Newspapers in Chester

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On 2nd October 1798 the Chester Courant reported that the astonomer William Herschel had stated that the sun was covered in luminous fluids, had mountains up to 300 miles high and probably inhabited.

Broster describes them as follows:

  • There are two Newfpapers publifted Weekly: one on Tuefday Morning the othyer on Thurfday Morning. The Publishers of both Papers have Newfmen who go into all the adjacent Counties and Parcels are taken in at the Printing Offices.

Apparently the "Newsmen" would deliver parcels as well as collectng news.

Joseph Hemingway who edited the Chester Courant and the Chester Chronicle in turn, thought that Chester could not support a third paper. His point was proved by the Chester Gazette, which lasted from 1836 only to 1840. Earlier efforts to maintain a third newspaper has also failed in the face of the entrenched position of the Chronicle and the Courant. The Chester Herald (1810–13) did not long outlast the death of its founder Thomas Cutter in 1812. The Whig Chester Guardian, despite influential support, was published only from 1817 to 1823.

Conditions changed with the repeal of the stamp duty in 1855. The Cheshire Observer was begun in 1854 by Henry Smith and Henry Mills. It started as politically neutral but evolved by the late 1850s into a popular Liberal paper, changing ownership several times. Both the Observer and the Courant were taken over in 1891 by the Cheshire and North Wales Newspaper Co., a new venture whose Conservative backers included the duke of Westminster and the city's M.P., Robert Yerburgh. The Observer was published on Friday and Saturday and the Courant on Wednesday, later Tuesday. The group closed the Courant, whose circulation was falling sharply, in 1984, then passed into the ownership of the Chronicle, which ran the Observer as a mid-week paper before closing it in 1989 and instead starting Cheshire Tonight, an evening paper which lasted for only 18 months in 1989–90.

R. M. Thomas started the Chester Record as a popular Liberal paper in 1857 and by 1864 was selling 1,200 copies a week in the city in vigorous competition with the Observer. The Cheshire News, begun in 1866, was incorporated a year later into A. Mackie's Chester Guardian, founded in 1867 and politically unaligned. It was published as the Chester News and Guardian 1867–8, took over the Record in 1868, and appeared as the Chester Guardian, Record, and News 1868–9, the Chester Guardian and Record 1869–1946, and the Chester Guardian from 1946 to its demise in 1956.

Chester Weekly Journal

The Chester Weekly Journal is the earliest known of any Chester newspaper. The first issue of this little paper probably appeared early in May, 1721. The publisher was William Cooke. At that time local news was considered mere gossip which everyone was supposed to know, so the Journal contains no local news beyond the prices of corn on the previous Saturday in Chester. All the news given is "foreign", or from London, or "From written Letters." Examples of the information provided included:

  • The number of males christened in London during the previous week is given at 159, and of females 160, in all 319; and of males buried 208, and of females 188, in all 396. "Decrease in Burials this week 91."
  • "The King had much Diversion last Monday in the great Park and Forrest of Windsor, his Majesty having killed 2 Brace and a half of Pheasants and one Brace and a half of Partridges."

Chester Courant

The Courant's office is marked on McGahey's map of 1853.

The Chester Courant first appeared as "Adamses Chester Weekly Courant", in 1730, at which time, according to Hemingway, the Chester Weekly Journal had ceased to exist. In fact, Cooke was evidently forced out of business by the rival title, which was established by another Chester printer, Roger Adams.

Hemingway writes of the original newpaper publishers son:

  • "A descendant of the original proprietor of Adams's Weekly Courant is thus noticed by Nichols in his Literary Anecdotes;- "The eventful life of Orion Adams would occupy a volume of more than ordinary dimensions He was a native of Manchester and son of Mr Roger Adams the original proprietor and publisher of The Chester Courant to which property he would by right have succeeded had not his instability and eccentricities prevented it For the last fifty years his life had been a lamentable scene of chequered events. In Birmingham (with his partner Boden) and at Manchester, Chester, Plymouth and Dublin he may be remembered as a master printer and there are very few London or provincial printing offices in the kingdom where he has not occasionally worked as a journeyman. For several years he practised a kind of itinerant or pedestrian pilgrimage and frequently after he had attained his 70th year walked from London to Chester and back with a heart as light as his pocket; for under all adversities his temper was cheerful obliging and friendly. He was intimately acquainted with many of the first characters of the stage particularly Barry Mossop Ryder with whose father as a printer he was in partnership in Dublin and many others and at the memorable Stratford jubilee Orion Adams was distinguished as a brilliant character from Birmingham in his own carriage though in a few months after such was the versatility of his fortune he sunk into the humble character of a distributor of play bills to an Itinerant company. He died in a very obscure lodging near Chester in April 1797 aged 80 and in great poverty." Thus far Mr Nichols - The author had a perfect knowledge of a son of the above Orion who bore the same name and was brought up a journeyman printer. The last time he saw him was in London in the year 1820, and if he be now living, is probably about 80 years of age. With him I believe will expire the last of the Adams connected with the establishment of the Chester Courant"

After the deaths of Adams in 1741 and his widow Elizabeth in 1771 the business passed to their daughter Dorothy and her husband William Monk, formerly Adams's apprentice. Their son and grandsons retained control until 1832. The paper changed its name to the Chester Courant in 1793. John Dixon, owner from 1832, modernized the newspaper and reduced its price. Later difficulties led to its acquisition by the Cheshire and North Wales Newspaper Co. in 1891. It was published mid-week. The Courant was vigorously Tory in the later 1740s and had a Conservative editorial line throughout the 19th century.

It ceased publication in 1984.

Chester Chronicle

The Chronicle started in 1775.

The Chester Chronicle was first issued on the 2nd May, 1775 as the Chester Chronicle; or Commercial Intelligencer. It was begun by the printer John Poole in and at first struggled to survive, changing its day of publication several times before settling on Friday in 1776. It was rescued in 1783 by John Fletcher (d. 1835), whose long life, business acumen, and growing political influence in Chester ensured its continuance. Hemingway writes:

  • "On the 2nd of May 1775 the Chester Chronicle was commenced by Messrs Barker Poole & Co under whose joint proprietary it was carried on for about ten years During this period the journal never acquired a robust stability of constitution and was in danger of expiring probably from the prescriptions of too many doctors when it was taken under the auspices of Mr John Fletcher the present proprietor by whose management and attentions it has risen into a healthful maturity."

At some time between the end of 1776 and the beginning of 1789 it was renamed The Chester Chronicle and General Advertiser; it became simply the Chester Chronicle for the first time in July of that year.

Hanshall states thst:

  • "This gentleman for many years conducted the Chester Chronicle with what ability the recording voice of public opinion can now speak with admiration. About the year 1795 Mr Cowdroy commenced the Manchester Gazette and conducted it on those principles of liberty and if we may be allowed the expression constitutional whiggism which were ever his characteristics He died in 1814 at the age of 63 lamented by all who knew him Mr Cowdroy was born in Chester and was a man of infinite humour his company was courted by all classes who paid alike the tribute to his invincible wit. In 1791 he compiled and wrote a very interesting sketch of the History of his native city into which he threw all that pungency of punning the spontaneous fruit of his prolific brain The author of this little treatise was well acquainted with him."

In 1814 it became the Chester Chronicle and Cheshire and North Wales General Advertiser and kept that title for the next century-and-a-half. It was renamed The Chester Chronicle in 1964, and dropped the initial "The" in 1993. There are two editions: the Chester City edition and the Chester Country edition.

The Chester press still continues to report important news.

The Chronicle was a strongly Whig paper and retained its Liberal affiliation after the Home Rule crisis.

The Chronicle group also published a free newspaper from 1970. Initially called the Chester Mail, it closed in 1985 but was replaced successively by the Chester Express Mail (1986–7), Chester Mail (1987–9), and Chester Herald and Post (from 1989).

Much of the content is available online.

Chester Evening Leader

The Chester Evening Leader was launched in 1973 and has been cited as Chester's first daily newspaper. However the Chester Daily Guardian appeared for 18 months in 1884–5. The Evening Leader began life as the Wrexham Evening Leader, which also later spawned the Flint and North Wales Coast editions. It became "Chester First" but now appears to be associated with the Chester Standard.

The Chester Standard

The Chester Standard is a weekly free newspaper. It is distributed within the Chester area. It was established in 1980. Since July 2006 the newspaper can be bought by visitors to Chester in many shops, however it is still delivered free to residents. The UK's Newspaper Society voted the Chester Standard Free Weekly Newspaper of the Year in the North West, North East and Yorkshire 2008. It is now available online in PDF format;

The future of the press in Chester

The "news industry" has changed enormously in the first decades of the 21st Century. Many local printed titles have vanished, sometimes being replaced by "hyper-local", advert supported, free publications (such as "Hoole Roundabout"). These generally have high production values and are delivered free of charge to typically 10k-5k households, however they may rely extensively on "user generated content". Other "hyper-local" media include the purely online (such as "Nextdoor" - replacing the "small ads" section of the papers and actually quite good if you want to find a reliable plumber). "Blogs", "Tweets" and other social media, such as "Facebook", have also replaced the printed press as sources of "news" (and sometimes so-called "false news"). These changes can have some negative consequences: "news" may only be circulated to relatively closed groups and the hey-day of local-issue journalism which reaches most of the population of small towns has passed. Full-time investigative journalists, with an established reputation and a network of contacts, are far more likely to get to the truth of a local issue than a local "blogger" who can generally be safely ignored. And as for restaurant reviews, it is all too easy for rivals and other foes to post "one star" reviews and "friends" (or even staff/owners) to give glowing five star reviews. For example there was an article in The Independent in 2016 about an eatery which had over 20 "one star" reviews on "Trip Advisor" before it even opened! - the owner was an ex-food critic and this is an excellent example of revenge being "a dish best served cold".

On the positive side, many newspaper archives (or "morgues" to use their more colourful title) are now appearing online - some of which are free to use and go back to the 19th Century. See for example: Hoole in newspapers around 1900 - as an example of "Welsh Newspapers Online" - incomplete as regards year-on-year coverage, but it is free and fascinating reading. For other sources of old newspapers the Records Office in Duke Street and the Heritage Center at St Michael's on Bridge Street have microfilm collections (and very helpful staff), but the viewing equipment and their rolls of film are ageing (and the facility has now been closed). The ChesterWiki article on Charles Moston's "murder" on the Chester Canal would not have been possible without such resources being available.

Quick Links to the online "papers" in Chester

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