Alan Crosby: Getting lost in local newspapers

By Jon Bauckham, 3 September 2015 - 2:28pm

Delving into local newspaper archives often leads to hours of distraction, says local historian and serial procrastinator Alan Crosby

Dr Alan Crosby is the editor of the Local Historian and a columnist for WDYTYA? MagazineThursday 3 September 2015
Alan Crosby
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British Library newspapers in Boston Spa

Inside the huge British Library Newspapers building in Boston Spa, West Yorkshire – it would take you a long time rifle through these! (Photo: Getty Images)

I’m off to Banbury to do some research on my father’s forebears, using the resources of the Centre for Banburyshire Studies (isn’t that a fine title!) and looking mainly at the Banbury Guardian, the main newspaper for the Oxfordshire town.

I want to find out more about my dad’s great grandfather, who was mayor of Banbury in 1872-73. The problem is that I am quite easily distracted. I set out to read only the relevant articles (though the newspaper is on microfilm and it’s quite hard work to identify them) but I find that I’m diverted.

George Crosby (the mayor) was a local politician from the beginning of the 1850s until his death in 1886, and in theory, I will focus only on political items: reports of meetings of the Borough Council, the Board of Health and the Borough Court. But in reality I know that my eye will be caught by arresting articles along the lines of “Suicide pact at Brackley”, “Elderly lady fined for loitering”, “Grand Sale of Second-Hand Furniture”… I could go on!

I can’t resist, so progress is usually very slow. There are tedious pages that can easily be omitted (turgid accounts of proceedings in Parliament) but so much local and county news can be fascinating. And then there are the ‘Hatches, Matches and Despatches’ (as Births, Marriages and Deaths were jokingly known), with entries for many of my Victorian Banbury relatives.

I don’t anticipate making much progress, but it will be good to visit, yet again, the town where my forebears lived back into the reign of Elizabeth I.
 

Alan Crosby lives in Lancashire and is editor of The Local Historian. He is an honorary research fellow at Lancashire and Liverpool universities

 

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