Leeds nostalgia: historical local papers now an open book for researchers

editorial image
Have your say

If you’re researching your family tree or like local history, then you must read this...

Good news for anyone interested in local history - the entire back catalogue of the Yorkshire Evening Post and its sister paper the Yorkshire Post have now been digitised and put online by the British Newspaper Archive.

In addition, subscribers will be able to locate copies of our predecessor titles, including the Leeds Intelligencer and the Leeds Mercury.

All the copies are fully searchable by subject and available to download on pdf, with the added bonus that the system even allows users to copy text.

At present the online archive covers some 495 titles and Browse by newspaper title 11,642,923 pages but it’s ever expanding.

The first ever Leeds Intelligencer, which is available to view on the site, dates from Tuesday July 2, 1754. Printed by Griffith Wright in the Lower-Head-Row (sic), it would present more than a few problems for people today.

Try reading the opening passage, which is recreated below.

“Tho’ from the Abundance of Materials in the public Prints, a Weekly Collection of News may be made that will anfwer the Printer’s Intention ; yet it cannot be doubted, that an Undertaking of this Kind wou’d be much more Ufeful and Entertaining, if it was made a Means of eftablishing a public and friendly Correfpondence, amongft Gentlemen and Others, who have apply’d themfelves with fome Degree of Attention to any Branch of Science or Bufinefs in the Neighbourhood.”

‘Bufinefs’, uses the archaic ‘f’, which was never pronounced as the modern equivalent is but was, in fact, a long ‘s’, a cursive character, which dates back to Roman times but only began to fall out of use in the 1780s and 1800s, finally being consigned to history in 1803 when The Times adopted a more modern typeface.

The digitised archive is full of all kinds of oddities. One advert on the front page of the Leeds Mercury in July, 1756 read: “WANTED upon Land-Security, AN ANNUITY of Ten Pounds a Year, for the Life of a Young Man, aged 23 Years. Fur further Particulars enquire of Mr. Barnard at Leedes.”

The archive will be of great use to anyone who is trying to locate reports of deceased family members or even to trace the history of buildings, as the text of adverts has also been made searchable.

According to the British Newspaper Archive: “The British Library’s collection of historical newspapers is one of the wonders of the world: it contains newspapers from 1603 to the present day, from both Britain and further afield. There are over 600,000 bound volumes of newspapers (occupying 32 kilometres, or 20 miles, of shelving) and over 300,000 reels of microfilm (occupying a further 13km, or eight miles, of shelving). Until now, the only way to view these newspapers was to visit the British Library, and, of course, it was not possible to search them.

“The British Newspaper Archive is a partnership with the British Library to begin digitising this huge collection and make it available on the internet so researchers from all over the world can access the treasures within it.

“Launched in 2011, we have now scanned millions of pages of historical newspapers and made them available online for the first time ever. You can now search hundreds of millions of stories by keyword, name, location, date or title.”