The Croydon Observer | The British Newspaper Archive Blog


Hot Off The Press – New Titles This Week

This week we have added 75,078 brand new pages to our collection, with a trio of very special brand new titles joining us over the past seven days from across England, Ireland and Northern Ireland.

So read on to discover more about the new titles of the week, as well as to discover which of our existing titles we have added new pages to. Also, this week we will take a moment to remember the Matchgirls’ Strike of 1888, an early industrial action undertaken by the women and teenage girls who worked in London’s East End.

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And it’s in London’s south that we begin our journey into our new titles of the week, as we introduce the Croydon Observer to our Archive. First published in 1860, it appeared in conjunction with historic Lewes based newspaper the Sussex Advertiser. Printed every Friday priced at one penny, it had a circulation of 2,000 and covered the town of Croydon and its vicinity.

Liberal in its politics, the Croydon Observer mainly featured local news, containing the latest from the Surrey Assizes, Board of Health and Petty Sessions. As well as featuring news from Croydon, it also featured the latest from the nearby towns of Dorking, Guildford, Epsom and Reigate. You can also find within its pages reports from the neighbouring county of Sussex.

Croydon Observer | 16 February 1900

Meanwhile, the Croydon Observer also featured a ‘Miscellany of News,’ which featured short news bulletins, and the latest from the ‘Court and Fashionable’ world.

We move now across the Irish sea for our next two titles, in anticipation of the anniversary of the destruction of the Four Courts, which occurred during the Battle of Dublin in June 1922. The destruction of the Four Courts led to the burning of an immense amount of Irish public records, meaning that genealogical research for those with Irish ancestors often can be difficult. However, newspapers can go some way to filling this gap, and so we are delighted this week to welcome some new Irish titles to our collection.

Find our more about using our Irish newspapers for genealogical research in our special blog.

First of our new Irish titles this week is the Gorey Correspondent. First published in the County Wexford market town of Gorey in 1855, this newspaper appeared every Saturday and featured local and miscellaneous news. Neutral in its politics, the Gorey Correspondent circulated in Gorey and beyond in County Wexford.

Gorey Correspondent | 10 January 1880

For 2d every week, the Gorey Correspondent featured such sections as ‘The News Budget,’ which was a summary of the week’s news, ‘Political Gossip,’ and special interest columns devoted to ‘Literature and the Arts,’ ‘Farming and Gardening,’ as well as ‘Sports and Pastimes.’ It also featured ‘Town Talk’ from London, as well as news from further afield, which was featured in its ‘Telegraphic News’ column.

In 1878 the newspaper changed its named to the Gorey Correspondent and Arklow Standard, before ceasing publication in 1892.

Our final new newspaper of the week is the Larne Reporter and Northern Counties Advertiser. Founded as the Larne Weekly Reporter in 1862 in the historic Northern Irish town of Larne, County Antrim, this newspaper appeared every week priced at 1 penny.

A lively and newsy publication, the Larne Reporter featured the latest news from the area, with notices of the latest marriages, and reports from the Board of Guardians, as well as from further afield, with sections devoted to ‘Metropolitan Gossip.’ A veritable news digest, the Larne Reporter also contained such columns as ‘Miscellaneous Intelligence’ and the ‘Epitome of News,’ which delivered to its readers the latest from across Ireland, Britain and the globe.

Larne Reporter and Northern Counties Advertiser | 15 March 1890

Meanwhile, we have also updated another of our Northern Irish titles this week, namely the Fermanagh Times, to which we have added another 10,000 pages, from the 1880s through to the 1920s. We have also added new pages to Dublin titles the Irish Independent and the Evening Irish Times.

Another noteworthy addition of the week is the nearly 40,000 pages we have added to the Morning Herald (London), an early London daily newspaper, now including the last year of its publication, 1868. We would be remiss too if we did not mention the additions we have made to our West Country titles: the Torquay Times, and West Devon Advertiser and the Wells Journal.

Remembering the Matchgirls’ Strike of 1888

In July 1888 a letter appeared in our new title the Croydon Observer, which outlined the ‘deplorable relations’ between match factory owners Bryant & May, and the women and teenage girls they employed.

The letter describes how:

In the factory at Bow large numbers of girls are drawn together, many of them from the poorest strata of society. They receive during a great part of the year a wage so small as to be totally insufficient to maintain a decent existence.

Croydon Observer | 19 July 1888

No evidence has been offered of any adequate attempt on the part of the directors to improve, in the numberless ways open to them, the material and social conditions under which the match girls live and work.

This letter was written on the 19 July 1888, some days after the end of the Matchgirls’ Strike. But how did the Matchgirls’ Strike come about? We delved further into our newspapers to understand more about this seminal women-led industrial action in London’s East End.

Illustrated Police News | 21 July 1888

On 6 July 1888 work had stopped at the Bryant & May match factory in Bow, East London. The Star of Gwent on 13 July relates how:

It has been ascertained that the cause of the strike of the girls at Bryant and May’s Match-making Works, was an order issued by the manager that the non-safety matches should be packed in a different to way to that which has hitherto been in use. The new style, the girls say, would take double the time, and they would consequently only earn half their usual amount per week. 

Star of Gwent | 13 July 1888

One worker, it seemed, had been pushed too far by this command, when coupled with the poor wages earned, and the appalling safety conditions at the factory, which saw the development of long term health conditions like ‘phossy jaw,’ where the bones of the jaw were destroyed as a result of working with white phosphorus. The Star of Gwent continues:

One girl on Thursday refused to put the matches in the boxes in the new way, and for this act she was discharged. The 1,100 girls who came out in the morning supported her in her objection, and in the afternoon an additional 300 girls went out on strike. Some male employees were consequently left idle.

Illustrated Police News | 21 July 1888

Son of company founder Walter Bryant, Frederick Bryant, was of the opinion that ‘the strike at the match works is attributable to the interference of professional agitators, who distribute Socialistic pamphlets to the hands as they leave.’ Indeed, the matchgirls did find support from London’s socialists, but evidence suggests that is was rather the appalling conditions at the factory which were to blame for the strike action.

However, the striking matchgirls did find support from noted social activist Annie Besant, who, according to the Star of Gwent, addressed a crowd of 2,000, and:

…repeated her assertions previously made that she had been informed by the girls in the firm that their average wages ranged from 4s to 13s per week. She thought those were scandalous wages from a firm dividing 34 per cent between its shareholders.

Annie Besant | The Vote | 29 September 1933

Meanwhile, the Star of Gwent relates how:

The strike hands at Messrs Bryant and May’s re-assembled at Bow on Tuesday, and paraded the streets with boxes begging money. They were joined by some men…Last evening there were still 1,300 girls remaining out on strike. A registry of those on strike has been opened, and the first strike payment will be made on Saturday. About £80 has already been received.

But despite these strike payments, by 12 July ‘the match girl’s strike in East London [showed] signs of collapse.’ Bryant & May were by this point replacing the striking hands with new ones. However poorly paid, and however bad the conditions, there were still those willing to work for a pittance and and put their health at risk whilst doing so.

Penny Illustrated Paper | 24 March 1894

On 16 July 1888 the Matchgirls’ Strike ended, with intervention from Annie Besant. Unfair deductions to wages were to be abolished, and meals were allowed to be taken in separate rooms from where the dangerous white phosphorus was used.

It was not until some twenty years later that an Act was passed prohibiting the use of white phosphorus in the manufacture of matches, this Act coming into effect after 31 December 1910. It had taken over twenty years for the voices of the matchgirls to be heard, and it is important that we remember them today, and commemorate their bravery in appealing for better working conditions.

The Matchgirls, a musical inspired by the Matchgirls’ Strike, is performed at London’s Globe | Illustrated London News | 12 March 1966

New Titles
Years Added
Croydon Observer 1864-1895, 1898-1904
Gorey Correspondent 1864-1866, 1870-1872, 1875-1876, 1879-1880, 1882-1884
Larne Reporter and Northern Counties Advertiser 1865-1870, 1875, 1877-1881, 1886-1887, 1890, 1892-1898, 1901-1902
Updated Titles

This week we have updated six of our existing titles.

You can learn more about each of the titles we add to every week by clicking on their names. On each paper’s title page, you can read a FREE sample issue, learn more about our current holdings, and our plans for digitisation.

Years Added
Evening Irish Times 1896-1900
Fermanagh Times 1887, 1889-1890, 1901-1927
Irish Independent 1956
Morning Herald (London) 1823, 1828, 1840-1844, 1846-1852, 1861-1862, 1864
Torquay Times, and South Devon Advertiser 1950
Wells Journal 1872

You can keep up to date with all the latest additions by visiting the recently added page.  You can even look ahead to see what we’re going to add tomorrow.


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