Tatham and district in local newspapers


The entire contents of the Lancaster Gazette from 1801-94 are now available on-line to Lancashire Libraries ticket holders, searchable by word. Click here to find out how to access this service.

The Lancaster Gazette was Lancaster’s first newspaper and was published by Clark on Market Street. The earliest newspapers date from the 18th century and were usually published on market days, and carried official and private announcements and advertisements (which is why many of them often had the term ‘Advertiser’ in their title) as well as carrying private advertisements and announcements. They tended to rely for local information on official sources for details of corporate affairs, court proceedings, shipping news, etc and on the proprietor or on ‘correspondents’, people who sent in items for publication, sometimes on a regular retainer, sometimes on a fixed sum per line, but often unpaid, so coverage was initially patchy and skewed. They were also an important channel for news on national and international events and regularly recycled information from national papers like The Times (also available on the Lancashire County Libraries website) which had been published from 1785. Taxes on paper and on the press meant that their cover prices were high, so as well as individual readership, public houses and hotels regularly subscribed to papers for their customers to consult, and towns often had ‘reading rooms’, forerunners of public libraries, where people could consult them.

In the heightened political climate of the early 19th century, local papers invariably supported a specific party; in the case of the Gazette it was always the Tories or Conservatives and this needs to be born in mind when reading anything which has a remotely political involvement (including local government). With the expansion of the parliamentary electoral franchise in 1832 to include all occupiers of properties in the borough worth a certain amount (£10 rateable value) per year, and the opening up of local government to democracy with the formation of the Borough (1835) and Poor Law Union (1837), rival papers emerged. The Lancaster Herald was briefly published in 1833-35 followed by the Lancaster Guardian, dedicated to the Liberal cause, from 1837. Further reduction in newspaper and paper duties from the 1850s lowered prices and increased circulation, and encouraged the creation of yet more newspapers such as the Lancaster Observer and Morecambe Chronicle was also published from 1860 to 1944.

By then local news was much more important since the rail and telegraph network had ensured that national papers could be distributed much more quickly, and newspapers began to employ regular reporters to cover set events such as public meetings, local government, court proceedings etc. ‘Correspondents’ continued to supply a lot of incidental local news on societies, individual activities etc., in the much the same was the internet operates today.

The Lancaster Gazette ceased publication in 1894 but by then the Guardian (still in publication) and Chronicle had been joined by the Lancaster Standard and County Advertiser (1893-1909); the short-lived Lancaster Mail was published from 1909-11.

All of these newspapers can be consulted (on microfilm) in the Local Studies section of Lancaster Library.

Coverage of rural areas like Tatham and Wray in the local press increased over the course of the century and was often irregular. Nevertheless there are numerous references to individuals, places and people covering a wide range of activities: local government and church affairs; the state of trade; obituaries; court cases; sales of properties; announcements etc.

Some Gazette articles raise more questions than they answer. For example:

  • Who was Benjamin Robinson of Tatham, whose death in 1812 prompted someone to send in a poem in his memory?
  • Does anyone know anything about the Smith family of the Green whose son was struck by lightning in 1874?
  • Did you know that foot and mouth disease hit the area in 1883, with outbreaks at Robert Newton’s at Parkside and Thomas Carr’s at Featherstone (?Feathermire).
  • Does anyone have information about the the Moorcock as a public house? In 1877 its landlord, William Wrathall and two of his customers, Robert Scambler and Thomas Hodgson, were fined for drinking out of hours at 3.30 on a Sunday afternoon, although another customer, John Scambler, escaped prosecution by claiming he was a ‘traveller’ and, as such, entitled to refreshment out of normal opening hours. One wonders why the county police were patrolling that area in the first place?!

Obituaries of local worthies, such as James Thomson of Poplar House, Wray, in 1885 contain a wealth of detail, although don’t mention that he was a property owner in Tatham as well, owning Foss Bank for much of his life.

From 1889 to 1891, "Cross Fleury" (R.E.K. Rigbye) contributed a regular column under the title "Round Lancaster Castle" full of historical information about Lancaster's hinterland. He had a system, but little discipline, so this guide may be helpful in finding information on Tatham and neighbouring parishes. Search for "Round Lancaster Castle" (including the quotation marks) and narrow your search as required using the dates below:

  From To
Hornby 23-11-1889 12-7-1890
Melling 19-7-1890 6-9-1890
Wray 4-10-1890 22-11-1890
Wennington 22-11-1890 29-11-1890
"Wennington" (Tatham, mostly Robert Hall) 6-12-1890 13-12-1890
Wennington Hall 27-12-1890  
Tatham 3-1-1891 14-2-1891

Tatham History Society would be interested in receiving details of any particular items you identify in your searches related to the area with the intention of building up a database of life in the parish and surrounding area from the local press.

Would any members be interested in joining a small group to explore the on-line Lancaster Gazette in detail, and transcribe details of what it contains?

MW 2010
Page created 7-4-2010. Latest update 7-4-2010
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