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Chapter TitleNotes

Salisbury

Title :Wiltshire Newspapers - Past and Present: the Salisbury Post Man
Author :Mrs Herbert Richardson
Book Type :Public Services
Publisher :WANHS
Date :1919
ISBN :
Journal :WAM, Vol. 40, pages 331- 339
Full Text :The Salisbury Post Man by Mrs Herbert Richardson

Farley embarked on his third venture in September or October, 1715,taking his own press (The moving of a hand press in the early eighteenth century was no such difficult matter. Farley's old partner, Bliss, in a subsequent contest with Philip Bishop over "The Sale of News in the town of Taunton" gives notice that he will be "there with a Printing Press in order to serve the same town and print the same twice every week if encouraged.") with him to Salisbury as his ingenuous postscript (This naive apology for the dirty condition of the printer's type recalls the list of Errata at the end of Farley's Worthies of Devon, which begins with lengthy accuracy, but after proceeding some way ends abruptly thus: "With others too tedious to insert." The two postscripts surely throw a further ray of light on Farley's personality.)to the first number of The Salisbury Post Man (already quoted) proves, although it is just possible that he had already set up his first page in Exeter, with the idea of thus saving time and launching his paper immediately on his. arrival. He certainly had great hopes of his new enterprise. His title-page asserts that the paper will be "made public in every Market Town Forty Miles distant from this City; and several will be sent as far as Exeter," and he must obviously have reckoned on the support of his old "News-Customers" in Bristol and Exeter as well as on that of the Salisbury public.

A close examination of The Salisbury Post Man shows its. similarity with the two earlier Farley Papers. The stock phrase-ology," Material Occurrences, Foreign and Domestick," etc., is used in the title-page of each paper; in each the wood-cuts of ship and postman appear to right and left (in the case of The Exeter Mercury to left and right) of the title; the cuts in all three papers are similar, though not identical, and the contents of two, The Salisbury Post Man and Bristol Post Man, are ornamented with additional cuts of some merit; (It is curious to find that the cut which heads the news on the third page of The Salisbury Post Man, an oblong device (5i inches by It inch) of elaborate birds and scrolls, is absolutely identical with a cut which ornaments a later paper of Jos. Bliss's, The Protestant Mercury or Exeter Post Boy. Both blocks were presumably Exeter made.) the paper on which The Salisbury Post Man is printed is, as in the case of the two other journals, of good quality (though, again, each paper varies in water-mark and width of the space between the lilies made by the sewing wires); while in all three the news is gathered from the same sources,( The Evening Post, written news-letters, etc.), the price in each case is three-half-pence, and the contents (twelve pages quarto in The Bristol Post Man and six pages folio in The Exeter Mercury and Salisbury Post Man), a generous quota for the money.

The Salisbury Post Man seems in fact to have been the ripe effort of Farley's newspaper experience, and the most ambitious of his early journalistic enterprises. Influenced probably by the success of The Exeter Mercury, which, as has been noted, had just transformed itself from a weekly into a twice-weekly, Farley bravely decreed for his new venture a thrice-weekly issue, If Bonny, of Bristol, could dare a twice-weekly issue for his Post Boy in 1709, to follow the Malplaquet campaign, Farley, printing six years later, might well launch his thrice-weekly Post Man with sanguine hopes of success, for he had chosen a moment of yet more absorbing interest for its appearance. On September 14th (O.S.-Sept. 25th, N.S.) the Earl of Mar had raised the Jacobite standard at Braemar and the rebellion of the 'Fifteen had begun. Public excitement would surely afford full support to a paper dealing with the pro-gress of the rising,
.
On Saturday, September 27th, accordingly, The Salisbury Post Man was to have appeared. The contents of the first number present, however, a strange discrepancy. They are compiled from the usual authorities -"So far The Evening Post," "All from the Written Letter," etc.- but the date-headings of the paragraphs run "Edinburgh, Nov. 12th," "Paris, Nov. 23rd," "Hague, Nov. 24th," "London, Nov, 24th," and so forth, and prove beyond doubt that the paper cannot possibly have appeared as dated on its title-page, The news itself explains this remarkable disagreement in dates: it contains an account of "My Lord Duke of Argyle's" engagement with the " Rebels" on Nov. 13th and 14th, in which "for some time our dragoons gave no quarter," a report from London that "the two great Actions with the Rebels in Lancashire and Scotland are still the subject of all 'Conversations," and a "List of the Prisoners taken at Stirling". One is forced to the conclusion that Farley had intended bringing out his paper on September 27th, and even set up his first sheet in type for that purpose, but that the slow march of events had stayed his hand. Day after day be must have waited for news of a decisive engagement with the Jacobite rebels, biding his time deliberately through the tense excitement of October and November, until the battles of Sheriff-muir and Preston were fought at last, and he could bring out his first number with news for which a nation was waiting. (The duplicate first number of The Post Man confirms the discrepancy in dates, which is not due, as might be surmised, to a later number being folded in with an earlier title, A comparison with other early provincial newspapers reveals, moreover, no single number dated so diversely in its cover and contents. The explanation can only be that given.) It was, in fact, a record first number at which Farley was. aiming, and his policy is yet another proof of the importance he attached to his latest paper, while it is quite in keeping with the true journalistic flair his work as a whole reveals. As The Post Man's final paragraph of news is headed "London, Nov. 24th," the first number must have appeared on Saturday, Nov. 25th, when the third post for the week had duly arrived.

The identification of the premises on which Farley's Salisbury Post Man was first printed is a question of much interest. The "Office adjoyning to Mr. Robert Silcocks, on the Ditch in Sarum" was in all probability situated in the tenement at the extreme end of the alley that runs between the present premises of The Salisbury and Winchester Journal and those of Messrs. Brown & Co., on the Canal. This tenement is now roughly divided, part being in the occupation of Messrs. Bennett Bros. and part in that of Messrs. Brown & Co. But it is obvious that both portions origin-ally formed one house, and about this the earliest traditions of Salisbury printing still cling.

Evidence for the assumption that Farley's press of 1715-16 was here set up is derived from a study of the Salisbury Corporation rate-books and from the premises themselves. The rate-books of 1715 show Mr. Robert Silcocks' house (Farley's name does not of course appear in the rate-books. He was presumably tenant only of a portion of the premises, and that for no lengthy period.), which was in the Dolphin Chequer (The Dolphin Inn was "In Katherine St., and the lower end of New St.," so that the Dolphin chequer must have included the modern Canal.) of the New St. Ward, to have been highly assessed both for land and window tax. Earlier rate-books prove it also to have been in the owner's occupation from about 1704. It was therefore a large and well-known house, quite suited for "address" _purposes as given in The Post Man. " Adjoyning" it on the one side in 1715 were one lowly rated and two moderately rated tenements before a larger house is recorded, and on the other a large house of similar size, two small tenements very lowly rated, and then another large house occupied by Mr. Hillman. The Hillman house we can identify later, and this, with the tenements between it and the Sillcocks house, we may follow in the rate-books, (The sequence is not entirely easy, as the collector obviously called sometimes in different order at the houses when making his estimate for taxes.) dismissing the houses on the further side of the Silcocks house, which would give us a location round the corner in Catherine Street instead of "on the Ditch." In 1748, therefore, we find the house of Messrs. Hillman and Tatum as the house occupied by Mr. Hillman in 1715, and that of Mr. Snow as the earlier Silcocks house. One large house and one lowly rated tenement are still between them as between the Silcocks and Hillman houses of 1715, and one other small tenement" adjoyning." Now the Hillman and Tatum house of 1748 is the building at present occupied by Messrs. Brown and Mr. Rambridge. It was then tenanted by "Messieurs Tatum and Still, Apothecaries," and in to it in this year Benjamin Collins, pro-prietor of The Salisbury Journal, moved his printing and bookselling business from Silver Street. If we assume that the Snow house of 1745 (the Silcocks house of 1715) was on the site now occupied by the present Journal Office, or part of Messrs. Bloom's, we narrow down the area in which the Farley Office may be traced to that part of the Canal which lies between the present premises of Messrs. Brown and Messrs. Bloom. We may then conclude that one of the small tenements between these larger premises - and therefore, presumably, down the alley - was that in which Farley first set up his press; and the old building at the extreme end certainly seems the most likely location. Its character and traditions strengthen the assumption. In one of its rooms (now forming part of the present Journal premises and used for storing paper), a room with a strong floor which would well have carried a hand printing-press, an old wood-block for a broadsheet (Publius Lentulus, his letter to the Senate of Rome concerning Jesus Christ. The block was found in two pieces, and has since been mended.), of very rough and early type, has been found, with other wood-block debris, in one corner of the floor. In the gabled rooms above which are entered from Messrs. Brown's premises, though really forming part of the same building, and are again strongly floored and supported by heavy beams, The Salisbury Journal of 1748 and onwards was indubitably set up and printed - the old criminal broadsheets and notices pasted up by the printers still remain upon the doors.

There seems no doubt that this quaint, and now unfortunately dilapidated, old tenement, covered on its further side with pictu-resque overlapping red tiles, was. the first home of Salisbury printing. It is thus a rather remarkable fact that the present Salisbury and Winchester Journal is printed on premises of which the house whence Farley originally issued his Post Man of 1715-16 still forms part.

It is disappointing to find that The Salisbury Post Man, to which its promoter himself attached so much importance and which had made so dramatic an entry into the newspaper world, cannot have been an unqualified success. After March 1st, 1716, we lose all trace of the paper. The issue for that date (mentioned by Hatcher) is "No, 40," and proves that the thrice-weekly issue cannot have been regularly adhered to, The quick suppression of the Rebellion of 'Fifteen would in some measure account for this, but The Post Man seems indeed to have been too ambitious in scheme. At a time when, even in London, many important papers still kept to the twice or thrice-weekly issue (London had, however, possessed a daily paper, The Daily Courant, since 1702, and an evening paper, The Evening Post, with the Historical Account, since 1706.), a newspaper aiming at an ap-pearance three times a week in a town which was neither extensive in population (An interesting manuscript list (in the Blackmore Museum, at Salisbury) of the number of houses in the city in the year 1753 gives 8760 as the popu-lation at that date, an estimate arrived at by assuming 6 persons in each house, and multiplying the number of houses, 1460, by this figure. A census of 1775, however, gives 6856 only (see Hatcher, and Easton's Salisbury Guide), nor an important trading centre can hardly have found a ready sale. The position of Salisbury on the great western road, with coaches running daily through it from London to Bath. Exeter, Southampton, and elsewhere, may also have adversely affected the success of its first newspaper; for the many coaching inns in the city must all have been well provided with the London journals, and the citizen would still consult these in the coffee rooms of the Angel, the Antelope, the White Hart, or the Black Horse.

Judging by the absence of all later traces of the paper, it is most probable that before the end of 1716 Samuel Fadey definitely abandoned the enterprise of The Salisbury Post Man and decided - his Exeter Mercury being also now in other hands - to devote his future energies to the development of his earliest newspaper ven-ture, The Bristol Post Man. It was in Bristol certainly that he permanently settled as a printer, working after 1718 in partnership with his sons Samuel and Felix,

His connection with Exeter was almost severed. The Rev, Ingle Dredge's list shows 110 book or pamphlet printed in Exeter by Samuel Farley after 1715, and it is not until May, 1723, that he seems for a time to have been back in the city, where there was indeed little further scope for his energies, The great Exeter printer, Andrew Brice - producer at that date of The Postmaster, and later of the important and long-lived Brice's Weekly Journal - was now in the local newspaper field, in addition to George Bishop, Philip Bishop's son, and Philip's old rival, Jos, Bliss. It is perhaps characteristic of Farley's journalistic daring that he should, after so long an interval, have attempted once again to capture the Exeter. newspaper public. In May, 1723, he com-menced - another local paper, Farley's Exeter Journal (An existing copy - No. 104, for Friday, May 14th, 1725 - gives, as far as the counting-back system may be relied on, May, 1723, as the date of the paper's inception.) "Exon : Printed by S. Farley, over against the Guild Hall" - a not entirely typical :Farley production, remarkable, when compared with his earlier journals, for its absence of any wood-cut, ornamentation. It is very probable, however, that Farley's son Edward had really more to do with the paper than his father; and some time in the latter half of 1725 (Dr. Brushfield says "between June 4th, 1725, and May 20th, 1726"; but a copy in the Burney Collection (British Museum) for Jan. 6th, 1726, is "printed by E. Farley," showing the transfer to have been earlier.) Samuel definitely transferred his Exeter Journal to Edward Farley and finally severed his connection with Exeter, as in 1716 he had done with Salisbury. (It is, however, surprising to find an Edmund Farley in the Salisbury rate-books, holding a very small tenement on the Canal from 1736 to about 1745. But his business or connection with the Farley family are not traceable.) Henceforward his interests and printing activities lay exclusively in Bristol, the city with which his family was originally connected, and which had since 1713 so well supported his earliest and most successful newspaper.

The Bristol Post Man seems to have steadily endured during these years, But in 1725 an important Government measure affected the newspaper world, Hitherto newspapers had been reckoned, for stamp duty purposes, as pamphlets, and taxed at 3shillings the impression. Now, however, the duty was imposed at the rate of a penny the whole and a half-penny the half-sheet, and news-paper printers thus had new conditions of issue to deal with. It was this change which probably led .Farley to abandon The Exeter Journal, leaving Edward to deal in Exeter with the new situation, and to concentrate his energies on his more important Bristol venture. He at once changed the three-halfpenny Post Man, "seal'd and deliver'd for the Country at Two Pence," into Farley's Bristol Newspaper, a typical Farley journal, four pages, 10 inches by 8, for two pence, "Containing the most Genuine occurrences Foreign and Domestick" (the old phrasing), and ornamented with a wood-cut view of the city of churches. It was printed "at my house below the Dolphin in Wine Street," or "at my house near Newgate in Wine St.," and has, with various changes of title and absorption of other journals, survived until to-day as The Bristol Times and Mirror, (See Mr. Charles Wells's History of the Bristol Times and Mirror.)

The later career of Samuel Farley and the fortunes of his news-papers concern the student of Bristol rather than of Salisbury local history, just as the subsequent printing activities of other members of the family connect themselves with that of Exeter and Bath. (Dr. Brushfield gives a few interesting details about Edward and Mark Farley, both of whom seem to have got into political trouble at Exeter owing to their Jacobite principles. He and the Exon Biography of 1849 also refer to Felix of Bristol, but their references are vague and inaccurate.) The exact relationship of the many later Farleys to each other and to Samuel himself is a question still of some obscurity.

Samuel died somewhere about the year 1732. His career up to 1725 has been followed here in detail from the special point of view of his position as pioneer printer in the history of the Wiltshire newspaper. But it is not perhaps too much to say that West of England journalism still owes much to his vigour and enterprise, and that his very real importance in the larger history of the English provincial press deserves fuller recognition than it has yet received.


Abbreviations used:
  • WAM Wiltshire Archaeological & Natural History Magazine
  • WNQ Wiltshire Notes and Queries

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