Waterloo and the British Press

Posted on May 18th, 2015 by Holly

This blog was submitted by Professor Brian Cathcart. Brian is a professor of journalism at Kingston University London. His book, The News From Waterloo: the race to tell Britain of Wellington’s victory, is published on 30 April by Faber & Faber, price £16.99


How long did it take for the news of Waterloo to reach London? In this bicentenary year of the battle it is something we might expect to know, but the facts turned out to be surprisingly elusive and the newspapers of the day proved vital in delivering a plausible answer.

There is what might be called an official narrative, which is that the Duke of Wellington’s official dispatch arrived late on the night of Wednesday, 21 June 1815, three days and a few hours after the victory was certain. The papers of the next day reported this jubilantly:



Delve a little deeper into the British Newspaper Archive, however, and it’s clear that unofficial reports arrived earlier.

One good if unexpected source is the Caledonian Mercury of Edinburgh that appeared the following Saturday. These reports (which I stumbled upon while sitting on my sofa at home with my laptop on my knee) were written in London on the evening of that Wednesday, hours before the official dispatch arrived.

1. “Various Accounts”Various_accounts, British Newspaper Archive, BNA, genealogy, family history, family tree,


2. “Mr C of Dover”

Various_accounts, British Newspaper Archive, BNA, genealogy, family history, family tree,

3. “Brussels”

Various_accounts, British Newspaper Archive, BNA, genealogy, family history, family tree,


The Caledonian Mercury also referred to some different reports suggesting that there might have been, not a victory, but a defeat.

A look at the London Morning Chronicle published that Wednesday morning (21 June) adds some further complications. Here is something from page 3:


Various_accounts, British Newspaper Archive, BNA, genealogy, family history, family tree,


This refers to the Tuesday evening – 24 hours and more before before the official messenger reached London.

And then there is this, also from that morning’s Chronicle (page 2):




According to the Morning Chronicle, therefore, its rival the Post had reported a great victory on the Tuesday morning, some 36 hours before the official dispatch. And this is confirmed by other papers, although sadly that special edition of the Post seems to be lost to us.

Who brought the news of Waterloo and when have been matters of interest to historians since the Victorian age and a variety of accounts have emerged over the years, but this range of newspaper reports alone (and there is much more in these papers) was enough to transform the picture.

They complicate matters, but they also trump many of the other tales in terms of credibility. These are not – as some are – urban legends. Nor are they based on casual or partisan reminiscences, written decades later, as others are. Instead we know they are contemporaneous to the events.

Of course this does not mean they could simply be taken at face value – it turned out, for example, that the announcement at Covent Garden was a hoax. But the newspapers of those days in June 1815 opened doors which had never even been tried before.

Added last month: 10 new titles and 145,000 new pages

Posted on May 13th, 2015 by Holly

April was a wonderful month for new publications, with 10 titles added to the British Newspaper Archive. These included the Berwickshire Advertiser for years between 1830-1955, The Derry Journal, and Glasgow Sentinel.


Subscribe for just £12.95 –>

Thousands of new pages from local titles to explore

You’ll find a full list of last month’s additions below, with the new titles highlighted in bold. We hope you enjoy exploring!


Aris’s Birmingham Gazette 1863, 1868 – 1870
Ayrshire Express 1863
Berwickshire Advertiser, The 1830, 1834, 1838, 1863, 1871, 1873, 1875 – 1876, 1878, 1880, 1915, 1931 – 1949, 1951 – 1955
Birmingham Daily Gazette 1863 – 1864
Buckingham Advertiser and Free Press 1948 – 1950, 1952 – 1955
Burnley Express 1887 – 1888
Burton Daily Mail 1917
Bury Free Press 1872, 1914
Clerkenwell News 1871
Coventry Standard 1868 – 1871
Cumberland Pacquet, and Ware’s Whitehaven Advertiser 1844 – 1846, 1867
Derry Journal 1825, 1835 – 1878, 1891 – 1903, 1916 – 1924, 1926 – 1929, 1937 – 1942
Fife Free Press, & Kirkcaldy Guardian 1894 – 1899, 1934, 1939 – 1945
Glasgow Courant 1746
Glasgow Sentinel 1850 – 1854
Gloucestershire Chronicle 1927
Gloucestershire Echo 1900
Greenock Advertiser 1871
Halifax Courier 1899
Hawick News and Border Chronicle 1889
Lancaster Gazette 1803
Leicester Daily Mercury 1877
Leicester Mail 1865 – 1870
Leighton Buzzard Observer and Linslade Gazette 1863 – 1889
Lincolnshire Free Press 1895 – 1899, 1911
Luton Times and Advertiser 1855
Newcastle Journal 1868 – 1870
Nottingham Gazette, and Political, Literary, Agricultural & Commercial Register for the Midland Counties. 1814 – 1815
Nottingham Review and General Advertiser for the Midland Counties 1825, 1827 – 1852
Nottinghamshire Guardian 1847
Portsmouth Evening News 1952
Prescot Reporter, and St. Helens General Advertiser 1875
Rochdale Observer 1857, 1868 – 1870
Salisbury and Winchester Journal 1751
Saunders’s News-Letter 1773, 1789, 1792 – 1793, 1796 – 1797, 1799, 1808 – 1811, 1860
Sheffield Independent 1911
Sheffield Iris 1841 – 1843
Tiverton Gazette (Mid-Devon Gazette) 1900
Ulster Gazette 1844
Walsall Advertiser 1879 – 1894, 1911 – 1915
Waterford Chronicle 1850
Yorkshire Early Bird 1910
Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer 1955

How Britain celebrated VE day

Posted on May 8th, 2015 by Alex Cox

On 30 April 1945, Adolf Hitler committed suicide in a Berlin bunker. After his death, Reichspräsident Karl Dönitz took the reins of power and headed a new administration known as the Flensburg Government. On May the 7th, Dönitz and his staff met with allied commanders in Reims, France to sign the formal act of military surrender ending nearly 6 years of total war in Europe.

Celebrations erupted throughout the world from Moscow to Melbourne. More than one million people took to the streets to celebrate and In London while crowds massed in Trafalgar Square and up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, where King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, accompanied by Prime Minister Winston Churchill, appeared on the balcony of the palace before the cheering crowds. Even Princess Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret were allowed to take part in the celebrations and wander incognito among the crowds.

On May 8th, exactly 70 years ago today, street parties were held in towns and villages the length and breadth of the country and local reporters were on hand to photograph and record the festivities.


Chelmsford Chronicle 11 May 1945


12 May 1945 Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette

12 May 1945 Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette


Gloucester Journal- 26 May 1945

Gloucester Journal- 26 May 1945


Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette - Saturday 19 May 19

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette – Saturday 19 May 19


Writing a first-class History dissertation: How newspapers can help

Posted on April 13th, 2015 by The British Newspaper Archive


Ruth Small studied History at Newcastle University and recently got in touch to tell us all about her dissertation.

She used The British Newspaper Archive in her research and was awarded a first-class mark, with some amazing comments about the originality of her work.

I wrote my History dissertation about the great fire of Newcastle and Gateshead, which occurred on 6 October 1854. It was a fire which led to an explosion in a warehouse of a magnitude that no one had ever witnessed before. Consequently, the newspaper reports also spread like wildfire, becoming national news within two days.

By using The British Newspaper Archive’s advanced search, it was easy to find reports about the disaster. Within seconds, I found out how it had affected both young and old, rich and poor, with some very graphic reports of a country in shock.

Newspaper reports about Newcastle’s great fire in 1854

It was mainly the poor that were affected as their housing was destroyed in the fire, but I was also able to find gems such as the Newcastle Courant’s feelings about Reverend John Storie’s scathing sermon, in which he declared that the fire was ‘God’s Judgement on an Ungodly City’. Unsurprisingly, the Courant was not very impressed by his opinion!
Reverend John Storie claimed that Newcastle's great fire in 1854 was 'God's Judgement on an Ungodly City'

Newcastle Courant – Friday 03 November 1854

View the whole newspaper page


The London Daily News stated that the fire had been a case of ‘good timing’, clearing the town’s slums which had been riddled with cholera only the year before. The newspaper made comparisons with London’s great fire, which followed the plague in the seventeenth century.

With comments such as the ‘vast numbers of colliers who do not wash their skins for months’ an outraged Newcastle Courant stepped in to defend them stating categorically that they do wash every day ‘from head to foot’!
The London Daily News argued that the great fire of Newcastle and Gateshead in 1854 was a case of 'good timing'

London Daily News – Tuesday 10 October 1854

View the whole newspaper page


Dissertation was ‘a truly original study’

I was able to investigate the extent of the reports, both the length of them and the national coverage. I found that there were 360 articles longer that one column reported in most corners of England, Scotland and Ireland, but surprisingly not in Wales.

Although reading through these took a few days, I dread to think how long this would have taken before digitisation, let alone the miles of travel involved!

I received some amazing comments, particularly regarding the originality of the dissertation; that it ‘represents a truly original study’ and ‘fills a huge gap in regional history research [also] emphasising the supra-regional national significance of the fire’. So all I can say is ‘thank you’ to The British Newspaper Archive!




We love hearing about how you’re using the newspapers. Tell us about your own research by emailing press@britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk



250,000 pages added, including the Daily Telegraph

Posted on April 2nd, 2015 by The British Newspaper Archive

The British Newspaper Archive added 250,000 new pages last month, giving you lots of new stories to search.

Purchase a 1 month or 12 month subscription to explore our growing collection of more than 10 million historic newspaper pages.


Subscribe for just £12.95 –>


30 new titles, including the Daily Telegraph

The additions include copies of the Daily Telegraph from 1871, with more coverage coming soon. The national newspaper printed daily sports, crime, political and international news stories.

The Jersey Independent and Daily Telegraph, Walsall Advertiser and Whitby Gazette are among the other titles added recently. You’ll find a full list of last month’s additions below, with the new titles highlighted in bold.


The newspaper archives of the Daily Telegraph are being made available online by The British Newspaper Archive


Bedfordshire Times and Independent – 1873, 1942, 1945 – 1949, 1952 – 1954

Berwickshire News and General Advertiser – 1954

Brighton Gazette – 1835

Buckingham Advertiser and Free Press – 1951

Bucks Herald – 1933

Burton Daily Mail – 1915

Bury Free Press – 1874 – 1896, 1898 – 1901, 1911 – 1913, 1915 – 1935, 1950 – 1955

Cambridge Daily News – 1889, 1917 – 1920

Clerkenwell News – 1869 – 1870

Cork Advertising Gazette – 1855 – 1859

County Courts Chronicle – 1849, 1851, 1857, 1859, 1864, 1866 – 1867

Coventry Standard – 1837 – 1839, 1844, 1870

Cumberland and Westmorland Advertiser, and Penrith Literary Chronicle – 1855 – 1856, 1858 – 1859, 1861 – 1871

Cumberland Pacquet, and Ware’s Whitehaven Advertiser – 1777, 1780, 1785, 1787, 1789 – 1808, 1812 – 1836, 1838 – 1842, 1847 – 1849, 1854 – 1856, 1866, 1868 – 1869

Daily Record – 1917

Daily Telegraph & Courier (London) – 1871

Derbyshire Courier – 1888 – 1889, 1894, 1900 – 1911

Doncaster Gazette – 1870

Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser – 1893, 1895

Driffield Times – 1869 – 1888, 1890 – 1937, 1945 – 1949

Drogheda Journal, or Meath & Louth Advertiser – 1837

Dublin Correspondent – 1823 – 1825

Dublin Courier – 1762

Dublin Evening Post – 1778 – 1779, 1789 – 1790, 1869 – 1870

Dublin Medical Press – 1847

Dublin Monitor – 1845

Dundee, Perth, Forfar, and Fife’s People’s Journal – 1885, 1930

East Suffolk Mercury and Lowestoft Weekly News – 1858

Edinburgh Evening Courant – 1869

Express and Echo – 1939 – 1940

Falkirk Herald – 1932

Farmer’s Gazette and Journal of Practical Horticulture – 1867

Fife Free Press, & Kirkcaldy Guardian – 1900 – 1933, 1935 – 1938

Galway Vindicator, and Connaught Advertiser – 1862

Glossop Record – 1859 – 1871

Gloucester Journal – 1862, 1871 – 1873, 1883 – 1886, 1893

Gloucestershire Chronicle – 1839, 1841, 1843 – 1844, 1846 – 1847

Gloucestershire Echo – 1897, 1916

Grimsby Daily Telegraph – 1900

Halifax Courier – 1868 – 1869, 1877

Hartlepool Mail – 1878, 1892

Hawick News and Border Chronicle – 1904, 1909, 1914 – 1924, 1930 – 1936, 1938 – 1942

Hemel Hempstead Gazette and West Herts Advertiser – 1872, 1874 – 1876, 1879, 1881 – 1882, 1886, 1891

Holborn Journal – 1864 – 1865, 1868 – 1869

Isle of Wight Observer – 1869

Jersey Independent and Daily Telegraph – 1855, 1857 – 1862

Journal of the Chemico-Agricultural Society of Ulster and Record of Agriculture and Industry – 1850 – 1851

Lanarkshire Upper Ward Examiner – 1863

Lancashire Evening Post – 1898

Leamington Spa Courier – 1932, 1944

Leek Post & Times and Cheadle News & Times and Moorland Advertiser – 1898

Leicester Chronicle – 1819 – 1820

Lincolnshire Chronicle – 1850

Lincolnshire Free Press – 1850, 1876 – 1877, 1881, 1889

Liverpool Daily Post – 1871

Market Rasen Weekly Mail, and Lincolnshire Advertiser – 1879

Marylebone Mercury – 1863

Motherwell Times – 1914, 1923

Newcastle Chronicle – 1764 – 1768

Newry Examiner and Louth Advertiser – 1856, 1861

Newry Herald and Down, Armagh, and Louth Journal – 1864

Northern Whig – 1857, 1862

Nottingham Gazette, and Political, Literary, Agricultural & Commercial Register for the Midland Counties – 1813

Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette – 1870

Portsmouth Evening News – 1954

Pue’s Occurrences – 1719, 1749

Rochdale Observer – 1860 – 1861, 1863, 1865, 1867, 1869 – 1870

Salisbury and Winchester Journal – 1751

Saunders’s News-Letter – 1774 – 1787, 1794 – 1795

Scottish Banner – 1859

Scottish Guardian, Glasgow – 1856

Sheffield Independent – 1911

South Eastern Gazette – 1852 – 1854, 1856 – 1865

Sportsman, The – 1871

Teesdale Mercury – 1856, 1870

Tipperary Vindicator – 1869 – 1870

Tiverton Gazette (Mid-Devon Gazette) – 1865, 1876, 1879, 1889

Volunteer Service Gazette and Military Dispatch – 1859 – 1863

Walsall Advertiser – 1879 – 1885, 1895 – 1896, 1898 – 1910

Weekly Vindicator – 1847, 1849

Wetherby News, and Central Yorkshire Journal – 1877, 1879

Whitby Gazette – 1854 – 1892, 1895, 1897 – 1918

Yorkshire Evening Post – 1950


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Top tip: Saving newspaper articles to your computer

Posted on March 24th, 2015 by The British Newspaper Archive

Did you know that you can save the stories you find at The British Newspaper Archive to your computer?

This step-by-step guide will explain how you can download a whole newspaper page and also how you can save individual articles or images. Watch this short video tutorial or follow the steps below:



Search the newspapers –>


How to save articles from The British Newspaper Archive


  1. Use the ‘Download’ option at the top of our image viewer to download a PDF of the whole newspaper page.
    Use The British Newspaper Archive's Download button to save a newspaper page to your computer.

  3. Open the file and then click the disk icon at the bottom of the page to save it to your computer.
    Save a whole newspaper page to your computer

  5. To save a single article or image, go back to the image viewer. Click the ‘All Articles’ option on the left-hand side of the page to get rid of any highlighting.
    Click the All Articles link at The British Newspaper Archive to remove highlighting.

  7. Use the bottom icon on the image viewer to make the newspaper fill your whole screen. You can then zoom and move the page to focus on what you want to save.
    View full-screen newspaper pages at The British Newspaper Archive

  9. If you’re using a Windows PC, your computer should have a ‘Snipping Tool’ installed on it. You can find it by opening your computer menu and searching for snipping tool.
    If you’re using a Mac instead, you can use the ‘Grab’ tool which works in a similar way.
    Search your computer for the snipping tool

  11. Draw around the article or image you want to save. You can then click on the disk icon and save it to your computer as a JPEG file.
    Save a newspaper article from The British Newspaper Archive to your computer

Search the newspapers –>


Meet the Content Lead of The British Newspaper Archive

Posted on March 17th, 2015 by The British Newspaper Archive

AmyFind out what goes on behind the scenes at The British Newspaper Archive in our series of Q&As with the team who work here.

We sat down with Content Lead Amy Sell to find out who she is and what she does.


What does your job involve?

I help people discover The British Newspaper Archive and understand how amazing the collection is by writing emails and blog posts, managing our Facebook page and Twitter feed and producing handy video tutorials.

One of the best parts of my job is speaking to historians, genealogists and authors about the amazing discoveries they’ve made.


How long have you worked at The British Newspaper Archive?

I’ve worked here for just over a year, but was also involved in the website’s launch back in 2011. My colleague Natasha and I dressed up as Victorian newspaper boys and handed out leaflets about the website at London’s Kings Cross station. It was quite an experience!


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

I’m a family historian and have uncovered some incredible information about my ancestors in the newspapers. I’ve recently used the newspapers to prove that my ancestor won a rowing race called the Doggett’s Coat and Badge in 1878, but my favourite discovery was an account of my great-great-great-grandfather’s brush with the law.

The snippets below are from a court report that was published in the Herts Guardian in 1867. They reveal that my ancestor Richard Howard was charged with stealing a watch and chain.
Richard Howard's criminal trial was reported by the Herts Guardian
The newspaper article noted that Richard’s father had been called as a witness to his character, providing me with a brand new name for my family tree.

Richard Howard's father James was called as a character witness
Fortunately, my ancestor was found Not Guilty, though the newspaper stated that this ‘caused much surprise in court’!

Richard Howard was found Not Guilty in 1867


Which is your favourite newspaper title?

I have two! The Illustrated Police News is full of the most bizarre headlines and illustrations imaginable and it’s fascinating to see how the newspaper reported the Jack the Ripper murders in 1888.

I also love browsing through old copies of the Hull Daily Mail. The newspaper was pretty forward-thinking and was one of the first to print stories (rather than adverts) on its front page.


What’s your favourite period of history?

It’s so hard to pick just one era. I studied the medieval period at university, focusing on the reign of Edward II, but since then I’ve really enjoyed reading about what life was like in the Victorian period. I’m reading a book about Newgate prison at the moment as I know that one of my ancestors was held there in the 1850s.


Explore The British Newspaper Archive


Charles Dickens and a ‘diabolical’ crime in Kent

Posted on March 12th, 2015 by The British Newspaper Archive

Charles Dickens

The lovely people at history magazine Bygone Kent got in touch to share the shocking stories they’ve uncovered about Charles Dickens’ life in Higham, Kent.

We’d love to hear about your own discoveries – email press@britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk to tell us about them.




A ‘diabolical attempt’ to overturn the carriage of Charles Dickens while it drove through his home village has been discovered by local historian and journalist Andrew Rootes, editor of Bygone Kent. The incident was uncovered in The British Newspaper Archive while Andrew was researching Higham, the village where Dickens made his home at Gad’s Hill.

Kent man attempted to overturn Charles Dickens’ carriage

The village is about 25 miles from London on the North Kent line and Dickens commonly caught the train from the city to Higham station, which sits at the bottom of a hill about a mile from his home. Although he was a great walker, he was usually met by one of his carriages – as was due to happen on the night of the incident.

This route was the setting for what the Dover Express, reporting on June 21, 1862, described as a ‘Diabolical attempt to overturn Mr Charles Dickens’s carriage’.
The Dover Express reported a diabolical attempt to  overturn Charles Dickens' carriage

Dover Express – Saturday 21 June 1862

View the whole newspaper page
The villain of the piece was agricultural labourer James Stedman, who worked for local farmer Mr Youens. He appeared before Rochester magistrates ‘charged with placing a horse-roller, and also a hand roller in the middle of the turnpike road, at a late hour on Saturday night with the intention of upsetting the carriage of Mr C. Dickens, which was returning from the Higham Railway station’.

The author’s groom, James Marsh, had driven a one-horse carriage down the hill to Higham station the previous Saturday night to meet the 10.30pm train, by which Dickens was to have arrived. But as he had missed that train the carriage was driven back empty.

The newspaper reported: ‘A little distance on he found two rollers lying across the road, which, had they not been perceived in time, would have caused serious mischief. James Munn, a fellow workman of the prisoner, had accompanied Stedman from Strood to Higham by the 9.30 train, and when passing through the village saw Mr Dickens’s carriage drive down to the station.

‘The prisoner immediately afterwards went into a field and drew the two rollers across the road to upset the carriage on its return. Munn at the time held the gate open for the prisoner’.

Having committed this diabolical act, they went to play skittles by candlelight for some time at the Falstaff pub in Higham – which, as it happens, is directly over the road from Dickens’s home at Gad’s Hill Place.

Fortunately, a local gardener called William Phillips discovered the rollers in the road and ‘stood by them to give the alarm should any vehicles come up. He afterwards assisted in removing the obstruction out of the way’.

The prisoner pleaded drunkenness as his sole excuse, and was committed for trial.

A lack of respect for the Victorian novelist?

The case was resolved the following month when the Maidstone Telegraph of Saturday, July 12, 1862, reported that James Stedman was indicted for having placed two horse rollers, or garden rollers, across the road in the parish of Higham, with intent to do grievous bodily harm to James Marsh, Dickens’s groom.
The Maidstone Telegraph's report about an attempt to overturn Charles Dickens' carriage

Maidstone Telegraph – Saturday 21 June 1862

View the whole newspaper page
It is not reported if Stedman thought the author himself would have been the most likely victim of any accident caused by the obstacles. And it may be no surprise to hear, according to the court report, that he ‘was the worse for drink at the time’. Whatever his motive, he had to pay the price – and was sentenced to two months’ hard labour.

This apparent lack of respect for our most eminent Victorian novelist was echoed in another small but impudent crime also found in The British Newspaper Archive – a robbery at Charles Dickens’s home, reported by the Dover Express on Saturday 8 January 1859.
A robbery at Charles Dickens' house was reported by the Dover Express in 1859

Dover Express – Saturday 08 January 1859

View the whole newspaper page
Bygone KentThe newspaper recorded: ‘On Friday a person named George Blackman, who was described as a market gardener at Higham, was charged before the magistrates at Rochester with having stolen some hay from the premises of Mr Charles Dickens, Gad’s Hill near Rochester.

‘The robbery, it appeared, was of a very impudent character, the prisoner first turning his horse into Mr Dickens’s meadow without that gentleman’s permission, and then helping himself to the hay from the stack. A police constable apprehended him, with the hay which he had just taken under his arm’.

The accused pleaded hard to be forgiven, but his entreaties fell on the deaf ears of the Rev Mr Davies, the presiding magistrate – and he was sent to prison for three days.


Visit Bygone Kent’s website to find out more about the magazine and buy a subscription.


Using newspapers to research WW1 shell shock

Posted on March 11th, 2015 by The British Newspaper Archive


Suzie Grogan used The British Newspaper Archive extensively while researching her book, Shell Shocked Britain: The First World War’s legacy for Britain’s mental health.

She got in touch to show us the heart-breaking story she found about her own ancestors and some of the terrible accounts about life during World War One.




My book is the product of two years of intensive research into the trauma of the Great War and its aftermath. But it was a chance find during some family history research in The British Newspaper Archive that was the inspiration for the book.

A shocking family tragedy

My great-uncle Alfred Hardiman had killed his ex-girlfriend by cutting her throat, and then turned the razor on himself, dying with her in a pool of blood on the floor of the family home in North London. The main witness at the inquest, the newspaper report made clear, was my grandmother, Bessie Hardiman, Alfred’s sister.
The Dundee Courier reported the tragic story of Alfred Hardiman and Mary Street in 1923.

Dundee Courier – Thursday 04 January 1923
Image © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

View the whole newspaper page
My mother confirmed that this event had never been mentioned, despite the fact that the family remained in the same home for more than 25 years after the event. The coroner had heard that Alfred had been discharged unfit from the army having been involved in one of the air raids on London in 1916 and ‘was never the same since’.

As a writer and researcher on the subject of mental health, and a keen social historian, I wanted to find out more. How far was the nation as a whole ‘shell shocked’ by the impact of the conflict on a generation of men, women and children, for whom unspeakable horrors, grief, loss and anxiety were the norm? Could we come closer to understanding the day to day lives of those for whom four years of war resulted in a society changed forever?

Terrible scenes described in WW1 newspapers

To look at the stress of war through fresh eyes I turned to the reports and editorial columns of the newspapers of the time.

When Gotha airplanes dropped bombs on the South Coast and on London in the summer of 1917, the horrors could not be hidden. These were the first daylight raids, causing significant numbers of casualties and damage to property and infrastructure. I found pages dedicated to the stories of the children killed at Upper North Street school in Poplar; grisly descriptions of the deaths around Liverpool Street Station. One report graphically described the dismemberment of a delivery boy, another the decapitation of a caretaker’s wife.
Distressing scenes were reported in newspapers following an air raid in 1917

Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser – Wednesday 20 June 1917
Image © Local World Limited. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

View the whole newspaper page
Other events are also described vividly, and offered me fascinating insights into the mind of the nation. Reports of theatres, cinemas and churches closing their doors to prevent spread  of the Spanish influenza outbreak in 1918 sat alongside various home remedies; there was no cure but brands such as Oxo and Bovril offered to build the nation’s strength once more.

‘Talking therapies’ in post-war Britain

Some of the most fascinating pieces came to light as I researched post-war attitudes to psychotherapy.  New ‘talking therapies’ were popular, particularly among the middle-classes. Many, particularly women, were vilified by correspondents who felt they had lost the backbone of their pre-war counterparts.  In 1928, the Nottingham Evening Post ran a lengthy piece by a writer calling themselves ‘A Masseuse’, under the headline ‘Nerves':

‘Most of the patients I see for soothing massage to steady exhausted, frayed, irritable nerves are those whose greatest exercise is dancing; who rise when others have done half a day’s work; who have an aspirin and a cup of tea instead of a proper lunch, who spend the golden afternoon with their backs to the a roaring fire playing bridge or poker. ‘
The Nottingham Evening Post's views on people's nerves after WW1

Nottingham Evening Post – Saturday 29 December 1928
Image © Local World Limited. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

View the whole newspaper page
The British Newspaper Archive has offered, in its own way, the clearest picture of life during and after the First World War. Shell Shocked Britain would be a less interesting book had such a wide variety of sources not be available to me.




You can buy a copy of Shell Shocked Britain by Suzie Grogan from Pen & Sword Books.


400,000 extra newspaper pages now online

Posted on March 9th, 2015 by The British Newspaper Archive

Thousands of pages from historical British and Irish newspapers were added in February, including 11 great new titles. We hope you enjoy exploring the new additions.


Search the newspapers –>



More newspaper titles available to search

You’ll now find editions of the Hawick News and Border Chronicle, Holborn Journal and Wellington Journal online, along with eight other new titles. A full list of recent additions is provided below, with the new titles highlighted in bold.

We’ve added more coverage to 88 existing titles too, including the Cambridgeshire Chronicle and Journal and the Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald.


Hawick News and Border Chronicle


Aberdeen Evening Express – 1955

Aberdeen Journal – 1773, 1777 – 1780, 1785

Allnut’s Irish Land Schedule – 1871

Arbroath Herald and Advertiser for the Montrose Burghs – 1941 – 1955

Ashton Weekly Reporter, and Stalybridge and Dukinfield Chronicle, The – 1859, 1861, 1865

Bedfordshire Times and Independent – 1867, 1869 – 1871

Berwickshire News and General Advertiser – 1905 – 1938, 1940 – 1945, 1947, 1949

Brecon Reporter and South Wales General Advertiser – 1867

Brighton Gazette – 1825 – 1834, 1836 – 1839, 1841 – 1855

Bristol Mirror – 1835, 1842

Bristol Times and Mirror – 1870

Bury Times – 1855, 1857, 1860, 1869

Cambridge Chronicle and Journal – 1832 – 1835, 1837 – 1844, 1846 – 1847, 1849 – 1858, 1860, 1864 – 1866, 1868 – 1870, 1872

Carlisle Journal – 1802 – 1805, 1810 – 1811, 1820

Carlisle Patriot – 1822 – 1846, 1848 – 1852, 1854, 1856 – 1870

Chelmsford Chronicle – 1867

Clerkenwell News – 1857 – 1866, 1868

Cobbett’s Weekly Political Register – 1807

County Chronicle, Surrey Herald and Weekly Advertiser for Kent – 1841

Coventry Standard – 1841, 1843, 1851 – 1852, 1854, 1859, 1861 – 1862, 1864 – 1867

Croydon Advertiser and East Surrey Reporter – 1872, 1885 – 1889, 1898 – 1899, 1926

Croydon’s Weekly Standard – 1859 – 1871

Cumberland Pacquet, and Ware’s Whitehaven Advertiser – 1857 – 1858, 1861 – 1862, 1870 – 1871

Derbyshire Courier – 1859, 1861, 1898, 1914 – 1915, 1918, 1920

Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald – 1904 – 1906, 1912, 1914, 1917, 1920, 1923 – 1924, 1928, 1930, 1932 – 1933, 1935 – 1937

Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser – 1887 – 1888, 1890 – 1892, 1894, 1899 – 1918

Dorset County Chronicle – 1854

Dublin Builder, The – 1868 – 1869, 1871

Dublin Courier – 1760 – 1761, 1763 – 1764

Dublin Evening Post – 1781 – 1785, 1787, 1792, 1794 – 1797, 1804 – 1810, 1813 – 1817, 1827 – 1828, 1830 – 1832, 1834 – 1851, 1853, 1856 – 1858

Dublin Medical Press – 1864, 1868

Dublin Mercantile Advertiser, and Weekly Price Current – 1838

Dublin Morning Register – 1824

Dundee Advertiser – 1868 – 1869, 1882, 1884, 1887

Dundee, Perth, Forfar, and Fife’s People’s Journal – 1882, 1891

Edinburgh Courant – 1750

Edinburgh Evening Courant – 1848, 1862

Elgin Courant, and Morayshire Advertiser – 1860

Enniskillen Chronicle and Erne Packet – 1860

Falkirk Herald – 1889, 1919, 1921, 1925, 1929, 1936 – 1937

Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald – 1921, 1928, 1930 – 1931, 1933, 1935

Galway Mercury, and Connaught Weekly Advertiser – 1856

Galway Vindicator, and Connaught Advertiser – 1860, 1863

Glasgow Courant – 1758

Gloucester Journal – 1909, 1934

Gloucestershire Chronicle – 1837, 1842, 1845, 1848, 1888, 1890 – 1892, 1894 – 1895, 1897 – 1910, 1912 – 1926, 1928

Gloucestershire Echo – 1884, 1901 – 1910, 1914 – 1915, 1924 – 1927

Greenock Advertiser – 1839, 1845, 1847, 1849 – 1852, 1859, 1865 – 1867, 1870

Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette – 1857 – 1868

Hampshire Chronicle – 1816

Hartlepool Mail – 1936

Hawick News and Border Chronicle – 1927 – 1929, 1943 – 1944, 1950 – 1951

Hertford Mercury and Reformer – 1889

Holborn Journal – 1858 – 1863, 1866 – 1867, 1870 – 1871

Huddersfield Daily Examiner – 1914 – 1918

Ipswich Journal, The – 1771

Kent & Sussex Courier – 1883, 1910

Kentish Gazette – 1840, 1858

Leicester Chronicle – 1873

Limerick Reporter – 1853

Lincolnshire Echo – 1904, 1906, 1919, 1943, 1947

London Evening Standard – 1863 – 1865, 1868

Luton News and Bedfordshire Chronicle – 1919

Manchester Evening News – 1918

Middlesex Chronicle – 1914, 1918

Newcastle Chronicle – 1782 – 1783, 1793

Newry Herald and Down, Armagh, and Louth Journal – 1859 – 1863

North & South Shields Gazette and Northumberland and Durham Advertiser – 1850, 1857

North London News – 1866 – 1868, 1870

Nottinghamshire Guardian – 1846

Orkney Herald, and Weekly Advertiser and Gazette for the Orkney & Zetland Islands – 1871

Oxford Chronicle and Reading Gazette – 1846 – 1847

Oxford University and City Herald – 1831 – 1844, 1855

Perthshire Advertiser – 1871

Police Gazette – 1829

Portsmouth Evening News – 1951, 1953

Reading Mercury – 1787

Rochdale Observer – 1858

Scottish Guardian, Glasgow – 1859

Sheffield Independent – 1820, 1907

Sherborne Mercury – 1853, 1861

Shetland Times – 1873

Skibbereen & West Carbery Eagle; or, South Western Advertiser – 1861 – 1866

Southern Reporter and Cork Commercial Courier – 1828 – 1829, 1834 – 1840, 1859 – 1865, 1869 – 1870

Stamford Mercury – 1746, 1817 – 1818

Surrey Mirror – 1911

Teesdale Mercury – 1855, 1857 – 1862, 1864 – 1869

Tipperary Vindicator – 1844 – 1849, 1860 – 1863, 1867 – 1868

Ulster Gazette – 1870

Ulster General Advertiser, Herald of Business and General Information – 1867

Waterford Mail – 1856

Waterford News – 1851 – 1852, 1857, 1859, 1864

Weekly Vindicator – 1850

Wellington Journal – 1854 – 1856, 1858 – 1869

West London Observer – 1871

Woolwich Gazette and Greenwich and Deptford Chronicle – 1869 – 1870

Worcester Journal – 1860

Yorkshire Evening Post – 1904 – 1905, 1907 – 1908, 1949

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer – 1888, 1899, 1914 – 1915