Headlines from History – The British Newspaper Archive Blog

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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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The King Is Dead, Long Live The Queen – The Newspapers of 6 February 1952

On the 6 February 1952 the world was stunned by the news of the death of King George VI. His 25 year-old daughter, the Princess Elizabeth, succeeded him. In this special blog post we take a look at how the news was broken on that day 67 years ago, and how it impacted the country and indeed the rest of the world. Coventry Evening Telegraph | 6 February 1952 The Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail reported the King’s passing in the following

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‘The Thames is Now Both a Fair and Market Too’ – Discovering the Frost Fair of 1814

It was the winter of 1813-1814. Napoleon retreated from Moscow, and the Thames froze over between London Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge from 27th December 1813 to 5th February 1814. And onto the frozen surface of the river arrived the ‘Frost Fair,’ an event that continued a centuries old tradition, and proved to be the last of its type. Using the Archive, it is possible to discover some fascinating contemporary accounts of this last Frost Fair, and also, by searching newspapers

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The Regent’s Park Skating Tragedy – 16 January 1867

On 16 January 1867 Regent’s Park in London was witness to the worst ice-skating tragedy in British history. In this special blog post, we take a look at how the newspapers in our Archive can help us understand exactly what happened that day, by hearing from the voices of those who were caught up in the catastrophe. In the Luton Times & Advertiser, 19 January 1867, the following is described: At about a quarter-past four, when a large number of

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Guest Post – How pupils from the High School of Dundee connected with the First World War, by Niall Joss

We are delighted this week to feature a very special blog post from the High School of Dundee, written by Niall Joss, which explores how pupils connected with the First World War through the British Newspaper Archive and a war memorial. How did the British Newspaper Archive and a war memorial inspire primary school children to connect with the First World War? With the centenary of the end of First World War just passed, how can children born in the

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