‘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

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‘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


National newspapers, local newspapers and cases of breach of promise

Posted on June 17th, 2014 by The British Newspaper Archive

Denise BatesDenise Bates, historian and author of Breach of Promise to Marry: A History of How Jilted Brides Settled Scores, explains why local newspapers are often more useful for historical research than national newspapers.




Breach of promise was a legal claim. It allowed a man or woman to demand financial compensation from their ex-fiancée or ex-fiancé if they broke their engagement to marry. 

Newspapers are the best source of information about breach of promise cases, but there is a considerable difference between the reports in local and in national papers.

Competing stories and editorial policies meant that national newspapers could sometimes be unduly selective about what they reported. More rounded accounts can often be found in local newspapers.


The Times and breach of promise

With plenty of material jostling for coverage, national newspapers tended to focus on the high profile cases which readers would expect to read about. When they covered mundane ones it was sometimes to reinforce their editorial stance.

By the 1860s, The Times disliked breach of promise and seems to have included certain cases in order to demonstrate its view that the claims had little merit.

On a few occasions, The Times pointedly adopted the moral high ground by informing its readers that it was not reporting detail because it would have no interest to its readers. One such instance was the failed teenage romance between publican’s daughter Elizabeth Stacey and jockey Charles Bennett in 1863.

The Berkshire Chronicle, however, provided their readers with a full report of the hearing. A century and a half later, this detail adds to our understanding of working-class courtships.


Breach of promise reported in the Berkshire Chronicle

Berkshire Chronicle – Saturday 20 June 1863

View the whole newspaper page


The Sheffield Independent reveals essential extra detail

Reports of breach of promise hearings in local papers often contained much richer detail than the national ones, revealing the plaintiff and defendant as people and putting their court battle into context.

In 1870, The Times left key questions unanswered when it reported Julia Barnett’s fraudulent claim against Adolphus Abrahams. The article suggested that there was more to the case than a deceitful woman attempting to foist paternity of her illegitimate son onto her ex-fiance.

More detailed accounts of the trial were printed in local newspapers, such as the Sheffield Independent. These reveal that Julia was indecently assaulted in a railway carriage by an employee of the Metropolitan Railway on her way home from work. Her claim raised questions that went far beyond breach of promise law.


A breach of promise case in the Sheffield Independent

Sheffield Independent – Saturday 30 April 1870

View the whole newspaper page


Comparing The Times and the Cheshire Observer

Sometimes the only mention of a breach of promise case in a national newspaper was that it had bankrupted one of the parties. The Times reported that George Parnell applied for bankruptcy in 1883 after Harriet Stedman won her claim for damages.

A report in the Cheshire Observer revealed some unexpected aspects. The claim arose after Parnell told Harriet and her mother to ‘clear out’ of his house. He dumped the 83-year-old and her belongings in the street while Harriet was consulting a solicitor.

As no unnecessary violence had been used in evicting the old lady, Mrs Stedman was not able to sue for compensation. In disallowing her claim, the judge made his contempt for Parnell very clear to the jury.

The jury then went on to award Harriet £500 for breach of promise. This was an exceptionally large award at that time, suggesting Parnell was also being punished for his unchivalrous conduct towards an old lady.


A breach of promise case reported in the Cheshire Observer

Cheshire Observer – Saturday 10 March 1883

View the whole newspaper page


Visit Denise’s website to order a copy of Breach of Promise to Marry: A History of How Jilted Brides Settled Scores.



Family tree research: How newspapers can help

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

Newspapers are a fantastic resource for family history research. They can reveal incredible details about your ancestors.


View 3 newspaper articles for free

You’ll find millions of pages from local British and Irish newspapers at The British Newspaper Archive. They date from the 1700s to the 1950s.

Register a free account and the first three newspaper articles you view are on us.

Create a free account

Find a photo of your ancestor

LisamarieLisamarie has a subscription to The British Newspaper Archive. She got in touch to show us the amazing discovery she made.

‘I recently found this photo of my great-great-uncle in a newspaper article on your website.

I have been searching for one since my grandmother told me about meeting him before the First World War. Thanks for making a wish I have held since I was 15 years old come true.’

Lisamarie found a photo of her ancestor at The British Newspaper Archive

Dundee Courier – Saturday 02 September 1916
Image © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.
View the whole newspaper page


Learn about your relative’s life

There are millions of stories just waiting to be unearthed. Maxine found a reference to her great-great-grandfather in the Aberdeen Evening Express.

‘The article said that he was riding along in 1883 when he came across a herd of elephants!

I love how it states that my great-great-grandfather’s horse was ‘unused to this type of pedestrian’ as well as the comedic sequence of events that followed.’

Maxine found a newspaper article about her great-great-grandfather at The British Newspaper Archive

Aberdeen Evening Express – Tuesday 03 July 1883
View the whole newspaper page


Search for your ancestors

All of the words in the newspapers are searchable, so try looking for a person’s name, a place or historical event to get started.

Search for an ancestor’s name


Copies of old newspapers reveal a World Cup myth

Posted on June 11th, 2014 by The British Newspaper Archive

England took part in the World Cup for the first time in 1950. Like this year’s tournament, the football matches were held in Brazil. The English national team met the United States in the group stages and suffered a shocking 1-0 defeat.

The game has gone down in football history and has a rather interesting urban myth attached to it. Many say that English newspapers reported a 10-1 win, assuming that there had been a typing error in the message they received from Brazil.


England World Cup team 1950

Nottingham Evening Post – Tuesday 13 June 1950
Image © Local World Limited. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

View the whole newspaper page


Copies of old newspapers reveal the truth

There are over 8 million newspaper pages online at The British Newspaper Archive, so we thought we’d take a look to see if the rumours were true.

We searched copies of old newspapers from 1950 for the words ‘England US World Cup’.

The United States were certainly seen to be the underdogs. On the day of the football match, the Derby Daily Telegraph confidently reported that ‘ENGLAND EXPECT A COMFORTABLE WIN’:


England faced the US at the 1950 World Cup

Derby Daily Telegraph – Thursday 29 June 1950
Image © Local World Limited. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

View the whole newspaper page


World cup shock for England

The Western Morning News was printed early the day after the infamous football match. While it was clearly shocked by the result, the newspaper correctly reported the score as 1-0.

The article stated that England had lost ‘against the 500-1 outsiders’, having played poorly. England’s manager Walter Winterbottom was reported to have sat glumly in the stand.

Winterbottom later said that ‘the team played very badly indeed, especially the forwards, who were far too eager’.


Copies of old newspapers show the England vs United States World Cup score in 1950 was not reported as 10-1

Western Morning News – Friday 30 June 1950
Image © Local World Limited. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

View the whole newspaper page


There was no fluke about it

Not one of the historical newspapers online at The British Newspaper Archive reported the score to be 10-1. It appears that this World Cup story is a myth.

The Aberdeen Journal stated that ‘it was pathetic to watch English football beaten by a side most amateur elevens would beat at home, and there was no fluke about it’.


Historical newspapers reveal the truth behind the World Cup myth

Aberdeen Journal – Friday 30 June 1950
Image © D.C.Thomson & Co. Ltd. Image created courtesy of THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD.

View the whole newspaper page


240,000 extra newspaper pages now online

Posted on June 9th, 2014 by The British Newspaper Archive

Thousands of historical newspaper pages were added to The British Newspaper Archive in May, including three 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 London’s Penny Illustrated Paper, the Dundee, Perth and Forfar People’s Journal and the Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald online.

56 other titles were also updated, including the Aberdeen Journal, the Kent & Sussex Courier and the Morpeth Herald. A full list of recent additions is provided below.

The Penny Illustrated Post

Aberdeen Evening Express – 1910

Aberdeen Journal – 1799, 1803, 1805, 1809, 1812, 1815, 1821, 1823, 1825, 1846, 1849, 1852, 1853, 1854, 1855, 1856, 1864, 1869, 1875, 1876, 1877, 1878, 1879, 1880, 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1885, 1887, 1890, 1891, 1896, 1899

Burnley Gazette – 1905, 1906

Cambridge Chronicle and Journal – 1861

Cheltenham Chronicle – 1854

Cheltenham Looker-On – 1844

Cheshire Observer – 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917

Chester Chronicle – 1790

Coventry Herald – 1863

Derbyshire Times and Chesterfield Herald – 1885, 1939, 1944

Dundee, Perth and Forfar People’s Journal – 1858, 1859, 1860, 1861

Durham County Advertiser – 1814

Edinburgh Evening News – 1916, 1919, 1923, 1931, 1942

Evening Telegraph – 1889, 1893

Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald – 1913, 1915, 1924

Gloucester Citizen – 1939, 1943

Gloucester Journal – 1896, 1902, 1915

Grantham Journal – 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934

Hamilton Advertiser – 1914, 1915, 1916

Hartlepool Mail – 1899

Hastings and St Leonards Observer – 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946

Hull Daily Mail – 1888, 1910

Kent & Sussex Courier – 1895, 1896, 1898, 1899, 1917, 1921, 1924, 1925, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1949, 1950

Lancashire Evening Post – 1889, 1890, 1907, 1909, 1921, 1929, 1932, 1938

Leamington Spa Courier – 1881, 1882, 1883, 1884, 1914, 1917, 1918

Leeds Intelligencer – 1813

Leeds Mercury – 1836, 1842, 1875, 1898

Leicestershire Mercury – 1836

Lichfield Mercury – 1879, 1880, 1881, 1882

Lincolnshire Chronicle – 1919, 1922

Lincolnshire Echo – 1931, 1933, 1934

Liverpool Daily Post – 1859

Luton Times and Advertiser – 1859, 1860, 1867, 1868, 1877, 1879, 1885, 1896, 1897, 1911

Maidstone Telegraph – 1861

Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser – 1889

Morpeth Herald – 1892, 1893, 1894, 1895, 1896, 1898, 1899, 1900, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1915, 1916, 1935, 1936, 1937, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1949, 1950, 1951, 1952, 1953, 1954

North Devon Journal – 1897

Northampton Mercury – 1912

Nottingham Evening Post – 1913, 1938

Oxford Times – 1862

Penny Illustrated Paper – 1862, 1863, 1864, 1865, 1866, 1867, 1868, 1869, 1870

Portsmouth Evening News – 1939

Sheffield Daily Telegraph – 1886, 1888, 1895, 1899, 1910, 1911

Sheffield Evening Telegraph – 1889, 1907, 1912, 1914

Shields Daily Gazette – 1866, 1884, 1910

Southern Reporter – 1878

Staffordshire Sentinel – 1889, 1911

Sunday Post – 1914, 1915, 1917, 1918, 1919

Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette – 1904, 1910, 1913, 1919, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1946, 1947, 1948, 1950, 1951, 1952

Surrey Mirror – 1880, 1889, 1900, 1901, 1940, 1941, 1942, 1945, 1946

Sussex Agricultural Express – 1877, 1883, 1911

Taunton Courier, and Western Advertiser – 1937, 1938, 1939, 1940, 1943

West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser – 1939

Western Daily Press – 1886

Western Gazette – 1886, 1910, 1929

Western Morning News – 1894

Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald – 1905, 1906, 1907, 1908, 1909, 1911, 1912, 1913, 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1922

Yorkshire Evening Post – 1906, 1943

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer – 1869, 1873, 1880, 1881, 1906, 1926