On this day … 7 April 1821

The first edition of one of Preston’s earliest newspapers, the short-lived Preston Sentinel, was published by its owner, the Church Street bookseller Lawrence Clarke. He launched it as a Tory rival to the town’s Liberal paper, the Preston Chronicle, on the streets since 1812..

This was a time of seething Chartist unrest in the town. The previous year, the leading radical, Henry ‘Orator’ Hunt, had stood as a candidate for Preston in the general election, while awaiting trial for his part in the 1819 meeting in St Peter’s Fields in Manchester that culminated in what became known as the ‘Peterloo massacre’.

Hunt lost, but the contest had clearly unsettled the Tories, who dominated the Corporation, and were happy with their arrangement with the Derby Whig faction, whereby the town elected a Whig MP and a Tory MP. The arrangement pleased both sides, but it was threatened by the Radical intervention, and the Tories were stung by Preston’s reputation ‘as the only town in England which would give such a mountebank as Hunt 1,100 votes’.

The Sentinel closed the following year, but it was succeeded in 1825 by the Preston Pilot, also published by Lawrence Clarke. Radical unrest was continuing in the town and the paper’s editor was shot at twice while at the office.

During its short life, the Sentinel was edited by a young Cambridge graduate, Richard Parkinson, who was ordained a year after the paper folded and became the curate at St Michael’s-on-Wyre. He contributed articles to the Pilot, before moving on to a distinguished clerical career.

Preston’s 19th-century newspapers are an essential source for anybody interested in the town’s history. Nigel Morgan mined them for his various histories of the town, and said the hardest part was staying focussed because there was so much of interest that it was too easy to stray.

Anybody with a Lancashire Library card can access Preston Chronicle articles from 1831 to 1894 on line for free. The range should probably be longer, but as Andrew Hobbs points out, ‘The British Library catalogue erroneously dates the Preston Chronicle’s launch as 1831, which may explain why its digitised edition of the paper starts from that date rather than 1812 or 1807’.

Cover of A Fleet Street in Every Town
Cover of The Diaries of Anthony Hewitson

There are also more than twenty Preston area newspapers dating from the eighteenth to the twentieth century available on microfilm at Lancashire Archives. The best guides to the nineteenth-century papers, their journalists and readers are two books and a PhD thesis by Andrew Hobbs:
A Fleet Street in Every Town: https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0152
The Diaries of Anthony Hewitson, Provincial Journalist, Volume 1: https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0262
Reading the local paper: Social and cultural functions of the local press in Preston, Lancashire, 1855-1900: https://clok.uclan.ac.uk/1866/2/HoibbsAPhD_final_thesis.pdf

Other sources:

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