Open Book Publishers logo Open Access logo
  • button
  • button
  • button
GO TO...
book cover


© 2018 Andrew Hobbs, CC BY 4.0

Karl Marx was not always right (he thought world revolution would begin in Preston, for example), but his throw-away assessment of the impact of ending Stamp Duty taxation on newspapers in 1855 was correct, forecasting a

revolution in the provincial press caused by the abolition of stamp duty. In Glasgow alone four new daily penny papers are to appear. In Liverpool and Manchester the papers that have hitherto only appeared weekly or twice weekly are to turn into dailies at 3d., 2d., and 1d. The emancipation from London of the provincial press, the decentralisation of journalism was, in fact, the main aim of the Manchester School in their fierce and protracted campaign against stamp duty.1

‘Decentralisation’, a desire attributed to Richard Cobden, John Bright and other northern Liberal MPs of the ‘Manchester School’, may be too strong a word, but for the next eighty years, at the heart of almost every town and city, on the high street or town square, there was a miniature version of Fleet Street, the London newspaper publishing centre. The cover of this book shows two rival Manchester dailies, the Guardian and the Courier, on Cross Street in 1902; similarly, in Liverpool in the 1860s, five of the city’s twelve newspapers jostled with each other on Castle Street, the Mail at 11, South Castle Street, then Gore’s General Advertiser at 4 Castle Street, the Chronicle at 32, the Albion at 36 and the Courier at 60 Castle Street.

Fifteen years after Marx’s prediction, a trade magazine, the Printers’ Register, declared that:

Nothing, in the history of the Newspaper Press of the nineteenth century, is more remarkable than the rapid development of provincial journalism since the abolition of the Paper, the Stamp, and the Advertisement Duties. Every city, town, village, and we may almost say hamlet, has now its local organ.2

In every place, anywhere between one and a dozen local newspapers thrived as catalysts and chronicles of small (and not so small) centres of distinctive local cultures. These regions, cities, towns and villages were connected to each other and to England’s biggest newspaper centre, London, as nodes in a national network (a ‘national’ made from many ‘local’ elements). Books, magazines and London newspapers were important, but the national reach of the local press gave it a greater influence on Victorian culture than any other type of print. The local newspaper shaped popular understandings of politics, poetry, government (local and central), citizenship, fiction, and history, for example. Such claims, which promise to rewrite a great deal of nineteenth-century cultural history, can only be made by starting with Victorian readers. The vast majority of them preferred the local newspaper, which, in aggregate, outsold London papers until the 1930s at least.

There had been more provincial newspapers than London newspapers since the late eighteenth century. By 1856 there were more than twice as many provincial papers (370, compared to 152 London papers). As Marx predicted, the number of provincial titles nearly doubled after the abolition of compulsory stamp duty (see Table 0.1 below), while the increase in London publications, by about 50 per cent, was smaller (with half of that increase due to local newspapers such as the Hackney Gazette, in London’s districts, as opposed to larger papers such as The Times that circulated more widely). By the end of the century, provincial titles (exluding London local papers) had increased six-fold, rising from 224 to 1340, while those published from London had roughly doubled, going from 131 to 298 (if we exclude London local papers). Table 0.1 also shows that the weekly or bi-weekly provincial paper, the focus of this book, was by far the most common type, accounting for all but seven provincial papers in 1856, and even at the end of the century, there were about ten times as many provincial weeklies and bi-weeklies as provincial daily papers. These figures underestimate the number of papers, as not all of them appeared in the newspaper directories used to compile this table.3 The greater numbers of provincial titles, and their networked, co-operative working methods, gave them greater economic and political power as a body. As Victoria Gardner has pointed out, the government consulted provincial rather than metropolitan newspaper publishers when they were considering changes in newspaper taxation, as early as 1797.4 They continued to have more influence on government as a trade body, in discussions of Stamp Duty reduction in 1836, and in the unprecedented nationalisation of a private business, the telegraphs, on their terms, in 1870. In consequence, Julius Reuter, the owner of the world’s largest news agency, made an exclusive deal with the provincial press rather than the more prestigious but smaller London press.5

Of course, numbers of titles are not the same as copies sold or read, but provincial papers outsold London ones from the 1860s until around the 1950s. Before the abolition of compulsory stamp duty in 1855, London papers outsold provincial ones, with 65 million London papers sold in 1854, compared to 25 million for provincial titles.6 But ten years later the situation was reversed, with 340 million copies of provincial papers sold per year, compared to 206 million London papers.7 In 1920, the circulation of the provincial morning and evening papers alone, ignoring weekly papers, was still one-third greater than the London dailies.8 Records from newsagents, reading rooms, libraries and early oral history interviews all confirm that the vast majority of the population preferred the local paper. A Bradford teacher, the father of the novelist J. B. Priestley, for example, ‘never dreamt of taking anything but our morning penny paper, which was then a very dignified organ of [local] opinion’.9 For most of the population, provincial newspapers were not on the fringes of nineteenth-century print culture, but at the very heart of it.

Table 0.1. Numbers of English newspapers by place of publication, 1846–96.10























Weekly / bi-weekly







London local





London total



















Weekly / bi-weekly







Provincial total







All newspapers







This book begins with these readers, devoting four chapters to who they were (Chapter 1), where they read (Chapter 2), when they read (Chapter 3) and what they read (Chapter 6). This focus on the circumstances of reading the local paper helps us to understand what the Victorian local paper was. It acknowledges the power of the reader, individually and as a community, to shape the text and to use it in their own way, whilst also identifying some of the inequalities in power between reader and publisher.11

A Counter-Factual

It was not inevitable that there would be English local newspapers, or that they would prove so popular. Many countries have no history of an independent, networked provincial press, and from the 1850s to the 1870s, some publishers and commentators wished for a more centralised press, whilst others believed that the local newspaper was threatened by the advance of the railway and the telegraph. In 1851, Frederick Knight Hunt, then sub-editor of the London Daily News, told a select committee that the abolition of the compulsory newspaper stamp would free London and big-city newspapers to become ‘national’, with only a minor role for smaller local newspapers:

a paper emanating from the metropolis, having a manifest national character, is much more likely to be useful over the country […] instead of entering into little local bickerings […] there would be little papers like the “Cheltenham Looker-On,” to give local news, but papers emanating from large towns, such as London, Manchester, and Liverpool, would circulate over the country, and give more than ever a tone to national opinion.12

In 1863, Mortimer Collins, former editor of the Lancaster Gazette, now a poet and novelist, wrote: ‘The country newspaper is essentially a thing of the past […] We suspect that the days will soon arrive when there will, with an exception or two, be no country newspapers in England; when London will supply all the journalism of the kingdom.’13 In the same year, an anonymous writer described ‘the dream […] of enthusiastic persons, that some three or four leviathan London, Manchester, or Dublin prints, sold at a penny, will be carried everywhere by rail and steamboat, to the final extinguishment of local journalism’.14 The Provincial Newspaper Society used these fears in the late 1860s, in their lobbying for the nationalisation of the private telegraph companies.15

The growing number of successful local newspaper proprietors knew that these fears were unfounded, as they watched their circulations increase. The spread of the railways from the 1840s onwards probably helped to distribute London papers more than provincial ones, but they also speeded up the arrival of London news (as distinct from newspapers) in provincial towns. The news service provided by the ‘intelligence departments’ of the private telegraph companies from the 1850s was slow and sometimes inaccurate and irrelevant, but was a boon to those provincial papers that could afford it; they received the news in their own town at the same time as it arrived in the London newspaper offices, but it was only a matter of minutes to typeset, print and publish that news, whereas the London papers, containing the same news, took hours to arrive by train. The penny newspaper stamp doubled as a tax and a postage charge, so had provided cheap postal distribution for London papers, but it was simply a tax for those provincial papers which had no need of the post because they sold within a restricted geographical area; its change to a postal charge only, in 1855, made local newspapers cheaper whilst significantly cutting the provincial circulation of London papers. The nationalisation of the telegraphs in 1870, and the creation of the Press Association, a co-operative news agency controlled by the provincial press, provided news from London, the rest of the UK and from around the world at preferential rates for local papers.16 Finally, the advent of slightly earlier ‘newspaper trains’ from London in the 1870s was a favourite topic for journalists at the time, but had little impact on London newspaper sales in the regions.17 These conditions helped the local press to flourish, but they do not explain its popularity.

Why Were Local Newspapers so Popular?

So why were post-1855 provincial newspapers far more successful than London papers? Few people have asked this question, about one of the most significant developments in nineteenth-century print culture, and even fewer have suggested answers. As the provincial newspaper industry shrinks in the early twenty-first century, its phenomenal popularity in the past can now be seen as contingent and puzzling, rather than taken for granted. Was its popularity due to the growth of Victorian localism, expressed in newly incorporated boroughs, neo-classical town halls and associational culture? Perhaps, but those trends began decades before 1855, and a strong interest in local news was constant throughout the century. Was it because of a differential growth in literacy, with the provinces catching up with London?18 Perhaps, but why did these new readers choose the local paper? Or was it the faster news service that local daily papers could provide, thanks to the shorter distances between publishing office and reader, in each local market, compared to the distance between London publishing offices and provincial readers? Perhaps, but the local press (most of it weekly rather than daily) was in the ascendant before many papers began to use telegraphic news, and certainly before the launch of the Press Association in 1870.

This book argues that, for morning and evening newspapers in particular, the national structure of the local press meant that local Fleet Streets could deliver news to local readers faster than papers produced on London’s Fleet Street. But more importantly, the provincial press was so popular in the second half of the nineteenth century because it built upon, and built, local and regional identities.

George Gissing’s 1891 novel New Grub Street gives the impression of a London-centred press in the Victorian era, but, as Margaret Stetz notes, newspapers and books were published from many centres.19 While Stetz’s focus is on a global network, this book explores a national network of local publishing (Chapters 4 and 5). This paradox, the national aspect of the local press, was a commonplace in the second half of the nineteenth century. As an anonymous contributor to the Dublin University Magazine explained in 1863:

We are not to regard the newspapers of this highly developed country as so many distinct productions, each independent of the other; they all hang together, and in union form a system of intelligence which ministers to good government, social peace, and the interests of trade.20

In the twenty-first century we are comfortable with the idea of a national thing made up of local things, such as a national House of Commons full of MPs from constituencies around the country, a national Church of England comprising local parishes, or a national rail network made up of pieces of local track connecting local stations. Graham Law’s work on national publication of serial fiction through ad hoc syndicates of local newspapers reminds us of this local/national structure, and I have found Simon Potter’s work on international press systems and networks useful for understanding the structure of the English local press.21 However, many historians struggle with this idea when applied to nineteenth-century newspapers, falling back instead on anachronistic twenty-first-century concepts.

We need to be clear about the meanings of ‘local’ and ‘national’ in the nineteenth century. Victorian ‘local’ newspapers were distributed within one district or group of districts, as distinct from county or regional papers and their wider circulation areas. However, there is no simple division between local, sub-regional, county and regional papers, partly because such areas are difficult to define exactly, and partly because of changes over time in the nature and extent of the circulation areas of newspapers. Nineteenth-century local papers were less local in their content and control than has been assumed, while the other side of the twenty-first-century binary, the ‘national’ press, is an anachronism when applied to the nineteenth century. The London papers were more regional than national; they combined coverage of national institutions based in London with coverage of London and the south-east.22 In 1870 Walter Bagehot despaired of the provincialism of London papers: ‘Of municipal news there is next to nothing, — of county news nothing at all unconnected with imperial politics […] Manchester might be almost on the verge of civil war without London knowing that anything had occurred in Manchester.’23 Consequently, the terms ‘local’, ‘regional’, ‘metropolitan’ and ‘national’ must be used carefully, specifying whether these terms apply to the place of production, to the circulation area, the content or merely editorial aspirations; in the twenty-first century, media regulators have similar problems when trying to define ‘local’.24 Readers wanted national information as well as local news, and much of the content of the ‘local’ press was about non-local topics. This included significant amounts of material such as Parliamentary reports, foreign news and snippets from around the UK, leader columns on national politics, serialised fiction and so on.

Conversely, the term ‘national’ as we understand it today (implying a large, nationwide circulation, containing news from across the nation plus Parliamentary and foreign news) was barely used. A search of forty-eight digitised London and provincial newspapers found only ten instances of the phrase ‘national newspaper’ used in the modern sense, across the whole century.25 The twenty-first-century meaning of ‘national’ newspaper was very occasionally applied in the nineteenth century, to the Chartist Northern Star and to the Times. It was not used to describe other titles, even the handful that were truly national in content and distribution, such as Cobbett’s Political Register, Sunday papers such as Reynolds’ News, Lloyd’s Weekly Newspaper and the News of the World, the Illustrated London News or trade and professional titles, such as Alliance News (an anti-alcohol temperance periodical) or the Lancet (a professional newspaper for doctors). Newspaper publishers did not use the term ‘national’, with the Newspaper Press Directory continuing to use the classification of ‘London’ rather than ‘national’ newspapers well into the twentieth century.26 ‘National’ publications could be published from the provinces, of course, such as the Northern Star from Leeds, the Band of Hope journal Onward and the football weekly Athletic News, both from Manchester. And there were hybrid national-local publications such as Anglican parish magazines, their ‘middles’ produced centrally, to be supplemented by local editorial and advertising, on the model of partly printed newspapers.27

The continuing use of the term ‘local newspaper’, and the survival of many nineteenth-century local titles, mislead us into thinking that their twenty-first-century content, their system of production and their current place in society is similar to the situation 150 years ago. It is not. They contained more national news, more scholarly and literary content (George Eliot and the Brontës were first published in local newspapers), and more general information, and were more ‘magaziney’ than today’s local papers. They were more likely to be owned by a local proprietor rather than being part of a national chain, they were more politically partisan, were more open to ‘amateur’ local contributors, their buildings were visible in town and city centres, not hidden on commercial estates on the edge of town, and they had more competition from other local papers, but less competition from London papers or other types of media. Thus there have been big changes in the logistical, structural side of the local newspaper; but in other ways, there is continuity.

One thing stays relatively constant. We base ourselves somewhere in the world, for family, work or social reasons. We develop affinities with some places where we come to consider ourselves ‘local’, part of a ‘community’ or feel a ‘sense of place’ […] information about our ‘place’ in the world is important for us to navigate our day-to-day lives or to fulfil a basic desire to belong somewhere and be connected to others.28

In their 2017 book, Kristy Hess and Lisa Waller argue that ‘place still matters in a digital world’, and this connection between people and a particular place radiates from every page of a Victorian local newspaper. They expressed it and exploited it. For good or ill, they used their power to define each place.29 Belatedly, media history is beginning to adopt the ‘spatial turn’ and acknowledge that the category of place is crucial — history always happens somewhere, after all. Victorians were not disembodied repositories of ideas: they created, and were created by, particular localities, counties, regions and nations.30 The study of journalism lags behind literary studies in acknowledging the importance of sense of place: T. S. Eliot wrote that he doubted ‘whether a poet or novelist can be universal without being local too.’31 Fiona Stafford believes that Wordsworth’s Lyrical Ballads helped Charles Lamb ‘to recognise what he already felt — that local attachment depended, not on conventional ideas of picturesque beauty, but on the psychological bonds fostered there’, in the same way that love for one’s mother does not depend on the beauty of the mother.32 The growing interest, among historians and literary scholars (but not geographers, surprisingly) in the relationship between place and less literary print can lead to new understandings:33

place is not just a thing in the world but a way of understanding the world […] When we look at the world as a world of places, we see different things. We see attachments and connections between people and place. We see worlds of meaning and experience.34

Some writers have explored how newspapers ‘wrote’ urban places. Peter Fritzsche’s insightful exploration of how daily papers represented and influenced Berlin from 1900 to 1914, and David Henkin’s study of newspapers and other ephemeral texts in pre-Civil War New York City, both reveal the complexity of newspapers and their connection to place. However, they focus on the writing only, and conjure up implied readers and their responses purely from the texts.35 Sense of place is much more localised in Mary Shannon’s study of one Victorian London street, Wellington Street, where Dickens, Reynolds and other writers, journalists and publishers congregated.36 For once, London is specific and local, rather than vaguely national, somehow above geography. But again, Shannon concentrates on the production and circulation of texts, rather than their reading.

Newspapers and other ephemeral texts could create communities, these writers all agree. They take Benedict Anderson’s idea of an ‘imagined community’ of other readers and apply it to the physical community of a city or even a street.37 In English towns, readers spoke and wrote of feeling connected to other readers of the same newspaper, even though they had never met most of them. Mid-twentieth-century Chicago School sociologists found similar connections between newspaper reading and sense of community in the United States.38 However, we should be wary of over-claiming for the power of print — as we will see in Chapter 7, there were many other factors in the creation and sustenance of local identities.

While the writing of place is a well-established idea, the reading of place has received less attention. Christine Pawley’s analysis of print culture in the town of Osage, Iowa in the late nineteenth century explores how ‘Osage inhabitants created and re-created their own print culture, both literally — by producing printed artifacts — and metaphorically — by producing distinct meanings and interpretations of print.’ She describes how local reading and publishing patched together a sense of the national from the local.39 Pawley includes some discussion of reading, but there is little about the reading of newspapers, beyond general description and implied readership deduced from the text. Another study of one town, Lancaster in northern England, by David Barton and Mary Hamilton, is an ethnographic project from the late twentieth century, which focuses on real readers, and comes to the same conclusions as Janowitz, that the local newspaper is important in people’s lives, creating a sense of community.40

It is peculiarly difficult to empathise with someone else’s sense of place, even if we have an attachment to a different place; it is only tangible from ‘inside’ a place, and meaningless or invisible to outsiders.41 If we have no commitment to any place, local papers seem trivial; but the historical evidence presented in this book says that others felt differently. On historical grounds alone, the trivial and the mundane offer us the flavour of everyday life from a time now gone. Dickens’s mockery of the Eatanswill Gazette and the Eatanswill Independent in the Pickwick Papers is well known; but his journal All The Year Round defended the local press and its place in local democracy. Referring to a comically detailed local newspaper account of the ancient custom of beating the bounds, the anonymous writer (possibly Dickens) adds: ‘these things may appear very small, but life is made up of small things.’42 James Carey encourages us to pay attention to the small things which together constitute everyday communication.43 Local newspapers used this type of communication in an explicit project of promoting local identity, or appealing to local patriotism, as Aled Jones and Patrick Joyce have noted, often using simple, even banal techniques.44 Chapters 7, 8 and 9 of this book analyse some of the techniques for evoking sense of place. Indeed, one of these — the inclusion of hundreds of names of local people — is the chief attraction of digitised Victorian local newspapers for today’s family historians.

This book charts new territory in recovering the readers’ uses of the local newspaper’s local content, to build and sustain local identities (Chapter 10). Readers used the local paper individually, such as the workhouse inmate who guarded his weekly copy as his only remaining comfort, or the exile who read a posted paper avidly to take his mind back to the places and people from whom he was separated. They used it for affirmation and validation, as James Carey notes, to confirm what they already knew, whether it was a football score or the report of a meeting at which they spoke. They used it as part of comforting daily routines, with favourite armchairs and a good fire often appearing in accounts of how the local paper was read. They used it publicly and communally as a forum for debate, a historical embodiment of Jurgen Habermas’s public sphere, in which private citizens held rational debates in the public pages of newspapers.45 And when local identity was threatened, as when traditionally distinct towns were combined in local government reorganisation, sales rose as the local paper spoke on the public’s behalf.

The Local Newspaper is History

There is renewed interest in the local newspaper, from politicians and commentators concerned about its future, and from historians and literary scholars studying its past. In 2018 the British government announced a review of the news media market, expressing concerns about the impact of its decline on democracy.46 History may soon be all that remains of provincial papers that have survived into the twenty-first century with remarkably few changes from their Victorian beginnings. Yet nineteenth-century local papers are being read by more people than ever before thanks to digitisation, aimed primarily at family historians. Hundreds of titles are available in the commercial British Newspaper Archive, and some of the same titles are also available free of charge via British local libraries.47 Digitisation has encouraged historians and literary scholars to once again use, and study, the nineteenth-century press.

While decline has sparked interest today, it was the phenomenal rise of provincial newspapers, alongside metropolitan newspapers, that encouraged five significant historical studies of the press between 1850 and 1887.48 It took twice as long for the next five to be published, but by the 1950s historians were generally showing a new interest in the nineteenth century. The academic journal Victorian Studies was founded in 1956, and the centrality of the press to Victorian culture was recognised in the establishment of the Research Society for Victorian Periodicals (RSVP) in 1968. Many of the methods and sources pioneered by RSVP members have shaped this book, although most of their scholarship has concerned elite metropolitan literary periodicals rather than newspapers until recent years.

There was a burst of scholarship on the nineteenth-century newspaper in the 1980s and 1990s, producing four major works, all acknowledging the importance of the provincial press, by Alan Lee, Lucy Brown and Aled Jones, although only Jones tackles the whole century, and treats newspapers as cultural and not just political phenomena.49 More recently, RSVP members have provided essential scholarly infrastructure for a field embarrassed by the riches of thousands of nineteenth-century newspapers and periodicals. The monumental Dictionary of Nineteenth Century Journalism has some entries on the provincial press, with more in cumulative digital updates. The equally ambitious Waterloo Directory is a superb source, although its information should always be cross-checked; its potential for quantitative research has yet to be realised. Palmegiano’s well indexed bibliography of magazine commentary on the nineteenth-century press has plenty of material on provincial serials, and Dixon’s various bibliographies on the provincial press are useful, alongside the Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature, particularly for non-academic sources such as company histories and anniversary supplements.50 Two new edited collections with a focus on magazines and periodicals nevertheless offer much for the newspaper historian, from the vibrant field of Victorian periodical studies.51

The field is broadening out from an early focus on newspapers as purely political phenomena, in otherwise excellent work on early nineteenth-century provincial newspapers by Aspinall (good on readership), Read (on northern middle-class reforming papers), and Lopatin (on the 1830s radical reform movement).52 Valuable work has been done on the political and economic roles of newspaper owners and editors in the early years of the century.53 The Northern Star and other Chartist or sympathetic local papers have stimulated some excellent scholarship examining newspaper language, the relationship of local and national, the nature of newspaper-reading and the role of the newspaper as poetry publisher.54 Victoria Gardner approaches the provincial press of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries primarily as businesses, whilst acknowledging their other functions, and bringing many new insights, about the collective power of the provincial press, its co-operative ethos, the ways in which entire communities could influence a newspaper, and the distinctive local economies and cultures from which each paper sprang.55 Rachel Matthews, in her sweeping history of the provincial press from its beginnings to today, also sees it primarily as a business, and challenges its rhetoric of community. Matthews argues that ‘the provincial newspaper is, and always has been, a commercial venture to its core’ and that ‘profit is the principle around which all other elements of the newspaper […] are organised’.56 But this is undermined by her own evidence of political subsidy, and acknowledgement of political purpose as a ‘pillar’ of the newspaper’s business model.57 Her critique of publishers’ rhetoric is based on ahistorical twenty-first-century criteria, and does not acknowledge how much of this rhetoric was sincere.

Nineteenth-century newspapers developed rapidly. But few have attempted to explain how politics, business and government policy combined between the 1830s and 1850s to transform the newspaper world, from the equivalent of a rowdy radical meeting to a vibrant but unthreatening street market in the space of a generation. Martin Hewitt recounts the political lobbying for the abolition of newspaper taxes at mid-century, but the best account is Brian Maidment’s modest yet profound essay on Manchester newsagent and publisher Abel Heywood, who went from imprisoned agent for the radical Poor Man’s Guardian to mayor of Manchester without changing his views. Instead, society changed around him.58 Maidment has written perceptively on other aspects of Manchester print culture, including the role of the local press in fostering ‘bardic communities’ of working-class poets, and edited a significant collection of essays on the Manchester press.59 Some of the writers of those essays — Beetham, Michael Powell, Terry Wyke and Eddie Cass — and others have created an impressive body of scholarship on Manchester, Britain’s second publishing centre (Powell and Wyke’s edition of Leary’s unpublished history of the city’s press is eagerly awaited).60 The press of northern England has received more attention than other English regions, perhaps because it was more dynamic.

Scholarship increases in proportion to the growing scale of the provincial press, with most work devoted to post-1855 developments. Shattock and Wolff’s excellent 1982 collection takes a holistic approach, including newspaper-reading, but their agenda is only now being picked up.61 More recent work on the provincial press appears in three special issues of journals, and in the annual Print Networks volumes.62 Beyond this body of work, research on provincial newspapers and magazines can be found scattered among works of political, social, economic, cultural and literary history.

Reasons to Ignore the Provincial Press

The renewed interest in the provincial press is heartening, but it is still misunderstood by many scholars. It is seen as an inferior, scaled-down version of the London press; it is dismissed because it was not produced, or read, by powerful people, and because local topics are to be avoided if one wants to say something significant (or be someone significant, in career terms). Some still see newspapers, particularly local papers, as simple, banal texts, in contrast to sophisticated literary texts. This is all wrong, of course.

Victorian local newspapers were not poor-quality imitations of London papers; they were a different beast. Content, both advertising and editorial, was different — it was either local or locally relevant. They used form and content to evoke a sense of place and capitalise on local patriotism, which made them more varied across the nation, more open to local influences on their form and content.63 This local loyalty could clash with the journalistic ideal of objectivity more than on London papers, where journalists could more easily see themselves as aloof from the society on which they reported and commented.64 Miscellaneity, seen as fundamental to the form of the newspaper, was less pronounced in local papers because news items had the unifying theme of place. They were more ‘magaziney’, a hybrid of newspaper and magazine. This point is worth developing: the idea that all newspapers contained mainly news comes from the misleading example of London dailies such as the Times.65 But the Times was an anomaly in its concentration on political, foreign and commercial news, and its lack of non-news, ‘feature’ content.66 Non-political news from around Britain accounted for less than ten per cent of content, although this did increase at the end of the century. Sports coverage was minimal, there were occasional book reviews, travelogues and reports of cultural events, but this was a very small proportion of the paper’s content. The Times lacked the variety of content found in most provincial papers and in popular Sunday newspapers, making it a very atypical nineteenth-century newspaper.67

Provincial newspapers worked to a different business model, with more of their income coming from advertising, and less opportunity for economies of scale, particularly before the abolition of the newspaper taxes. They tended to control their own distribution, rather than using wholesale newsagents, the post, or trains. The structure of their industry was more national, more networked and more collaborative. This national structure made them, in aggregate, a significant publishing platform for many genres of content, in the pages of their newspapers, and in books, often compiled from previously published newspaper content; this publishing function was a smaller part of London newspapers’ business. Provincial newspaper personnel were more likely to be personally known to their readers, making them more accountable, and therefore more trustworthy. Related to this, they were more open to ‘amateur’ contributors, making them a more culturally democratic form of print. A decentred view of the Victorian press enables us to move away from Matthew Arnold’s dream of London as the headquarters of culture, from which new elements could be distributed to the provinces. Instead, innovations moved between many centres, provincial and metropolitan, sometimes arising far from London and eventually reaching the capital, sometimes reaching the provinces direct from other countries, carried in American newspapers by boat to Liverpool, for example.

A second reason to ignore the provincial press is that important people did not read it or write for it, unlike the London dailies. The standard work on the politics of the nineteenth-century press, by Stephen Koss, defines politics as the activities of government ministers and senior party figures, and categorises as political only those London newspapers which contemporary politicians tried to influence.68 But, as James Vernon has demonstrated, political participation of a kind was even available to those outside the franchise, and local government had a great deal of autonomy, which it used to the full.69 Rich and poor, literate and illiterate took part in public meetings and the carnival and drama of elections and other political rituals, as demonstrated in the name of the Bury Non-Electors’ Reform Association, for example.70 Local issues and local rituals ensured that politics was an arena in which local identities were contested and confirmed, but national politics was also constructed at local level.71 These vibrant, argumentative local political cultures continued into the Victorian era, even after 1872, when the secret ballot made elections less rumbustious. Nineteenth-century local newspapers were intensely political phenomena, in their circumstances of production, their content and in many of the uses to which readers put them. Publishers, journalists and readers were involved in a power struggle to define reality, locally and nationally, and newspapers were far from politically neutral in this argument, even if they claimed to be (the pretence of neutrality became more common after the 1886 Liberal party split).72

More broadly, this book is about the marginalised majority: those citizens who lived outside London, and the majority press that they read, most of it published weekly rather than daily. A focus on the higher-status but lower-circulation London press has produced many theories that do not adequately describe or explain local and regional newspapers, the mainstream of the Victorian press. Habermas’s ‘decline of the public sphere’ retains its value as a theoretical framework despite its lack of historical evidence, but the restatements of this theory by Chalaby and Hampton, and Curran’s view that the press became an agent of control or the Whiggish account of the growing freedom of the ‘Fourth Estate’ all focus on metropolitan publications.73 It is difficult to find evidence of such a decline in the reading rooms and newspapers of the provinces. Joel Wiener’s focus on London dailies in his account of the ‘Americanisation’ of the British press from the 1880s onwards ignores the more complex, dispersed influences on what was in fact the ‘magazinization’ of the newspapers, partly influenced by the provincial press.74 These matters are explored in more detail in Chapter 5. Neither does Chalaby’s decline of the political publicist and the rise of ‘objective’ journalistic discourse in Britain fit the majority of newspapers, those of the provinces, where smaller local markets dictated a localist, rather than objective, style of journalism.75 A final example is Rowbotham et al’s narrative of crime reporting, which erases an army of local court reporters from history by concentrating on the London press.76

Few scholars even acknowledge their choice to study the minority of the press, let alone explain that choice. Before digitisation some scholars may have decided that the seemingly unmanageable quantity of local newspapers required too much effort. That practical reason is being overcome as hundreds of titles can be searched and analysed quickly in digital databases. All that remains is the notion of ‘influence’, which has led some researchers towards publications produced at the centre of cultural power, London. The assumption has been that texts worth studying are ‘influential’ texts, those that changed the attitudes or behaviour of influential people, such as cabinet ministers or a small elite of metropolitan literary writers and editors. ‘All too often […] English history, and even British history, turn out to be the history of what was happening in the West End, ignoring what was happening North of the Thames, or North of the Trent.’77 But political and cultural power was widely distributed in the long nineteenth century, across classes and across the country.

The third reason to ignore local papers is because of their very localness. In any notional hierarchy of nineteenth-century print, books and periodicals would have higher status than newspapers, and metropolitan papers would rank more highly than provincial ones.78 The derogatory sense of the words ‘provincial’ and ‘provinces’ was invented by London newspapers in the late eighteenth century, no doubt partly to position themselves in a competitive market.79 In the 1860s Matthew Arnold added a new inflection when he identified the provinces with the ‘philistinism’ of dissenting chapel-goers; to Victorian readers this also reflected on provincial newspapers, which can be seen as an outgrowth of provincial Nonconformity.80 The metropolitan is the default; Raymond Williams’s description of the literary category of the ‘regional novel’ as an ‘expression of centralized cultural dominance’ applies also to the regional and local newspaper: ‘The life and people of certain favoured regions are seen as essentially general, even perhaps normal, while the life and people of certain other regions […] are, well, regional.’81 The low status of ‘local’ history within academia may be a further reason for the relative neglect of the local press. To be considered a merely local historian is anathema, yet some of the best history has been based on small numbers of very local case studies, while some of the worst has generalised from local examples and ignored huge regional variations.

The fourth reason is that newspapers, particularly provincial newspapers, are considered to be simplistic, transparent, ephemeral, banal texts, not worthy of one’s analytical powers. This is to take them at their word.82 But newspapers are not what they seem, and their stories about themselves are not always trustworthy. Margaret Beetham, the great theorist of the periodical, takes on this myth with a deft comparison of a local magazine, Ben Brierley’s Journal (containing much material also found in local newspapers) and Isabella Banks’s novel The Manchester Man:

Because the magazine is essentially fragmented and fractured in terms of authorial voice and genre, it can encompass complexity and even contradiction which other genres cannot. Because it comes out over time and must engage its readers over time, encouraging them to continue to buy but also inviting them to write in as contributors, it involves negotiations between producers and readers not available even to the author of a serialised novel.83

The History of Reading the Local Paper

The overlapping histories of the book (taken to include newspapers and periodicals) and of reading are very good at following texts as they move from place to place. But this book is less about the mobility of texts, and more about their ‘whereness’, how place gives them meaning and flavour, like the ‘terroir’ of a French wine. It takes many of its techniques from the study of newspapers in the United States, where a decentralised newspaper geography is better understood. The ingenious methods of David Paul Nord, the Zborays and Uriel Heyd have proved particularly useful; they have shown that the fleeting act of newspaper reading has left traces in the record, if you look in the right places.84 I have gathered these traces, in the records of reading places such as news rooms and libraries, in letters to the editor, diaries, autobiographies and oral history interviews. This evidence has been used to reconstruct the ‘reading world’ of one Lancashire town, Preston, and to explore the many uses to which readers put the local press, not least the confirmation of local identities. Other evidence suggests that the local press was equally important and used in similar ways in other towns and cities. Taken together, these fragmentary and imperfect sources are greater than the sum of their parts, and tell a consistent story, of the significance of the local press, in both its production and use.

Reading the local paper was a social and ritual activity, to borrow the ideas of Stanley Fish and James Carey. There is concrete evidence that some readers’ behaviour was directly affected by the content of the local press, for example the Blackburn shoemakers who picketed a local cobbler in reaction to a letter he wrote to the local paper (Chapter 10), but such clear influence is probably not representative of the way in which most readers used the local press. The connection between what journalists wrote and how readers responded was usually much looser. Victorian journalists’ memoirs and diaries, and my experience of modern-day journalism, suggest that the primary audience for journalists was other journalists and close non-journalistic friends, and the ordinary reader was almost an after-thought. Conversely, most readers’ primary relationships — as readers — were with other readers, as seen in readers’ letters, where dialogue was usually between readers rather than with what journalists had written.

Despite this gulf between journalists and readers, there was a shared understanding. In Fish’s terms they were all members of the same ‘interpretive community’, meaning a group of readers who interpret texts in similar ways, constrained by the ‘codes and conventions that regulate the practices of a membership community’.85 Although Fish did not use it in this way, this term is particularly helpful in enabling reading to be put into geographical place, to characterise particular groups of readers in a particular town; it can also be usefully combined with ideas from research on media effects, such as journalistic ‘framing’ of stories, i.e. the selection and emphasis of certain aspects of a story over others.

Interpretive communities are taken to be groups of readers and writers, who can be members of multiple, overlapping interpretive communities but who share ‘interpretive strategies’ with other members of each community. Fish’s ‘interpretive strategies’ are similar to the ‘primary frameworks’ or frames of reference, ‘relatively stable and socially shared category systems that human beings use to classify information’ discussed by Erving Goffman. Journalists have a choice of frames when telling a story, but only among a limited set with ‘commonly shared cultural roots’ — a frame needs to be part of the surrounding culture. A person can share an interpretation of a text, and be part of a culture shaped by that interpretation, without having read or heard the text.86 However, one crucial notion absent from Fish’s interpretive communities is power: cultural, economic and political power were all displayed and negotiated in the Victorian local press, and there was unequal access to publishing and reading.

The concept of interpretive communities helps us to see reading as a communal activity, embedded in social relationships (not always friendly ones), in which discussion is central. It also helps us to understand the nature of nineteenth-century local newspapers: how the interactive nature of newspapers made interpretive communities dynamic and historically and geographically specific, how tropes such as oppositional journalism could bind communities of readers together, how they were expressions of cultures such as Nonconformism, how the serial nature of newspapers enabled the repetition of frames, and the building of trust or ‘source credibility’, and how techniques such as ‘kite-flying’ (trying out ideas in print, to gauge public reaction) can be seen as a gentle repositioning of frames or interpretive strategies.87 Later chapters will demonstrate how printers, booksellers, newspaper publishers, journalists, part-time newspaper correspondents, letter-writers and members of news rooms created interpretive communities in one town. Participation in the ‘public sphere’ identified by Habermas can be seen as one of the activities of an interpretive community, in which private individuals can come together as a public, and discuss public issues and hold authority to account. Habermas saw the press as central to this activity, and it is not necessary to accept his narrative of decline to find his approach useful.88

While Habermas compares reading the news to arguing in a coffee-house, Carey likens it to ‘attending a mass, a situation in which nothing new is learned but in which a particular view of the world is portrayed and confirmed.’89 Thus, the various interpretive communities within and beyond a small town such as Preston integrated the local press into reassuring rituals of everyday life, at the personal and communal level. Such a view makes only qualified claims about the influence of the local press. There is, however, a popular and persuasive theory that argues boldly for the pre-eminent influence of texts — novels and newspapers — to change people’s minds about who they were and where they lived, rather than merely confirm their established beliefs; Benedict Anderson’s idea of the imagined community. Using the example of the nineteenth-century Philippines, Anderson argues that, to read a novel in one’s mother tongue, or a newspaper that is known to circulate over a particular area, makes one aware of other readers of the same texts, and thus creates an ‘imagined community’.90 This book makes smaller claims about the impact of being part of an imagined community created by the local paper — but the awareness of other readers, known or unknown, was important.

A Place: Preston

This book gathers historical evidence from across England, but it is grounded in a study of the reading, production and circulation of local newspapers in one place, the town of Preston in Lancashire.91 The case study approach is a concrete and manageable way to bring this book’s themes together and to test the theories of other scholars. It embraces the specificity of a place, recovering the concrete details of the readers, the where and when of what they read. Preston was small enough for its reading places and practices, and its newspapers, to be studied as a whole. The reader is invited to imagine an emotional connection to this town in the second half of the nineteenth century. From the inside, every place is unique (despite their sameness from the outside, when we hurtle past them on a train) and, to many of those who live in any particular place, it is numinous in its specialness. Some background information about Preston is therefore needed.

Fig. 0.1. Location map of Preston. Outline map by, CC BY 4.0,

Halfway between London and Edinburgh, Preston was Lancashire’s second oldest borough, and was a market centre for the agricultural areas of north Lancashire. This geography, and the rhythms of its weekly markets, became visible in the circulation areas and publishing schedules — the where and the when — of its many newspapers. Preston was the administrative centre for all parts of Lancashire outside the cities and large towns, giving it a greater number of lawyers and other professionals. Geographically isolated from the main industrial areas of Lancashire, it drew many immigrants from the rural areas north, east and west of the town, and this reservoir of labour enabled its mills to pay lower wages than in other parts of Lancashire. Many of these immigrants were ‘old’ (as opposed to Irish) Roman Catholics, making Preston the most Catholic town in England.92 Industrial relations in Preston were more acrimonious than in most other Lancashire textile towns, and were at their worst during the 1853–54 lock-out, which inspired writers such as Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell and Karl Marx, the first two using the dispute as inspiration for their novels Hard Times and North and South respectively, while Marx predicted that world revolution would begin there, as the working class began to cry, ‘our St Petersburg is at Preston!’93 The town’s population grew from some 69,000 in 1851 to 125,000 in 1901. The railway arrived in 1838, the telegraph in 1854, but neither technology harmed Preston’s newspapers, in fact quite the opposite. As geographers of place have argued, distinctiveness and sense of place are not necessarily threatened by connections to other places, or by the globalisation of the international telegraph system; the local and the global are not opposites, they are ‘entangled’ with each other.94

Preston’s sense of its own significance was not based solely on its size and industry, but also on its social, administrative and commercial functions, and its long history, so that it saw itself as Lancashire’s third centre, after Manchester and Liverpool. Spinning and weaving mills dominated the economy at mid-century, although its status as a market centre and county town gave it a more mixed economy than some other textile towns. It became the headquarters of the new county council in 1889, and its economy continued to diversify, particularly into engineering (including print machinery), enabling it to survive the late nineteenth-century depression better than most Lancashire towns.95 Its established river port was greatly expanded in 1892, by the controversial creation of a new deep water dock, at enormous cost. Its ship-building and maritime trade linked it to the empire and the wider world, as did its barracks, where regiments were stationed between deployments, including Waterloo, the Crimea, Afghanistan and South Africa.

Politically, Preston was a two-member Parliamentary constituency, with a tradition of electing one Whig and one Tory. This custom ended in 1865, when the Conservatives began an unbroken forty-one years of control of both seats. Michael Savage argues that working-class Conservatism in Preston was created by the party’s cultural populism, and its support for redevelopment of the port. The town’s Liberals, in contrast, were seen as the party of the mill and factory owners, and their Nonconformist, teetotal tendencies threatened a working-class Anglican culture which included drinking, gambling and blood sports.96 The large Catholic electorate voted en bloc for Whig-Liberal candidates until 1858, after which Liberal foreign policy divided them.97 These divisions were reflected in rival Liberal and Tory newspapers, and, from the 1880s, Roman Catholic publications.

An unusually high proportion of Preston residents had the vote until the 1880s. There had been a tradition of universal male suffrage in Preston that had officially ended in 1832; however, those with a vote under the old franchise retained it for the rest of their lives. These ‘old franchise men’ still accounted for more than 25 per cent of the electorate in 1865, giving Preston a more working-class franchise than most other towns.98 In consequence, one might expect a wider political culture, resulting in higher newspaper readership, but there is no evidence that levels of newspaper reading in Preston were unusually high in this period. After the 1867 Reform Act the middle classes dominated the town’s Parliamentary electorate, which expanded enormously from 2,649 men in 1865 to 11,312 in 1868.99 The municipal electorate was broader than that for Parliament, and included some working-class men throughout the period. From 1869, single women could also vote in corporation elections, with married women eligible after 1894.100

How to Use this Book

Parts of this book focus on readers and reading (Chapters 1, 2, 3, 6 and 10), others on the production of local newspapers (Chapters 4 and 5) and their content (Chapters 7, 8 and 9). The Preston case study, alongside evidence from other parts of England, reveals historical readers (Chapter 1), how they grew in number, particularly among the working classes, and moved from reading and listening to the local newspaper in public to buying their own copies for consumption at home. The particular places (Chapter 2) and times (Chapter 3) of reading the local newspaper help us to understand what readers looked for in a paper, and how they integrated it into their weekly and daily rituals and routines. The atmosphere of the reading rooms and pubs where newspapers were read and argued over had many similarities to the eighteenth-century coffee houses conjured up by Habermas, where discussion in person mingled with discussion in print to create a public sphere.

In a small town like Preston, hundreds of these readers were known to reporters like Anthony Hewitson, whose diaries are used to explain how the local newspaper was produced, and how it fitted into a national newspaper ecology, which was also connected to magazine and book publishing (Chapters 4 and 5). Hewitson went on to become an editor and newspaper owner, but he still understood the texts he wrote and published in similar ways to his readers, as part of the same interpretive community, one of a number in Preston, differentiated by politics, religion, class and gender (Chapter 6). Hewitson was not a native of Preston, but he became committed to the place, and used the same established journalistic techniques as his rival newspaper publishers, to promote and profit from local patriotism (Chapters 7, 8 and 9). These chapters reveal a dialogue between the interests and desires of local newspaper readers on the one hand, and newspaper publishers and journalists on the other. The final chapter (Chapter 10) comes back to the readers, and how individuals used the local paper for many different purposes, including the sustenance and defence of deeply felt local identities.

If you read all of this book, I hope to persuade you that beginning with the reader enables us to move from our twenty-first-century perceptions of the local press to the very different world in which the nineteenth-century English local press was produced and read. This approach, encompassing what Robert Darnton calls the ‘communication circuit’ of production, distribution and reading, enables a more holistic view of the local press, treating it as multi-dimensional: a material, cultural, economic and social phenomenon; it places newspapers in their most significant context, and it brings out the centrality of newspapers to the nineteenth-century reading experience. Evidence of readers’ use of the local press (‘use’ is a broader, less misleading term than ‘response’, as Leah Price notes) can illuminate many issues that have previously been addressed speculatively, or with evidence only from newspaper content and production.101 These issues include the function of newspapers in culture and society, their readership and their influence, on local identities in particular. More broadly, if texts have historically and geographically specific meanings, as argued here, then evidence of local newspaper readers, reading in particular places, at particular times, is more than an add-on; it is central to any history of texts such as newspapers.102

1 Karl Marx, ‘Prince Albert’s Toast.— The Stamp Duty on Newspapers’, Neue Oder Zeitung, 21 June 1855,

2 Anon., ‘Provincial Journalistic Enterprise’, Printers’ Register, 7 March 1870, p. 49.

3 In Preston alone, five of the fifty-one nineteenth-century titles traced so far do not appear in the British Library catalogue nor in the Waterloo Directory of Nineteenth Century Newspapers and Periodicals online edition.

4 Victoria E. M. Gardner, The Business of News in England, 1760–1820 (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2016), pp. 46–47,

5 Jonathan Silberstein-Loeb, ‘The Structure of the News Market in Britain, 1870–1914’, Business History Review, 83 (2009), 759–88 (pp. 771–72),

6 House of Commons, ‘Return of Number of Stamps issued at One Penny to Newspapers in United Kingdom’, 1854–55 (83), 1854.

7 Edward Baines, Extension of the Franchise: Speech of Edward Baines on Moving the Second Reading of the Borough Franchise Bill, in the House of Commons, on the 11th May, 1864 (London, 1864).

8 Colin Seymour-Ure, The British Press and Broadcasting since 1945 (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996), p. 16.

9 J. B. Priestley, ‘An Outpost’, in The Book of Fleet Street, ed. by T. Michael Pope (London: Cassell, 1930), pp. 174–82 (p. 174).

10 Source: Mitchell’s Newspaper Press Directories, British Library. The volume for 1876 is missing, so 1875 was used instead. Excludes Monmouthshire. These figures supersede those in Andrew Hobbs, ‘The Deleterious Dominance of The Times in Nineteenth-Century Scholarship’, Journal of Victorian Culture, 18 (2013), p. 482, and Andrew Hobbs, ‘Reading the Local Paper: Social and Cultural Functions of the Local Press in Preston, Lancashire, 1855–1900’ (unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Central Lancashire, 2010), p. 41 (Table 4), which mistakenly mixed British and English figures. Thanks to Beth Gaskell for assistance in finding this information.

11 These ideas are taken from Gardner, especially Chapter 4; Stuart Hall, ‘Encoding/Decoding’, in Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks, ed. by Meenakshi Gigi Durham and Douglas Kellner (Malden: Blackwell, 2006); James Carey, ‘A Cultural Approach to Communication’, in Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 13–36,

12 House of Commons, ‘Report from the Select Committee on Newspaper Stamps; Together with the Proceedings of the Committee, Minutes of Evidence, Appendix, and Index’ 1851 (558) XVII.1 (minutes 2358–60).

13 Mortimer Collins, ‘Country Newspapers’, Temple Bar, 10 (1863), pp. 128–41 (p. 141).

14 Anon., ‘The British Newspaper: The Penny Theory and Its Solution’, Dublin University Magazine, 61 (1863), 359–76 (p. 371).

15 Jonathan Silberstein-Loeb, The International Distribution of News: The Associated Press, Press Association, and Reuters, 1848–1947 (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2014), p. 93,

16 Silberstein-Loeb, The International Distribution of News, p. 5.

17 Alexander Paterson, ‘Provincial Newspapers’, in Progress of British Newspapers in the Nineteenth Century (London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., 1901), p. 79.

18 David Vincent, Literacy and Popular Culture: England 1750–1914 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 41, 

19 Margaret D. Stetz, ‘Internationalizing Authorship: Beyond New Grub Street to the Bookman in 1891’, Victorian Periodicals Review, 48 (2015), 1–14 (p. 3),

20 Anon., ‘British Newspaper: Penny Theory’, p. 371.

21 Graham Law, Serializing Fiction in the Victorian Press (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2000); Simon Potter, ‘Webs, Networks, and Systems: Globalization and the Mass Media in the Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century British Empire’, Journal of British Studies, 46 (2007), 621–46,; Andrew Hobbs, ‘When the Provincial Press Was the National Press (c.1836–c.1900)’, International Journal of Regional and Local Studies, 5 (2009), 16–43,

22 Maurice Milne, The Newspapers of Northumberland and Durham: A Study of Their Progress during the ‘Golden Age’ of the Provincial Press (Newcastle upon Tyne: Graham, 1971), p. 14; Alan J. Lee, ‘The Structure, Ownership and Control of the Press, 1855–1914’, in Newspaper History from the Seventeenth Century to the Present Day, ed. by David George Boyce, James Curran, and Pauline Wingate (London: Constable, 1978), p. 120. For an opposing view, see Stephen Koss, The Rise and Fall of the Political Press in Britain, Vol. 1, The Nineteenth Century (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1981), p. 21 and passim.

23 [Walter Bagehot], ‘The Position of the Metropolitan Press’, The Economist, 14 May 1870, pp. 595–96.

24 Christopher Ali, Media Localism: The Policies of Place (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2017), p. 18,

25 Even this figure exaggerates how often ‘national’ was used — the four instances from the 1830s were self-descriptions in advertisements for two failed journals, the United Kingdom and the Britannia, both using nationalistic rhetoric: advertisement for United Kingdom in Hull Packet, 19 October 1830; advertisement for The Britannia in Morning Chronicle, 22 April 1839.

26 Hobbs, ‘When the Provincial Press’.

27 Jane Platt, Subscribing to Faith? The Anglican Parish Magazine 1859–1929 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), pp. 3–5,

28 Kristy Hess and Lisa Waller, Local Journalism in a Digital World: Theory and Practice in the Digital Age (London: Palgrave, 2017), pp. vi, 6. See also Meryl Aldridge, Understanding the Local Media (Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2007), ch. 1.

29 Tim Cresswell, Place: An Introduction, 2nd edition (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014), p. 45.

30 Denis G. Paz, Popular Anti-Catholicism in Mid-Victorian England (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992), pp. 299–300.

31 T. S. Eliot, ‘American Literature and the American Language’, in To Criticize the Critic and Other Writings (University of Nebraska Press, 1965), pp. 43–60 (p. 56).

32 Fiona J. Stafford, Local Attachments: The Province of Poetry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 274.

33 For a good survey, see Sydney Shep, ‘Books in Global Perspectives’, in The Cambridge Companion to the History of the Book, ed. by Leslie Howsam (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014), But no mention of local media in the otherwise excellent Cresswell.

34 Cresswell, p. 18.

35 Peter Fritzsche, Reading Berlin 1900 (London: Harvard University Press, 1996); David M. Henkin, City Reading: Written Words and Public Spaces in Antebellum New York (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998).

36 Mary L. Shannon, Dickens, Reynolds, and Mayhew on Wellington Street: The Print Culture of a Victorian Street (London: Routledge, 2015),

37 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 2006).

38 Morris Janowitz, ‘The Imagery of the Urban Press’, Public Opinion Quarterly, 15 (1951), 519–31; Eric W. Rothenbuhler and others, ‘Communication, Community Attachment, and Involvement’, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, 73 (1996), 445–66,; see also Keith R. Stamm, Arthur G. Emig, and Michael B. Hesse, ‘The Contribution of Local Media to Community Involvement’, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 74 (1997), 97–107,

39 Christine Pawley, Reading on the Middle Border: The Culture of Print in Late-Nineteenth-Century Osage, Iowa (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001), pp. 4–5.

40 David Barton and Mary Hamilton, Local Literacies: Reading and Writing in One Community (London: Routledge, 1998).

41 Lucy R. Lippard, The Lure of the Local: Senses of Place in a Multicentered Society (New York: The New Press, 1998), p. 7.

42 Anon., ‘On the Parish’, All The Year Round, December 29 (1860), 273–76.

43 James Carey, Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society (London: Routledge, 1989), p. 24,

44 Patrick Joyce, The Rule of Freedom: Liberalism and the Modern City (London: Verso, 2003), p. 125; Aled Gruffydd Jones, Press, Politics and Society: A History of Journalism in Wales (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1993), p. 199.

45 Jurgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society (Oxford: Polity, 1992).

46 ‘Tackling the Threat to High-Quality Journalism in the UK’, GOV.UK,

47 British Newspaper Archive,; 19th Century British Library Newspapers database For a practical research guide, see Denise Bates, Historical Research Using British Newspapers (Barnsley: Pen & Sword, 2016).

48 Frederick Knight Hunt, The Fourth Estate: Contributions Towards a History of Newspapers, and of the Liberty of the Press (London: Bogue, 1850); Alexander Andrews, The History of British Journalism: From the Foundation of the Newspaper Press in England to the Repeal of the Stamp Act in 1855, with Sketches of Press Celebrities (London: Richard Bentley, 1859); James Grant, The Newspaper Press: Its Origin, Progress and Present Position (London: Routledge, 1872), especially vol. 3 for the provincial press; Charles Pebody, English Journalism, and the Men Who Have Made It (London: Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co., 1882); H. R. Fox Bourne, English Newspapers: Chapters in the History of Journalism (London: Routledge, 1887).

49 Alan J. Lee, The Origins of the Popular Press in England: 1855–1914 (London: Croom Helm, 1976); Lucy Brown, Victorian News and Newspapers (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985); Aled Gruffydd Jones, Powers of the Press: Newspapers, Power and the Public in Nineteenth-Century England (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1996); Jones, Press, Politics and Society.

50 Dictionary of Nineteenth Century Journalism, ed. by Laurel Brake and Marysa Demoor, online edition, in C19: The Nineteenth Century Index (ProQuest); The Waterloo Directory of English Newspapers and Periodicals, 1800–1900, ed. by John S. North, online edition (North Waterloo Academic Press),; Eugenia M. Palmegiano, Perceptions of the Press in Nineteenth-Century British Periodicals: A Bibliography (London: Anthem, 2012),; Diana Dixon, ‘Navigating the Maze: Sources for Press Historians’, Media History, 9 (2003), 79–90,; The Cambridge Bibliography of English Literature. Vol.4, ed. by Joanne Shattock (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999),

51 The Routledge Handbook to Nineteenth-Century British Periodicals and Newspapers, ed. by Andrew King, Alexis Easley, and John Morton (London: Routledge, 2016),; Researching the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Press: Case Studies, ed. by Alexis Easley, Andrew King, and John Morton (London New York: Routledge, 2017),

52 Arthur Aspinall, Politics and the Press, c.1780–1850 (Brighton: Harvester Press, 1973); Donald Read, Press and People, 1790–1850: Opinion in Three English Cities (London: Edward Arnold, 1961); Nancy P. Lopatin, ‘Refining the Limits of Political Reporting: The Provincial Press, Political Unions, and The Great Reform Act’, Victorian Periodicals Newsletter, 31 (1998), 337–55.

53 Victoria E. M. Gardner, ‘The Communications Broker and the Public Sphere: John Ware and the Cumberland Pacquet’, Cultural and Social History, 10 (2013), 533–57; F. David Roberts, ‘Still More Early Victorian Newspaper Editors’, Victorian Periodicals Newsletter, 18 (1972), 12–26; Derek Fraser, ‘The Editor as Activist: Editors and Urban Politics in Early Victorian England’, in Innovators and Preachers: The Role of the Editor in Victorian England, ed. by Joel Wiener (Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1985).

54 See bibliography in Joan Allen and Owen R. Ashton, Papers for the People: A Study of the Chartist Press (London: Merlin Press, 2005).

55 Gardner, Business of News.

56 Rachel Matthews, The History of the Provincial Press in England (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017), p. 4,

57 Matthews, pp. 59, 89.

58 Martin Hewitt, The Dawn of the Cheap Press in Victorian Britain: The End of the ‘Taxes on Knowledge’, 1849–1869 (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2014); Brian E. Maidment, ‘The Manchester Common Reader — Abel Heywood’s “Evidence” and the Early Victorian Reading Public’, in ‘Printing and the Book in Manchester, 1700–1850’, special issue of Transactions of the Lancashire and Cheshire Antiquarian Society, 97, ed. by Eddie Cass and Morris Garratt (2001), pp. 99–120.

59 Brian E. Maidment, ‘Class and Cultural Production in the Industrial City: Poetry in Victorian Manchester’, in City, Class and Culture: Studies of Cultural Production and Social Policy in Victorian Manchester, ed. by Alan J. Kidd and Kenneth Roberts (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985), pp. 148–66; The Literary Culture of Nineteenth-Century Manchester’, special issue of Manchester Region History Review, 17, ed. by Brian E. Maidment, 2006.

60 Margaret Beetham, ‘Healthy Reading’, in Kidd and Roberts; Michael Winstanley, ‘News from Oldham: Edwin Butterworth and the Manchester Press, 1829–1848’, Manchester Region History Review, 4 (1990), 3–10; John Nicholson, ‘Popular Imperialism and the Provincial Press: Manchester Evening and Weekly Papers, 1895–1902’, Victorian Periodicals Review, 13 (1980), 85–96; Colin Buckley, ‘The Search for “a Really Smart Sheet”: The Conservative Evening Newspaper Project in Edwardian Manchester’, Manchester Region History Review, 8 (1994), 21–28.

61 The Victorian Periodical Press: Samplings and Soundings, ed. by Joanne Shattock and Michael Wolff (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1982). For readers, see chapters by Harrison, James and Wolff.

62 Maidment, ‘Literary culture’; Journalism Studies 7 (2006); International Journal of Regional and Local Studies 5.1 (2009); for example, Periodicals and Publishers: The Newspaper and Journal Trade, 1750–1914, ed. by John Hinks, Catherine Armstrong, and Matthew Day (New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 2009).

63 Margaret Beetham, ‘Ben Brierley’s Journal’, Manchester Region History Review, 17 (2006), 73–83 (p. 75).

64 Hess and Waller, pp. 86–88.

65 For a contemporary view of the restricted content of the newspaper, see Anon., ‘Journalism’, Cornhill Magazine, 6.31 (1862), 52–63 (p. 52).

66 Brown, p. 108.

67 Hobbs, ‘Deleterious’.

68 Koss, pp. 21, 23–24.

69 James Vernon, Politics and the People: A Study in English Political Culture, c. 1815–1867 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993).

70 V. C. Barbary, ‘Reinterpreting “Factory Politics” in Bury, Lancashire, 1868–1880’, Historical Journal, 51 (2008), 115–44 (p. 134).

71 Vincent, p. 238.

72 Carey, Communication as Culture, p. 86, Jones, Press, Politics and Society, p. 141; Jean Chalaby, The Invention of Journalism (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1998), p. 77 (‘it is false to assume that a depoliticised newspaper conveys less ideology than a political organ’).

73 Chalaby, Invention; Mark Hampton, Visions of the Press in Britain, 1850–1950 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2004); James Curran, ‘Media and the Making of British Society, c.1700–2000’, Media History, 8 (2002), 135–54,

74 Joel H. Wiener, The Americanization of the British Press, 1830s1914: Speed in the Age of Transatlantic Journalism (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011),; his analysis is much subtler in an earlier, briefer account: Joel H. Wiener, ‘How New Was the New Journalism?’, in Papers for the Millions: The New Journalism in Britain, 1850s to 1914, ed. by Joel H. Wiener (London: Greenwood, 1988). The word ‘magazinization’ was coined by John Tulloch, in ‘The Eternal Recurrence of New Journalism’, in Tabloid Tales: Global Debates Over Media Standards, ed. by Colin Sparks and John Tulloch (Oxford: Rowman & Littlefield, 2000), pp. 131–146 (p. 139).

75 Hess and Waller, p. 9.

76 Judith Rowbotham, Kim Stevenson, and Samantha Pegg, Crime News in Modern Britain: Press Reporting and Responsibility, 1820–2010 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013),

77 Paz, p. 19.

78 Lee Erickson, The Economy of Literary Form: English Literature and the Industrialization of Publishing, 1800–1850 (London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), p. 13; John S. North, ‘The Importance of Newspapers’, Waterloo Directory of English Newspapers and Periodicals, series 2, ‘Tour site: Overview: Section 2’,

79 Donald Read, The English Provinces, 1760–1960: A Study in Influence (London: Edward Arnold, 1964), p. 2.

80 Simon Goldsworthy, ‘English Nonconconformity and the Pioneering of the Modern Newspaper Campaign’, Journalism Studies, 7 (2006), 387–402 (p. 395),

81 Raymond Williams, ‘Region and Class in the Novel’, in Writing in Society (London: Verso, 1983), pp. 229–38 (p. 230).

82 Dallas Liddle, The Dynamics of Genre: Journalism and the Practice of Literature in Mid-Victorian Britain (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009), p. 4.

83 Beetham, ‘Ben Brierley’s Journal’, p. 76.

84 David Paul Nord, Communities of Journalism: A History of American Newspapers and Their Readers (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001); Ronald J. Zboray and Mary Saracino Zboray, ‘Political News and Female Readership in Antebellum Boston and Its Region’, Journalism History, 22 (1996), 2–14; Uriel Heyd, Reading Newspapers: Press and Public in Eighteenth-Century Britain and America (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2012).

85 Stanley Eugene Fish, ‘Interpreting the Variorum’, Critical Inquiry, 2 (1976), 465–85,; see also Stephen Colclough, Consuming Texts: Readers and Reading Communities, 1695–1870 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), p. 9,

86 Fish, pp. 483, 484; Erving Goffman, Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1974), p. 24; elaborated in David Tewksbury and Dietram A. Scheufele, ‘News Framing Theory and Research’, in Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research, ed. by Jennings Bryant and Mary Beth Oliver (New York: Routledge, 2009), pp. 18, 24, For more on the many possibilities that lie between reading and non-reading, see Pierre Bayard, How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read (Granta Books, 2008); Hall, ‘Encoding/Decoding’.

87 Jones, Press, Politics and Society, pp. 154–55; Goldsworthy; Koss, p. 25; Tewksbury and Scheufele, p. 20; Harold Richard Grant Whates, The Birmingham Post, 1857–1957. A Centenary Retrospect (Birmingham: Birmingham Post & Mail, 1957), p. 215.

88 Habermas, pp. 27, 51.

89 Carey, Communication as Culture, p. 21; see also Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Hegel’s Political Writings, ed. by Z. A. Pelczynski and T. M. Knox (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964), p. 6.

90 Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 2006).

91 Other studies of local press ecologies (but lacking a focus on readers) include Maurice Milne, The Newspapers of Northumberland and Durham: a Study of Their Progress During the ‘Golden Age’ of the Provincial Press (Newcastle upon Tyne: Graham, 1971), and Peter J. Lucas, ‘The First Furness Newspapers: the History of the Furness Press From 1846 to c.1880’ (unpublished M.Litt. dissertation, University of Lancaster, 1971).

92 Thirty-six per cent of Preston church attenders on March 30, 1851 were Roman Catholics: Census of Great Britain, 1851: Religious Worship in England and Wales Abridged from the Official Report (London: Routledge, 1854), p. 128.

93 Karl Marx, ‘The English Middle Classes’ [1 August 1854], in Dispatches for the New York Tribune: Selected Journalism of Karl Marx, ed. by James Ledbetter (London: Penguin Classics, 2007), pp. 142–45.

94 Shep, pp. 62–63.

95 Michael Savage, The Dynamics of Working-Class Politics: The Labour Movement in Preston 1880–1940 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. 66, 95,; David Hunt, A History of Preston (Preston: Carnegie/Preston Borough Council, 1992), pp. 230, 234.

96 Jon Lawrence, ‘Class and Gender in the Making of Urban Toryism, 1880–1914’, English Historical Review, 108 (1993), 629–52 (p. 635).

97 Savage, Dynamics; Tom Smith, ‘Religion or Party? Attitudes of Catholic Electors in Mid-Victorian Preston’, North West Catholic History, 33 (2006), 19–35 (pp. 22, 24).

98 Smith, ‘Religion or Party?’; Tom Smith, ‘“Let Justice Be Done and We Will Be Silent”: A Study of Preston’s Catholic Voters and Their Parliamentary Elections Campaigns, 1832 to 1867’, North West Catholic History, 28 (2001), 5–54 (p. 8).

99 J. C. Lowe, ‘The Tory Triumph of 1868 in Blackburn and in Lancashire’, The Historical Journal, 16 (1973), 733–48 (p. 747),

100 Brian Keith-Lucas, The English Local Government Franchise: A Short History (Oxford: Blackwell, 1952), pp. 55, 59, 69, 74; Smith, ‘Justice’, p. 16.

101 Mark Hampton, ‘Newspapers in Victorian Britain’, History Compass, 2 (2004), 1–8 (p. 4),; Leah Price, How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain (Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press, 2012), ch. 1, ‘Reader’s block’,

102 Guglielmo Cavallo and Roger Chartier, ‘Introduction’, in A History of Reading in the West, ed. by Guglielmo Cavallo and Roger Chartier (University of Massachusetts Press, 1999), p. 2; Jones, Powers of the Press, p. 3.