could start an article about Farmer, then perhaps at some time in the future someone might find more information and add to it.

Wikipedia also has limitations. Inaccessible verifiable information usually means no article – it is meant to be an encyclopaedia, after all, so there needs to be some type of public and reliably documented conversation to show that it is of interest to the public. I couldn’t use the primary source material available at a couple of archives and there wasn’t really much else that I could find without trawling through microfilms.

Using The British Newspaper Archive

Enter The British Newspaper Archive! Forget spending days, probably weeks, twiddling at a film reader, I could get access to the most important information about Farmer with one simple search.

In the space of a couple of hours, most of which was spent being pleasantly distracted by other news articles surrounding the ones about Farmer, I’d gathered enough material to justify an article.

The man is now recognised on a major educational project that gets millions of viewers. I’ve planted that acorn and given him some of the recognition he deserves. Hopefully, given time, much more can be said about him and his company.

Sir James Farmer’s obituary

Here’s an example of what I was able to find at The British Newspaper Archive. Farmer’s obituary was published in the Manchester Times in 1892 and included an illustration of him:


Obituary of Sir James Farmer

Manchester Times – Friday 28 October 1892

View the whole newspaper page


You can read Simon’s article about Sir James Farmer at Wikipedia.



Top tip: How to find newspapers from your county

Posted on July 16th, 2014 by The British Newspaper Archive

This handy step-by-step guide will help you find out which newspapers are available from a particular county at The British Newspaper Archive. Watch this short video or follow the five simple steps below.



Search the newspapers


See which of your county’s newspaper archives are online

  1. From the homepage, click on the ‘choose a county’ dropdown menu.
    Search by county at The British Newspaper Archive

  3. Scroll down until you find the county you’re interested in and click on it.
    County menu on The British Newspaper Archive homepage

  5. You can search all of the historic newspapers from that county from this page.
    You can search historic newspapers from Kent from this page

  7. On the left-hand side, you’ll see a list of the newspaper titles currently available from this county. More newspapers are being added to The British Newspaper Archive all the time.
    A list of historic newspapers from Kent, available at The British Newspaper Archive

  9. You may see a ‘+ more newspapers’ button at the bottom of the list. Click on it to show the full list of newspaper titles from this county.
    How to find a full list of newspaper titles from Kent at The British Newspaper Archive


Remember that news was reported widely

Bear in mind that news stories were reported around the country, not just where they took place.

If you don’t find a story reported in a particular county, return to the homepage and try your search again across the whole collection of historic newspapers.


Search the newspapers


Mrs Caudle: a 19th-century woman not to be crossed

Posted on July 7th, 2014 by The British Newspaper Archive

Mrs Caudle first appeared as a character in Punch magazine in 1845. She was portrayed as the archetypal nagging wife, always telling her husband off for something.


Mrs Caudle, a character in Punch magazine


The West Kent Guardian reveals the real Mrs Caudle

This article from the West Kent Guardian reveals that the real-life Mrs Caudle was also a woman not to be messed with. The newspaper published the following court report on Saturday 26 July 1845.


Mrs Caudle from London, mentioned in the West Kent Guardian

West Kent Guardian – Saturday 26 July 1845

View the whole newspaper page


Find other references to Mrs Caudle


240,000 extra newspaper pages from 1752-1954

Posted on July 4th, 2014 by The British Newspaper Archive

We’re pleased to report that The British Newspaper Archive added an extra 240,000 newspaper pages in June, so you’ve got plenty of new stories to explore this month.


Search the newspapers


New title: London’s Illustrated Times

The additions include a brand new title, the Illustrated Times.

Published in London, the newspaper reported on local, national and international news. Each edition featured a number of beautiful images, like the one shown below.

More newspapers to search from 1752-1954

60 other newspaper titles were updated this month, including the Lichfield Mercury, Selkirk’s Southern Reporter and the Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald.

A full list of recent additions is provided below.

London's Illustrated Times


Aberdeen Journal – 1814, 1820, 1889, 1900

Aldershot Military Gazette – 1859

Alnwick Mercury – 1855

Birmingham Journal – 1857

Bradford Observer – 1868

Burnley Express – 1913

Burnley News – 1912, 1927, 1928

Cheshire Observer – 1918

Chester Chronicle – 1776

Cornishman – 1912

Coventry Herald – 1831, 1859

Daily Gazette for Middlesbrough – 1917

Daily Herald – 1916

Daily Mirror – 1918

Dundee Courier – 1954

Durham County Advertiser – 1830, 1840

Edinburgh Evening News – 1921, 1926, 1929, 1933, 1934

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette – 1892

Fife Herald – 1825, 1830, 1831, 1832, 1879, 1881, 1882, 1884, 1886, 1887, 1889

Gloucester Citizen – 1897, 1945

Gloucester Journal – 1903, 1910, 1911, 1935, 1936

Grantham Journal – 1855, 1871, 1912, 1929

Hampshire Chronicle – 1818

Hartlepool Mail – 1882, 1883

Hastings and St Leonards Observer – 1923, 1954

Illustrated Times – 1868

Lancashire Evening Post – 1886, 1903, 1906, 1939, 1947

Lancaster Gazette – 1861

Leamington Spa Courier – 1915, 1916, 1920

Leeds Intelligencer – 1810, 1811, 1812, 1814, 1815, 1816, 1817, 1818, 1847

Leeds Mercury – 1899

Lichfield Mercury – 1877, 1878, 1886, 1887, 1888, 1922, 1923, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1934, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1948, 1949

Lincolnshire Chronicle – 1837, 1849, 1897, 1906, 1907, 1913, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1921

Lincolnshire Echo – 1924, 1930, 1932, 1935, 1940, 1941

Liverpool Daily Post – 1914

Liverpool Mercury – 1848

Luton News and Bedfordshire Advertiser – 1917, 1919

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser – 1899

Morpeth Herald – 1919, 1920

North Devon Journal – 1829, 1834, 1837, 1838, 1840, 1856

Penny Illustrated Paper – 1861

Police Gazette – 1773, 1774, 1775, 1776

Salisbury and Winchester Journal – 1752, 1786, 1787

Sheffield Daily Telegraph – 1857, 1877, 1893

Sheffield Evening Telegraph – 1900, 1904, 1909, 1919

Sheffield Independent – 1888

Shields Daily Gazette – 1858, 1864, 1868

Southern Reporter – 1859, 1860, 1861, 1862, 1875, 1876, 1877, 1880, 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1917, 1919

Sports Argus – 1916

Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette – 1907, 1912, 1914, 1915, 1920, 1932, 1933, 1945, 1949

Surrey Mirror – 1918, 1919, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1929, 1932, 1947

Sussex Agricultural Express – 1890, 1927, 1929, 1930, 1939

West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser – 1879, 1897, 1900, 1902, 1908, 1915, 1916, 1920, 1923

Western Daily Press – 1898, 1904, 1907, 1913, 1950

Western Mail – 1914, 1916, 1917, 1918

Western Times – 1898

Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald – 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950

Worcester Journal – 1858

Wrexham Advertiser – 1859, 1860

Yorkshire Evening Post – 1914, 1921, 1922, 1941, 1945, 1949

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer – 1872, 1877, 1892, 1903, 1914, 1915


Search the newspapers


‘Cut your hair': a court report in the Morning Post

Posted on July 2nd, 2014 by The British Newspaper Archive

Historical newspapers are full of reports about local criminal trials. These are a great resource for both historical research and genealogy.

Not only can you track the sorts of crimes that were being committed and how people were punished, you might also find your ancestors’ names mentioned.


Search local court reports


The Morning Post and the long-haired Londoner

Court reports can often make for rather amusing reading, containing the actual words, excuses and explanations of the people involved. We’ve found one very entertaining story in the Morning Post, published in London in 1841.

It seems the presiding magistrate, Sir Peter Laurie, did not approve of the defendant’s hairstyle. Laurie commented that ‘nothing could make a man look more contemptible than this womanish fashion of letting the hair grow till it reached the shoulders’.


Criminal trial reported in the London Morning Post in 1841

Morning Post – Monday 15 November 1841

View the whole newspaper page


‘A profusion of hair, in long straight locks’

The Morning Post reported that Joseph Jones had ‘a profusion of hair, combed down in long straight locks’. He was sentenced to a fine of five shillings for his drunken behaviour, or he could cut off his hair and be forgiven.

Jones unsurprisingly picked the second option and a barber was called. In his closing speech, Sir Peter Laurie concluded that the prisoner ‘now looked much better, and more like a man’.

Search the London Morning Post



100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand

Posted on June 28th, 2014 by The British Newspaper Archive

Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated 100 years ago on Sunday 28 June 1914, starting the chain of events that lead to World War One.

The first reports about the assassination were printed in British newspapers the following day. You can read many of them online at The British Newspaper Archive.


Read reports about Franz Ferdinand


Manchester Evening News: ‘What the tragedy will mean’

The article published in the Manchester Evening News included a report about what the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand could mean.

The newspaper suggested that ‘the policy of Austria will probably be in the direction of further measures against the Slavs’.


The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, reported in the Manchester Evening News

Manchester Evening News – Monday 29 June 1914
Image © Trinity Mirror. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

View the whole newspaper page



A. E. J. Collins and the highest recorded cricket score

Posted on June 26th, 2014 by The British Newspaper Archive

A 13-year-old schoolboy has held the record for the highest cricket score for over 100 years.

Arthur Edward Jeune ‘James’ Collins, also known by the initials A. E. J. Collins, scored an incredible 628 not out in June 1899. The cricket match took place over four days at Clifton College in Bristol.


Blackburn Standard reports a score of ‘628 not out’

A copy of the Blackburn Standard printed on 1 July 1899 reveals that Collins achieved the majority of his team’s total score. Out of a total of 833 runs, Collins scored an incredible 628.


A. E. J. Collins in the Blackburn Standard

Blackburn Standard – Saturday 01 July 1899

View the whole newspaper page


Was A. E. J. Collins an orphan?

The article in the Blackburn Standard went on to state that Arthur Collins ‘was born in India, where his father was in the Civil Service, and is an orphan’.

Family history website Findmypast recently published over 2.5 million records detailing the lives of the British in India, in partnership with the British Library. We took a look at these records to see if the Blackburn Standard’s report was true.


India Office pension record from findmypast


The East India Company & Civil Service Pension record above confirms that Arthur’s father, Arthur Herbert Collins died on 17 January 1899. This was just five months before his son’s incredible cricket feat.


The 1901 census reveals the truth

While the India Office records show that Arthur Collins’ father had died, we’ve found no record of his mother’s death before June 1899.

The 1901 census, also available to search at Findmypast, reveals why. Esther Ida Collins was still alive in 1901, recorded as being a widow and living with her children in Clifton.


1901 census proves A. E. J. Collins was not an orphan in 1899


The Blackburn Standard’s report that A. E. J. Collins was an orphan when he achieved the highest cricket score ever recorded was therefore not correct – Arthur’s mother was still alive.


Search the Blackburn Standard


The Dundee Courier reports biting in a football match

Posted on June 25th, 2014 by The British Newspaper Archive

Uruguay’s Luis Suarez has hit the headlines once again, having been accused of biting an Italian player during last night’s World Cup match. The British Newspaper Archive can reveal that biting isn’t a modern phenomenon in football matches.

An article describing Sunderland football team’s experience in Germany has been discovered by one of our customers in a copy of the Dundee Courier from 1913.


100-year-old Dundee Courier reports that ‘biting is allowed’


The Dundee Courier included a shocking report from Sunderland FC’s captain, Charles ‘Charlie’ Ballany Thomson. Thomson stated that in Germany, ‘they can kick you up into the air and bite you when you are coming down’.

Sunderland FC won the English First Division in 1913. The team then went on a tour of Budapest, Vienna and Germany, winning their matches against the German teams Hamburger SV and Hertha BSC by 5-0 and 7-0.


Biting in football - reported in the Dundee Courier in 1913

Dundee Courier – Wednesday 28 May 1913
Image © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

View the whole newspaper page


Researching football history using old newspapers


The newspapers you can search online at The British Newspaper Archive will tell you a lot about the history of football. There are often strong parallels between what’s happening in the ‘beautiful game’ today and what occurred 100 years ago.

You can search over 250 newspaper titles including the Dundee Courier and Saturday sports paper, the Sports Argus.

Explore copies of old newspapers


Meet the Product Director of The British Newspaper Archive

Posted on June 24th, 2014 by The British Newspaper Archive

Ian from The British Newspaper ArchiveEver wondered what happens behind the scenes at The British Newspaper Archive?

We sat down with Product Director Ian Tester to find out who he is and what he does.


What does your job involve?

I’m responsible for growing the business in all its myriad forms.

My role covers marketing, building a better product, tweaking the pricing, choosing newspapers that we think will be of most interest and generally keeping everything running smoothly.

Less excitingly, it also involves balancing the books so we can continue to invest in more digitisation.


How long have you worked at The British Newspaper Archive?

I’ve worked here since October 2013, but I’ve spent over half my working life digitising history.

Before working at The British Newspaper Archive, I spent over six years with the family history website findmypast.

I actually started my career working with newspapers and magazines, so I know how to put them together and how they work. I published my first magazine at the tender age of 17.


What’s the most exciting thing you’ve found in the newspapers?

I find something new and amazing pretty much every week. Finding stories about your own family is always an incredible personal experience. A few years ago, I spent most of Boxing Day running my mother through her family’s numerous appearances in front of the local beak.

Here’s a snippet about my granddad Sidney Tester from the Kent & Sussex Courier:


Article about Sidney Tester, who was fined for riding a bicycle without a front light

Kent & Sussex Courier – Friday 12 April 1935
Image © Local World Limited. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.
View the whole newspaper page


I’m always fascinated by how much you can find out about your local area as well. I’ve recently become a shareholder in Hastings Pier, so I have been researching the history of Hastings Pier and how it has evolved, as well as uncovering some of the acts that have played there over the years.


What’s the best thing about The British Newspaper Archive?

The thing I like most is the sheer diversity of the stories our customers unearth.

We’ve got schoolchildren researching Mozart, formerly abandoned babies researching the story of their discovery and academics from a host of disciplines researching everything from the development of urban sewage systems to the evolution of fashion design.

There are genealogists with incredible family stories and people researching football history for today’s matchday programmes, symphony orchestra regional touring schedules, the development of historic gardens, extinct sheep breeds and even Victorian attitudes to sex.

Every paper we digitise can mean a thousand different things to people with a thousand different interests and you never cease to amaze me with your discoveries.


What’s your favourite period of history, historical event or historical figure?

I’m fascinated by periods of change, which is perhaps why I love working in the internet industry. I’m intrigued by the Late Medieval Period and Early Renaissance when the printing press completely changed the world and specifically European culture.

In terms of historical figures, I’d have to go for Peter the Great. He was a true Renaissance man who made Russia more Western-facing, as well as being a pretty handy boat builder. But If I could live through one period again, I’d be born in 1800 in London.

I’d get the Georgians, the best of the Victorian period and experience the white heat of the Industrial Revolution as transport, manufacturing and industry changed the world once again. I’d also get to see London without high-rises, with St Paul’s dominating from all angles.


Tell us something unusual about yourself

I’m a secret smallholder and spend an awful lot of time tending bees, chickens and sheep and trying to grow vast quantities of vegetables. It’s certainly not the idyll you watch in the Good Life and it really gives you respect for farmers.

I also live in a somewhat dilapidated and ancient house, so I’m more familiar than most with wattle and daub, Victorian plumbing and lime mortar. I spend far too much time in reclamation yards and repairing timber frames.


Explore The British Newspaper Archive



Enter our competition to win a history book

Posted on June 19th, 2014 by The British Newspaper Archive

You could win one of these fascinating history books on our Facebook page this week:
Win a book with The British Newspaper Archive


How to enter

Comment on our Facebook post to let us know which book you’d like to win before 23:59 (GMT) on Monday 23 June 2014. We’ll contact three lucky winners the following day.

What you could win

  • Alex Daley, Fighting Men of London: Voices from Inside the Ropes
  • Gill Hoffs, The Sinking of RMS Tayleur: The Lost Story of the Victorian Titanic
  • Fern Riddell, The Victorian Guide to Sex: Desire and Deviance in the 19th Century


Enter the competition