Berrow's Worcester Journal

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Berrow's Worcester Journal claims to be "the oldest surviving newspaper in the World",[1] (although The World Association of Newspapers placed it seventh on its list of "Oldest Newspapers Still In Circulation."[2]) It is owned by Newsquest, the second-largest publisher of regional and local newspapers in the United Kingdom.

The common belief that Berrow's Worcester Journal or its forerunner was established in 1690 seems to be based entirely on an assertion, made more than a century after the fact, by Valentine Green in his 1796 work, History and Antiquities of the City and Suburbs of Worcester. Green's "vague statement, not verified elsewhere"[3] was, "From the best information, it is conjectured that a public paper was established in Worcester as early as the commencement of the Revolution... This was, doubtless, the period that gave birth to the Worcester Weekly Paper... It is uncertain however, in what order of succession these publications were first issued, whether monthly or weekly, on what day of the month or week or in what form, folio, quarto, or otherwise..."[4] Green did not explain what "the best information" meant and no copies of a seventeenth-century Worcester newspaper are known to exist.[5] More recent scholarship asserts that there had not been an active press in Worcester for more than 150 years before 1709.[6]

Berrow's Worcester Journal is the descendant of Worcester's earliest known newspaper, The Worcester Post-Man, first printed by Stephen Bryan in June, 1709. Bryan (who was proprietor, editor and printer) published the thriving paper for nearly forty years, first as The Worcester Post-Man (from 1709), then The Worcester Post (from 1722) and finally The Weekly Worcester-Journal (from 1725). Local news was relatively rare in the first decade of publication, but after about 1720 Bryan began to include more local items.[7] In the time that Bryan owned the paper it was published on Fridays.[8]

In April 1748, Bryan sold the paper to Harvey Berrow who changed its name to The Worcester Journal and its publication day to Thursday. From 11 October 1753 the paper was published as Berrow's Worcester Journal.[9]

This last name change was prompted when a competitor, Richard Lewis, tried to profit from the success of the Worcester Journal by launching the similar-sounding New Worcester Journal. Lewis's other efforts to take market share from the older paper included publishing on Wednesdays (the day before Berrow) and circulating a report in Bewdley, Kidderminster, and Stourbridge that Berrow's newsmen had left his service.[10] In return, Berrow's 8 November 1753 issue made a declaration of opposition to "the Publication of a News-Paper (on a Wednesday) by a Person who has not the least Right to exercise the Art of Printing, he having serv'd no Apprenticeship at all thereto, nor hath otherwise had an Opportunity of acquainting himself with the Nature thereof." Lewis was eventually hooted out of business by the ebullient Berrow in the following year.[11]

Berrow was the third son of Capel Berrow (died 1751), a clergyman, and younger brother of Capel Berrow the writer,[12] and was an apothecary in Peterborough. This was not unusual during this time as early newspaper proprietors would sell medicines alongside their newspapers. Berrow promoted in his paper his elixir for dropsy and his powder for gout. The paper was sold for 2½d every week with five pages.

The paper is still named Berrow's Worcester Journal, despite the Berrow family having long since ceased any connection with it - it is published by Newsquest. Around 41,000 copies are distributed every week, with all but 1,500 dispensed freely. A website is dedicated to the history of the Journal, with its contents uploaded every week onto its main page for anybody to access.

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ "Berrow's Worcester Journal - History of the newspaper". Worcester News. Newsquest. Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  2. ^ "Oldest Newspapers Still In Circulation". World Association of Newspapers. Retrieved 2012-01-18. [dead link]
  3. ^ Wiles, p. 14.
  4. ^ Green, Vol. 2, pp. 25-6.
  5. ^ Wiles, pp. 506-7
  6. ^ Cooper, p. 3.
  7. ^ Wiles, p. 257
  8. ^ Wiles, p. 65
  9. ^ Wiles, p. 506
  10. ^ Wiles, p. 91
  11. ^ Wiles, p. 22
  12. ^ Cooper, Margaret. "Berrow, Harvey". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/70356.  (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)

References[edit]

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