Masthead of the earliest surviving Bath Chronicle newspaper Masthead of the earliest surviving Bath Chronicle newspaper Show image info

Masthead of the earliest surviving Bath Chronicle newspaper

Newspapers

Newspapers offer a unique look at everyday life in the past. Bath is lucky to have papers from the mid-eighteenth century onwards recording the highs and lows of social history.

Bath’s position as a fashionable Georgian resort led to a demand for newspapers with digests of the latest news from the London papers. The first newspaper, the Bath Journal, was published in 1744 followed by several more, resulting in three surviving titles by the end of the century: Bath Journal, Bath Chronicle, and Bath Herald. They contained little more than summaries of London news, a short section of Bath news, notices of Bristol shipping and lots of advertisements.

Producing newspapers was an expensive, risky business, and only one more title was started before 1850 – the Bath & Cheltenham Gazette. The reduction in reporting restrictions and dropping of stamp duties on paper mid-century opened up the market. In the following half century 10 new titles were started – including several daily editions of weekly papers, such as the Bath Chronicle’s daily edition.

Newspapers were originally published in small formats due to the limitations of hand-made paper. They ran to 4 or 5 columns per page and were usually of only 4 pages – i.e. 1 sheet folded in half to reduce paper stamp duty. After this tax on paper was lifted the newspapers expanded in page numbers, and the development of mass-produced wood-pulp paper increased the sheet sizes. Later Victorian papers are often densely printed with verbose reporting on large, broadsheet, pages.

Newspapers reached their heyday at the end of the 19th century and as a result of the rationing restrictions of WWI and competition from the radio, many titles folded or amalgamated. The last title standing was the Bath Chronicle following its incorporation of the Bath Herald in 1925. The Chronicle continued producing daily and weekly editions until 1980 when the three-month long journalists’ strike forced the closure of the weekly. The daily edition dropped to weekly production in September 2007 following pressure from online news reporting.

Access

The Bath Chronicle’s weekly edition is available through the British Newspaper Archive up to 1950, along with titles from the rest of the British Isles (this subscription site is available at the Record Office). The Georgian Newspaper Project has an indexed selection of years of the same paper 1770-1799.

For access to other titles, please use microfilm in the first instance wherever possible due to the fragile nature of the paper, which is easily damaged during handling. We do hold several more titles in hard copy only. Please contact us to request access to these papers as they are not held on site and may take up to 10 working days to retrieve from their stores. If you have the details of an article you would like a digital copy of, please see this page for details on how to order copies.

A full list of our holdings are available on this leaflet.