Headlines from History – The British Newspaper Archive Blog

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‘A Panorama Equal to that of Fairyland’ – Remembering the Orchards of Old

‘Apple orchards have been a familiar characteristic of the European countryside for thousands of years,’ writes Edward Hyams in a 1974 article for the Illustrated London News. Indeed, he claims they have been in existence for 6,000 years, as an integral part of rural life and a mainstay of the rural economy. But by the late twentieth century, many orchards were beginning to disappear from the landscape, and with them, another way of rural life faded into memory. In this

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A Poacher’s Progress – Attitudes to Poaching in Rural Britain

Historically poachers have often been ascribed ‘a good deal of romance’ – but are they deserving of such a description? In this special blog post, using articles and illustrations from the British Newspaper Archive, we will investigate this notion, as well as looking at the crueler side of this antiquated countryside pursuit. Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News | 31 October 1908 An article in a July 1917 edition of the Illustrated Sporting & Dramatic News does much to propagate this romanticised

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‘A Hard Lot to Labour’ – A Look at the History of Straw Plaiting in Rural Britain

If you’ve got an agricultural labourer in your family tree, chances are you’ll have an ancestor who practiced straw plaiting. Straw plaiting was a cottage industry that saw its heyday in eighteenth and nineteenth century rural Britain, and was in the main part practiced by women and children. In this special blog, using articles and pictures from The Archive, we’ll take a look at the history of this discipline, from its heyday to its eventual decline. An article in the

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The Hop-Pickers’ Holiday – A Collision of City and Rural Life

At the beginning of September 1936 the Nottingham Evening Post describes ‘an invasion’ taking place in Kent. But this wasn’t an invasion of a military kind. It was in fact an invasion of hop-pickers, arriving in the county for the hop-picking season. The annual trek of 40,000 hop-pickers to the green fields of Kent has begun, with an invasion of caravans, horse drawn lorries, cars, covered wagons, perambulators and even London taxis. Our photo shows hop-pickers at work at Paddock

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‘A Saturnalia of Nondescript Noise and Nonconformity’ – The Rise and Fall of the Charter Fair

Using newspapers from The Archive, in this special blog we take a look at the history of Charter Fairs, from their inception in the medieval period to their continuation in twentieth century Britain. In his June 1955 article for The Sphere, entitled A Partial Eclipse of the Fair, Brian Vesey-Fitzgerald notes how ‘Fairs are of very ancient origin,’ and have been part of British life for thousands of years. A Charter Fair was a fair endorsed by the Crown. Crown-issued

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‘To Be Queen o’ the May’ – The History of the May Queen

In this special blog we use the remarkable photographs and illustrations contained in our Newspaper Archive to trace the tradition of the May Queen over one hundred and fifty years, as well as exploring the origins of this fascinating ritual. We start out at Wymering, just outside of Portsmouth, in 1867. It was here, in the ‘latter part of the month of merrie May’, that a May Queen was crowned. The Illustrated Times tell us that the event is looked

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The Mysterious Affair of Elizabeth Canning

On the first day of January 1753 maidservant Elizabeth Canning disappeared. She returned to her mother’s house some twenty-eight days later, emaciated and bedraggled, claiming that she had been held in a room against her will. As the case went to court, and her captors were arrested, many came to disbelieve Elizabeth Canning’s tale, resulting in Canning herself going on trial for perjury. In 1754 the Manchester Mercury comments on the question of whether ‘Elizabeth Canning is or is not

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“Who Put Bella Down the Wych Elm?” – An Unsolved Mystery Seventy-Six Years On

The discovery of skeletal remains in a wych elm tree during the April of 1943 remains one of the most compelling mysteries of British crime history. Who was the woman whose remains were found in the wych elm tree? Who was responsible for the perplexing graffiti which began to appear a year after the discovery? Was espionage or witchcraft involved? Using pages from the Archive, we dive into this fascinating story, which, as the Sunday Mirror comments in 1944, is

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Necessity versus Nostalgia – The Destruction of the Country House

Held in 1974 at the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Destruction of the Country House exhibition highlighted how stately homes across the British Isles had been demolished throughout the course of the twentieth century, in what some called a ‘cultural tragedy.’ In this special blog, we will explore how the British Newspaper Archive can shed more light upon this curious phenomenon, which saw approximately one country house being demolished every five days in 1955. Illustrated London News | 1 November 1974

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Rose Heilbron – Legal Superstar of the 1950s

‘If you want something to write, write about Rose Heilbron. She’s the greatest lawyer in history.’ These were the words of Jack Comer as he left the Old Bailey in September 1955, having been defended by 39-year-old Rose Heilbron QC, and subsequently acquitted. Who was Rose Heilbron? Born in August 1914, she was the first woman to win a scholarship at Grey’s Inn, one of the first two women to be appointed to the King’s Bench, the first woman to

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