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Wiltshire Community History

Newspapers

The earliest Wiltshire newspaper to have survived is the Salisbury and Winchester Journal published as the Salisbury Journal or Weekly Advertiser in 1738, and which still continues as the Salisbury Journal. This was the only Wiltshire newspaper for the 18th century, other than the short-lived Marlborough Journal (1771-74) which contained mainly Bath news. Newspapers from other counties also covered Wiltshire in the 18th century; the main ones being:

  • The Gloucester Journal from 1723 which covered the northern half of Wiltshire and is available on microfilm at the County Local Studies Library in Gloucester City Library.
  • The Sherborne Mercury from 1737 to 1867 which covered most of Wiltshire during the 18th century. This is available on microfilm at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre at Chippenham.
  • Various Bath newspapers from 1744 to 1800, which covered western Wiltshire, but which have little or no Wiltshire news. They are extremely useful for Wiltshire advertisements of the 18th century. These are available on microfiche at the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre at Chippenham.

The local newspapers of the 18th and the first half of the 19th century contained mainly national and international news with only a few columns devoted to local events. Often they are no more than four fairly small pages although the size and page numbers did increase as the 19th century progressed.

The next Wiltshire newspaper to be published was Simpson's Salisbury Gazette in 1816 which moved to Devizes in 1819 and became the Devizes and Wiltshire Gazette which survives to this day. In 1836 came the Wiltshire Independent (1836 - 1876) published as a radical alternative to the Gazette. In the following year, 1837, came the Wilts and Gloucester Standard which still continues with the local edition now known as the Malmesbury Standard.

These were the only newspapers published in Wiltshire before the removal of the prohibitive Stamp Duty in 1855. Shortly before that William Morris of Swindon brought out the Swindon Advertiser and Monthly Record as a monthly magazine in order to avoid Stamp Duty. It changed to a weekly edition as the Swindon Advertiser and North Wilts Chronicle in 1855 and was the first penny newspaper in the country. Other newspapers followed with the main one being the Wiltshire Times published in Trowbridge from1855 and still in existence.

Until 1855 newspapers were small in number and covered wide areas, sometimes three or four counties. After 1855 these areas contracted considerably as newly founded newspapers carved out their circulation areas.

A list of newspapers is provided for each community and the newspaper(s) in bold are the ones to check first for news items, advertisements or births, marriages and deaths for that community. All newspapers listed did cover that community and the dates of that coverage are also given. Only newspapers published in Wiltshire plus the Sherborne Mercury are listed and these are all available on microfiche in the Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre. A newspaper from the adjacent county may also have covered communities near the county borders over the last 150 years.

Many newspapers have had name changes over their lifetime so the one listed is the current name or that by which the paper was most often known. More recently local editions of some newspapers have appeared, e.g. the Amesbury Journal (Salisbury Journal) and the Wootton Bassett Gazette (Gazette and Herald series). These have not been listed separately.

Apart from the first few years of the Sherborne Mercury none of the newspapers have been indexed.

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