Getting the most out of Irish newspapers

Posted on October 23rd, 2015 by Abigail Rieley

If you’re interested in Irish history the Irish titles on the British Newspaper Archive can give you an insight that you won’t find in any history book. With more than xxx titles available to browse going back to the mid-18th century and right up to an independent Ireland they are a rich resource for political and social historians alike as well as the more casual reader.

You’ll find a picture of day to day life, from the highest scented halls of the social elite in the Fashionable Intelligences to the ordinary people scratching a day to day existence whose lives we glimpse in the court reports found in the Legal Intelligences. There are many details here, found nowhere else and looking through these early newspapers brings to life a world that has largely been forgotten today.

18th century and early 19th century Irish newspapers were strictly controlled and it was difficult if not impossible for a long time for newspapers to take an independent let alone an overtly nationalist stance. Under the Stamp duty laws, all papers that were to be distributed by post had to buy special pre-stamped paper to print on. In a sparsely populated country like Ireland distribution was important to build readership and attract advertisers so the stamped paper was important. However, the authorities in Dublin Castle refused to sell to any publication that didn’t toe the line. This kept the number of papers small until Stamp Duty was abolished in the 1840s. Once the tax was removed newspaper prices dropped and the number of newspapers grew rapidly in the second half of the 19th Century.

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

On the BNA you can find Pue’s Occurences, one of Ireland’s earliest newspapers. Founded by printer, publisher and owner of Dick’s Coffee House, Richard Pue in 1703, the paper ran until the 1790s. the newsletter promised to contain “the most authentick and freshest translations from all parts, carefully collected and impartially translated.”

Founded around the time Pue’s was winding down and rising to dominance in the 19th Century was  the Freeman’s Journal. Once the top paper in Ireland the Freeman’s was always liberal, backing Catholic Emancipation and the repeal of the Union, but later became a fully-fledged Nationalist paper, taken over by the Irish Parliamentary Party  in 1891.

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Another major 19th century paper would have been the conservative Saunders Newsletter which was far less likely to rock the boat. The protestant Dublin Evening Mail was the Ascendancy paper of choice. Founded specifically to oppose Catholic Emancipation it was known for its rather scandal- mongering approach – its first editor would boast about how many duels he was challenged to.

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Outside Dublin you can often tell a newspapers political stance by their title. The Tipperary Free Press, for example, was known as a radical paper while the Drogheda Conservative was just that. Papers called with Examiner in the title, like the Cork Examiner or the Limerick and Clare Examiner tended to be liberal and usually nationalist.

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Broadly speaking conservative, protestant papers were less interested in the plight of the rural poor, while liberal and nationalist papers covered lots of evictions and emigration stories. Bankruptcies were listed in the Dublin Mercantile Advertiser and Weekly Price Courant among others and most papers carried court stories as a handy source of local news.

Court reports are a rich source of social history and you can find a vivid picture of a thriving merchant class in the advertisements that cover most of the front pages in the early 19th century. You’ll find plenty in these papers that’s not mentioned anywhere else and they are great for finding out about rural and small town Ireland and the lives that might have made a headline but were never going to make history.

Victorian Servants’ Grievances

Posted on September 16th, 2015 by Jim Shaughnessy

Michelle Higgs is a freelance feature writer, copywriter and author who has written a number of books on social history, particularly around the Victorian era. In late September, Michelle’s latest book Servants’ Stories: Life Below Stairs in Their Own Words will be released. It’s a collection of oral histories, memoirs and biographies from servants covering the period 1800 to 1950, and it includes some great articles found in the British Newspaper Archive. Michelle has kindly contributed this guest blog to showcase some of the fascinating finds she made in the Archive. Find out more about Michelle’s new book here

Imagine if you were a domestic servant in the nineteenth century and you were unhappy about your working hours, your lack of time off or how you were treated by your employer. You could not complain to your master or mistress for fear of instant dismissal without a ‘character’ (a written reference). Without this, it would be extremely difficult to get another place in domestic service.

One way servants could – and did – vent their frustrations and anger was through the correspondence columns of national and provincial newspapers. Here, they could air their complaints publicly without fear of reprisal, using pseudonyms to protect their identities. These letters are frequently well argued, intelligent and heart-felt, and demonstrate a high level of literacy, indicative of increasing access to education.

In 1892, the Western Mail (29 November) printed a request from ‘A Servant’ of Swansea for ‘protection against tyrannous mistresses’:

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

 

View the whole page

The Swansea woman’s letter is typical of those written by servants to protest against ill-treatment. Her appeal struck a chord with other maids and over the following seven days or so, they wrote to the Western Mail listing their own issues with their employers. ‘A Poor Servant in Pembrokeshire’ likened their treatment to being worse than that given to pet animals:

Poor servant in Pembrokeshire

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

View the whole page

The lack of trust between mistress and maid was a contentious issue and was frequently the cause of stormy relationships in middle-class homes across Britain. Employers also wrote in to the Western Mail to have their say. ‘A Mistress’ of Park-place, Cardiff lamented that servants were not as ‘honest and industrious’ as they used to be:

Mistress responds

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

View the whole page

The letter from ‘A Mistress’ prompted an impassioned reply from ‘A Servant’ of Newport, who pointed out that many mistresses had been domestics themselves:

a reply to mistress

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

View the whole page

It was not just maids who voiced their opinions. A butler with 17 years’ experience also wrote in to defend the honesty of female servants:

Letter from a butler

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

View the whole page

queen street

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

View the whole page

Unlike some newspapers, the Western Mail appears to have been quite sympathetic to servants as a stream of further letters from maids were published from 14 December:

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

View the whole page

Many of these letters called for a new servants’ union to be set up. Several of these organisations were, in fact, founded but they could not bring about change regarding working hours as the shop assistants’ union had done. This was because domestic service was based on a contract between two individuals (mistress and maid) and conditions were different in every single household.

Michelle Higgs is the author of Servants’ Stories: Life Below Stairs in their Own Words 1800-1950 (Pen & Sword, 2015).

Her blog is at http://servantsstories.blogspot.co.uk and you can also follow her on Twitter (@michellehiggs11).

Queen Victoria: Our second longest reigning monarch

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

Wednesday, September 9th 2015 marks a significant milestone for Britain’s monarchy. It’s the day that Queen Elizabeth II become the longest ruling British monarch in history, breaking the record of her great grandmother Victoria. To commemorate this occasion, we’ve taken a look back on contemporary newspaper reactions to Victoria breaking the same record in 1897.

A diamond jubilee was a brand new concept for the Victorian British, as no monarch had yet ruled for longer than 60 years, the closest being George III who ruled for 59. However, Victoria was still on the throne in 1896 having been crowned in 1837, and poised to become Britain’s longest ruler, planned to commemorate this with a grand public celebration on 6th July.

Naturally, such an important piece of royal history attracted considerable attention, both positive and negative, and varied from a few column inches to full biographies of the queen’s reign. The West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser carried no fewer than 7 articles of this type, all of which can be read in the Archive.

Queen Victoria’s reign was serialised over seven issues of the West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser in 1897.

Queen Victoria’s reign was serialised over seven issues of the West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser in 1897. Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The official celebrations consisted of several elements, the largest being the procession that wended its way through London for 6 miles, for which most of the crowned heads of Europe assembled and representatives of the Army, Navy and Colonial forces took part. An article carried by the Edinburgh Evening News described the sheer scale of the planning that went into the procession.

Edinburgh Evening News - Thursday 29 April 1897

Edinburgh Evening News – Thursday 29 April 1897 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

A display was also put on at Windsor, with rain proving no hindrance as the bands continued to play.

Celebrations at Windsor - Derry Journal - Monday 21 June 1897

Celebrations at Windsor – Derry Journal – Monday 21 June 1897 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

In addition to the official royal celebrations, local councils in Britain organised their own commemorations. These took many different forms, from official proclamations by councils to fireworks displays to entire days dedicated to festivities. Beverley Council congratulated Queen Victoria in this short article in the Hull Daily Mail.

The Longest Reign - Hull Daily Mail - Tuesday 09 March 1897

The Longest Reign – Hull Daily Mail – Tuesday 09 March 1897 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Cirencester chose to celebrate by dedicating a whole day to the festivities, like a lot of towns in Royal Berkshire as reported in this article in the Swindon Advertiser and North Wilts Chronicle.

Cirencester celebrates - Swindon Advertiser and North Wilts Chronicle - Saturday 26 June 1897

Cirencester celebrates – Swindon Advertiser and North Wilts Chronicle – Saturday 26 June 1897 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Celebrations also took place all around the Empire. A telegram from a reporter in Ottawa appeared in the Aberdeen Journal, telling of the fight in the Canadian parliament to pass a bill giving workers time off yearly to celebrate the monarch’s birthday. He says it was blocked not because of a lack of will to celebrate, but because politicians believed that the poor couldn’t afford another day off.

Queen's Birthday Holiday in Canada - Aberdeen Journal - Thursday 06 May 1897

Queen’s Birthday Holiday in Canada – Aberdeen Journal – Thursday 06 May 1897 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

However, the reception was not totally positive. One letter sent into Reynold’s Newspaper in February of 1897 stated the writer’s opposition to the very idea of a monarchy, urging Irishmen to remember the tough time the Irish had endured during the Victorian age.

An Irishman’s opinion - Reynolds's Newspaper - Sunday 14 February 1897

An Irishman’s opinion – Reynolds’s Newspaper – Sunday 14 February 1897 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The celebrations surrounding Victoria’s Golden Jubilee and longest reigning monarch status attracted a great deal of press coverage. As we commemorate Elizabeth II’s breaking of this record, why not see what part your ancestors played in their commemorations, or what your town did to celebrate?

 

September 3rd, 1939: War is Declared

Posted on September 3rd, 2015 by The British Newspaper Archive

In August of 1939, Britain and Poland signed an agreement of mutual assistance. This mean that were any foreign power to interfere with either country militarily, the other would rush to their aid. Days later, on September 1st, Germany crossed the Polish border under a flag of nationalism, on an invented crusade to liberate the oppressed Germans of Danzig, a semi-independent area created by the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, 1919.

Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Friday 01 September 1939

Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette – Friday 01 September 1939 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

This German foray into Poland triggered pacts that the Poles had made with Britain and France. On September 2nd, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain issued an ultimatum to Germany; exit Poland or a state of war will exist between us. Germany had until the 3rd to respond, and 76 years ago today the threatened state of war came to pass.

Sunderland Echo and Shipping Gazette 3 Sept 1939 1

Sunderland Echo and Shipping Gazette 3 Sept 1939 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Sunderland Echo and Shipping Gazette 3 Sept 1939

Sunderland Echo and Shipping Gazette 3 Sept 1939 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Chamberlain announced the declaration of war to the British public via radio broadcast. In this broadcast (the full transcript of which you can read here), he states that ‘this morning, the British Ambassador in Berlin handed the German government a final Note stating that, unless we heard from then by 11 o’clock that they were prepared at once to withdraw their troops from Poland, a state of war would exist between us.

Nottingham Evening Post - Sunday 03 September 1939

Nottingham Evening Post – Sunday 03 September 1939 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

I have to tell you now that no such undertaking has been received, and that consequently this country is at war with Germany.’ With those words, wheels were set in motion that would see the country plunged into six long years of war, a bloody global conflict that would change the world forever.

Gloucester Citizen - Sunday 03 September 1939

Gloucester Citizen – Sunday 03 September 1939 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

To read more about the outbreak of war, browse our collection of newspapers from that fateful day.

The Anglo-Zanzibar War

Posted on August 27th, 2015 by The British Newspaper Archive

The Anglo-Zanzibar War was a colonial conflict fought by the British during the late 19th century as part of the Scramble for Africa, the divvying-up of the continent carried out by European powers in the 19th and early 20th centuries. While countless wars were fought in the name of imperialism, the Anglo-Zanzibar War stands out thanks to one detail: it is the shortest war in recorded history. Estimates vary as to its actual length, but what is clear is that the war lasted less than an hour (no longer than 45 minutes) before the surrender of Zanzibar, starting and ending on the 27th August, 1896.

The crisis stemmed from the illegal succession of Sultan Khalid bin Barghash to the throne of the Zanzibar Sultanate following the death in suspicious circumstances of his cousin. Kalid declared himself Sultan without first consulting the British, who had been protecting Zanzibar. A treaty had been signed that gave the British the right to approve or veto any Sultanate candidates, and Kalid’s decision to ignore this protocol, combined with his subsequent refusal to abdicate caused a spiral that resulted in a naval task force being assembled to depose him.

The war didn’t last long enough to have any blanket coverage attached to it, so the reportage that we have is all after the fact. There are however, several newspapers that speculated on how long the Sultan could hold power before he was deposed. The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer speculated that, given the naval force he would face, the Sultan had no choice but to surrender to the British military might that had been mobilised to depose him.

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer - Thursday 27 August 1896

Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer – Thursday 27 August 1896 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Although Kalid’s forces had at least 2 modern German field guns and a number of Maxim and Gatling machine guns, they were also reliant on 17th century cannon and mainly armed civilians to defend the Palace. On the other hand, the British could draw not only on the Marines stationed aboard the Royal Naval warships, but also the 900 or so Zanzibari levies they maintained in the colony to help govern it. The new Sultan may not have been outnumbered, but he was most certainly outgunned. Added to this, he was politically isolated, with the many consulates on the island refusing to recognise him as legitimate in the absence of the same declaration from London.

Despite this, the Sultan refused to stand down his men or surrender to the British, and so when the British ultimatum – abdicate or war is declared – expired at 9am East African Time on 27th August 1896, the order was given to the Royal Navy to commence firing on the Palace. It took around 40 minutes for the Sultan to give in, but not before he had fled to the German consulate and claimed asylum, leaving the palace to be demolished by British shellfire. The Yorkshire Evening Post carried this editorial on the events in Zanzibar.

Anglo Zanzibar War Report 2

Anglo Zanzibar War Report 3 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

 

The steamer that the Post mentions was the HHS Glasgow, the former Sultan’s Royal Yacht, an outdated paddle-steamer armed with little more than swivel-guns that attempted to engage nearly 6 times her number of modern steam warships. She was sunk quickly by HMS Thrush, and wasn’t recovered until 1912. A photograph of Zanzibar harbour in 1902 – 6 years after the end of the war – still has Glasgow’s masts visible sticking out of the water.

A Panorama of Zanzibar Harbour, with HHS Glasgow clearly visible

A Panorama of Zanzibar Harbour, with HHS Glasgow clearly visible Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

With the war over, and an approved Sultan installed as the head of a puppet administration in Zanzibar, the Dover Express carried this report on the state of Zanzibar about a week after the war started and finished.

The Sultan fled to the German Consulate shortly before surrendering - Dover Express - Friday 04 September 1896

The Sultan fled to the German Consulate shortly before surrendering – Dover Express – Friday 04 September 1896 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The shortest war in history is well documented in our newspaper archives. Why not look and see what you can find, and let us know in the comments below?

 

The End of the World: The 1938 War of the Worlds Broadcast and Press Reaction

Posted on August 25th, 2015 by The British Newspaper Archive

HG Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds, the story of a Martian invasion of Earth, has had many adaptations since being published in 1898. It’s unlikely that any of these adaptations has developed such an aura of myth and infamy as the Orson Welles radio adaptation of 1938, which was alleged to have caused mass panic across the United States. Conducted as a drama broadcast via wireless, the program went out uninterrupted for more than an hour and portrayed the events of the novel as a series of newsflashes breaking across commercial radio networks, and featured ‘eyewitness accounts’ and statements from ‘local officials’. This broadcast has gone down in history as causing widespread chaos in the US, as naive audiences new to the medium of radio took the messages at face value, taking to the streets in fear of imminent extinction at the hands of aliens.

Sadly – for those who love a good story anyway – this reported panic was a fabrication. The show carried a warning, it wasn’t even listened to by that many people and those who did listen to it didn’t believe it for a second. In fact, a lot of the reporting was the concoction of print journalists looking to rubbish this dangerous new broadcasting platform.  For more information on the myth and how it took shape, this excellent Telegraph article is the place to go.

For those of you interested in seeing how the newspapers reported on their made-up mayhem, read on!

Real names of towns used

Derby Daily Telegraph - Monday 31 October 1938

Derby Daily Telegraph – Monday 31 October 1938 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

One of the details that lent credence to the tales of public panic was the fact that Welles edited Wells’ text to reflect place names in the US, rather than UK. Horsell Common, Surrey because Grover’s Mill, New Jersey, for example.

Pandemonium Reigns!

Falkirk Herald - Wednesday 02 November 1938

Falkirk Herald – Wednesday 02 November 1938 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

As far as we’re aware, none of the above actually happened, particularly the ‘octopus-like men armed with death rays’. The reporter is good enough to state that the contents of this article are ‘almost unbelievable’. Almost, indeed.

The End of the World

Dundee Evening Telegraph - Monday 31 October 1938

Dundee Evening Telegraph – Monday 31 October 1938 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Welles added to the authenticity of his creation by including equipment in use by the US military at the time. Wells had the HMS Thunderchild, Welles used a B17 bomber in its stead. The artillerymen in the book were replaced by a US gun crew, who struggled against a black smoke against which their gas masks were no match.

The American Panic

Dundee Courier - Tuesday 01 November 1938

Dundee Courier – Tuesday 01 November 1938 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

The Dundee Courier said about this panic that it was ‘doubtful if anything parallel to it has happened since the middle ages. That it should happen in so highly sophisticated a country,’ they continued ‘makes the phenomenon all the more strange.’

Women Faint

Western Daily Press - Tuesday 01 November 1938

Western Daily Press – Tuesday 01 November 1938 Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

While women fainted in parts of the nation, Mr Welles doggedly defended his the faithfulness of his retelling of the original story, showing firmly where his priorities lay.

The Archive is rich with examples of this kind of story, reported on so widely that even today the accepted history among many people is one of panic, evacuation and fainting women. Browse the articles here.

An incredible first hand account of the front line, World War I

Posted on August 20th, 2015 by The British Newspaper Archive

Private Harry Wells

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Among the thousands of accounts of the First World War you can find in the Archive, one publication stands out as a leading source of reportage and news surrounding the conflict: The Sunday Post. In June 1915, the Post printed the first hand experiences of Private Harry Wells, a soldier in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. Private Wells tells his incredible story in this article, entitled ‘My Experiences in the Fighting Line from Mons to Ypres’. In it, we’re given an eyewitness account of dogfights, the effects of an artillery bombardment, the capturing of spies and a surprise encounter with a brother who believed him to be dead.

Private Harry Wells

Private Harry Wells Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Private Wells’ military career

Early career

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Private Wells joined the army in 1896, seeing action in the Boer War (which he describes as ‘like playing school compared with the fighting in Flanders’) and serving in India, where his chief concern was illness rather than injury.

His time in Belgium would be more eventful.

A Battle in Mid-Air

Dogfight

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

As Private Wells and his regiment dug trenches, a German Taube encircled them, aided in their reconnaissance by the suspected (and later proven) assistance of spied. The Wellingtons opened fire on the Taube, only to be thrilled by the spectacle of two Royal Flying Corps aircraft taking to the skies and bringing the German pilot down.

Some Pitiable Sights

Horrors of war

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Private Wells also witnessed civilian tragedy during his War. Additionally, what patriotic Brit would fail to be moved by the image of the smarmy German and the strength of character of the Tommy who could have given the protagonist a good hiding, but displayed the restraint expected of a British soldier.

Private Wells meets his brother

Meets his brother

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

When telling his story, Private Wells makes reference a number of times to the fact that rumour had gotten around that he’d been killed in action. That fact makes this meeting with his brother all the more emotional, as Private Wells’ brother believed him to be dead until this moment.

Cowards and Lions

terrible coward

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

This excerpt begins by describing the behaviour of captured spies, discovered reconnoitering the Wellingtons. The latter section describes the gusto with which Indian troops threw themselves into the fighting.

If you want to read the full account, from the Jun 6, 1915 edition of The Sunday Post (and we highly recommend that you have a look), you can find it here.

Over 275,000 New Pages Added In July!

Posted on August 4th, 2015 by Holly

Last month saw a fantastic 275,220 pages added to 98 different British Newspaper titles, including 16,610 pages added to the Buckingham Advertiser and North Bucks Free Press, and 25,377 pages added to the Public Ledger and Commercial and General Advertiser.

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. We hope you enjoy exploring!

 

TITLE NUM OF PAGES
Aberdeen Journal, and General Advertiser for the North of Scotland 3,631
Belfast Mercantile Register and Weekly Advertiser. 215
Berwick Advertiser. 6,277
Buckingham Advertiser and North Bucks Free Press. 16,610
Buckingham Advertiser and Winslow and Brackley Record. 46
Burnley Express and Clitheroe Division Advertiser 764
Denbighshire & Flintshire Telegraph, North Shropshire and West Cheshire Reporter. 462
Evening Despatch. 2,472
Grantham Journal 635
Lake’s Falmouth Packet and Cornwall Advertiser. 226
Leicester mercury. 6,932
Lincolnshire Echo 1,896
Maidstone Gazette. 206
Plymouth and Devonport Weekly Journal and General Advertiser for Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset. 212
Public ledger (1837) 20,993
Royal Leamington Spa courier and Warwickshire standard. 212
Saunders’s News-Letter : 3,961
Sevenoaks Chronicle and Kentish Advertiser. 11,997
Sheffield Register, Yorkshire, Derbyshire, & Nottinghamshire Universal Advertiser. 1,639
Sheffield Telegraph and Daily Independent. 2,390
St. Andrews citizen 3,867
Stonehaven Journal, etc. 179
Sunday Post 2,040
Sunderland Echo and Shipping Gazette. 3,572
Telegraph & Independent. 2,406
The Aberdeen Journal and General Advertiser for the North of Scotland 448
The Arbroath Herald and Advertiser for the Montrose Burghs 427
The Bridport news, etc. 1,956
The Buckingham Advertiser and Free Press. 219
The Bury and Norwich Post 1,960
The Bury free press 499
The Chatham News, etc. 425
The Cornish Times. 209
The Dublin Evening Mail 1,348
The Evening News 2,551
The evening standard 2,451
The Falkirk Herald and Midland Counties Journal 2,244
The Faversham Gazette, and Whitstable, Sittingbourne, & Milton Journal. 1,269
The Fife Free Press, & Kirkcaldy Guardian. 3,469
The Fife free press. 201
The Galway Vindicator, and Connaught Advertiser. 425
The Glasgow Sentinel. 415
The Gloucester Journal 256
The Greenock Telegraph and Clyde Shipping Gazette 1,235
The guardian and public ledger. 2,629
The Hartlepool Free Press and General Advertiser. 234
The Hertfordshire Express and General Advertiser. 212
The Leighton Buzzard Observer and Linslade Gazette. 2,716
The Lichfield Mercury 794
The Luton News and Bedfordshire Advertiser. 800
The Missionary Herald of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland. 145
The Nairnshire Mirror, and General Advertiser. 962
The Northern Whig 3,915
The public ledger and commercial and general advertiser. 4,938
The public ledger and daily advertiser. 25,377
The Rochdale Pilot, and General Advertiser. 109
The Royal Devonport Telegraph, and Plymouth Chronicle. 204
The Scarborough Mercury, etc. 212
The Sheffield Daily Telegraph 7,909
The Sheffield Iris. 1,303
The Shields Daily News. 916
The Shrewsbury Free Press, and Advertiser for Salop and the adjoining counties. 426
The Southport Independent and Ormskirk Chronicle. 682
The Staffordshire Advertiser 127
The Star. 3,514
The Surrey Comet, and General Advertiser. 220
The Tadcaster Post, and General Advertiser for Grimstone, etc. 2,640
The Tiverton Gazette, East Devon Herald, etc. 1,967
The Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald 802
The Yorkshire post 3,418
The Yorkshire Post and Leeds Intelligencer. 1,902
Whitehaven news 3,671

The Swindler Asgill

Posted on July 23rd, 2015 by Jim Shaughnessy

This story was submitted to us by Anne Ammunsden, whose exploration of the British Newspaper Archive led to some amazing discoveries and unravelled some mysteries that had baffled her family for generations

When I subscribed to the British Newspaper Archive I did so with the intention of trying to find some reference to a book review my mother sent me (when I was living in Tonga in 1986/7) about a book she thought I would enjoy. The book was a fictional story, located in Tonga, hence she thought I would be interested. I purchased the book in Sydney a few months after receiving the review, read it, and to my absolute astonishment discovered that there was a passage about real events surrounding my uncle’s death in Hong Kong, in 1941, when the Japanese invaded. I was blown away that these real events in Hong Kong could be conveyed in a fictional story about Tonga! After reading the book I stupidly lent it to a friend, and she never returned it. Since then I have been searching for this book in order to buy it again – but this is proving an almost impossible task now that I have forgotten the title and – worse still – the name of the author! I had hoped the BNA would solve the problem for me! But my near to 30 year search continues still, since I have not found a way of bringing up a book review from the late 1980s.

Since I got nowhere searching the newspaper archives for the hoped-for book review sent to me by my mother all those years ago (which would then tell me the name of the book of course!) – I thought that I would change my search criteria, just by way of contrast, to one word – “Asgill”. I am descended from a British army officer by the name of “Asgill” who was, though innocent, condemned to death by General Washington in 1782 – in retaliation for a crime he had not committed. He was eventually saved from the gallows by Queen Marie Antoinette, who pleaded his cause to General Washington. This being a well-known story I knew that just that one word would bring something up. And, sure enough, it did. 38 pages of “Asgill” articles!

Charles Asgill

Charles Asgill

What I didn’t expect, though, was that my search through those 38 pages of references to “Asgill” would bring about the solving of a mystery (within the present-day Asgill family) which has eluded them for the past 150 years. They have always believed that General Asgill had a son, called William Charles Asgill, who was the disinherited heir to the Baronetcy, and they’ve felt cheated ever since. It now transpires that their “William Charles Asgill” was, in reality, “The Swindler Asgill” who is written about in the following publications. Apparently “The Swindler” changed his name to “Asgill” in order to portray himself as the General’s nephew, and thereby swindle merchants of money to pay for his luxurious lifestyle! I was desperately hoping that one of the following articles would tell me the real name of “The Swindler Asgill” so that some closure could be had by the present-day Asgills by knowing from whom they really are descended. But it seems that “The Swindler” got away with his crimes and there appears to be no report telling the reader who this man really was.

Southern Reporter and Cork Commercial Courier Saturday 13 September 1823

Southern and cork

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette Thursday 18 September 1823

Devizes

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Durham County Advertiser Saturday 20 September 1823

Durham

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Salisbury and Winchester Journal Monday 22 September 1823

Salisbuty

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Bath Chronicle & Weekly Gazette Thursday 02 October 1823

Bath chronicle

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Had he been caught he might well have been deported to Sydney, Australia, where this narrative by me began.

So now I have two searches to conduct, rather than one; Who was “The Swindler Asgill” and who wrote that novel about “Tonga”?

It’s lucky that I purchased a year’s subscription!

Crime and the Blitz

Posted on July 17th, 2015 by Holly

The bombing of civilian targets in Britain during World War 2 is now commonly referred to as ‘The Blitz’. The song ‘All Stick Together’ released by Ralph Butler in 1939 summarised the need for Britain to pull together as a nation against the threat of an invasion, and the ‘Blitz Spirit’ has gone down in history and is still invoked today in times of strife.  However, whilst the vast majority of the population may have been sticking together, there were those who took advantage of the war’s blackout and regulations for their own less ignoble ends.

Air Raid Precautions and Blackouts

To make aerial bombing harder for the Luftwaffe, cities were ‘blacked-out’ at night. All light sources – from cigarettes to street lamps – that could be seen from the air needed to be extinguished or covered. Streets in Britain rang to the shouts of ‘PUT THAT LIGHT OUT’ from ARP wardens, and those who failed to do so risked fines or imprisonment.

Crime & the Blitz

However, although darkness helped avoid accurate bombing from the enemy, it also concealed the nefarious activities of looters, black-marketers and violent thugs. Contemporary newspaper reports reveal that the Blitz wasn’t quite the era of British stoicism and solidarity remembered in today’s national consciousness.

Looting, Theft and Black Racketeering

With major metropolitan areas plunged into darkness, the petty crime rate soared. Looting became a constant problem for the authorities, as did instances of mugging and petty theft.

Crime & the Blitz, Records, historical records, parish records, census records, marriage records, military records, newspapers, historical newspapers, how-to, findmypast, find my past, find my past uk, family tree,  family history, genealogy, www.findmypast.co.uk,

Thieves took advantage of people being out of their homes in public shelters or the Underground to raid their homes for valuables, and stole directly from bombed out houses & sites. ‘Spivs’, now largely romanticised as ‘Robin Hood’ figures, often bought or pilfered luxuries from shop’s stockrooms and sold them on at an extortionate mark-up to customers.

Crime & the Blitz, looting - Hull Daily Mail - Monday 30 June 1941

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

[Private Walker in Dad’s Army is an example of the romanticised version of the Spiv]

Even relatively mundane items were stolen or removed from premises to ‘protect’ them. A letter to a Sunderland paper from Tuesday 26 November 1940 reported a stolen sink whilst another in the Yorkshire Evening Post reported the case of a woman who secured a pair of shoes ‘just in case’ someone else stole them!

Crime & the Blitz - Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette - Tuesday 26 November 1940

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Crime & the Blitz Looting for 'good' - Yorkshire Evening Post - Saturday 30 November 1940

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Violent Crime

One man, Gordon Cummins, used the blackout to mask a spree of killings. Nicknamed the ‘Blackout Ripper’, he used the Blackout to commit his crimes and move around without arousing suspicion, and was only apprehended when a delivery boy caught him in the act.

Crime & the Blitz Looting for 'good' - Yorkshire Evening Post - Saturday 30 November 1940

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Cummins was not the only violent criminal to take advantage of the preparations for war. An elderly farmer who shot at police over five acres of unused land ended up in an armed standoff with them. When tear gas was thrown into his farmhouse, he donned his gas mask to negate the effects and continued to fire on them.

Crime & the Blitz 6 gas mask used to negate Tear Gas -Lancashire Evening Post - Tuesday 23 July 1940

Image © THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Although these were isolated incidents, the newspapers in our archive reveal the harsh realities of the Blitz. Search our collection for more stories of vice – and valour – throughout the war.

If you’d like to learn more about the Blitz and those who lived through it, look out for the upcoming release of the 1939 Register – a record of every civilian in England and Wales at the outset of war – at Findmypast.