Berkshire Newspapers

Today, old newspapers are among the most important resources for family history research.

With the availability of The British Newspaper Archive, many are searchable and accessible online. The BNA can be used by everyone, free of charge, at the Research Centre in Reading.  

Berkshire Newspapers

pages reviewed and part revised Thursday, 26th January 2017

Old newspapers offer a rich source of detail for local and family historians. Once, searching them could be time consuming. Today, with an ever increasing number of pages accessible online, newspaper searches are an essential part of family history research.

With over 19.6 million pages from 760 old newspaper titles now digitised, The British Newspaper Archive (BNA)is an increasingly important resource for your family history research.

There is more about this initiative later in the article. The British Newspaper Archive

To see what other papers could be available, it is also worth exploring the newspaper holdings of the British Library. This can be done using the British Library News Media web page. Scroll down to the section headed "Collection guides" and you will see a Search facility on the right hand side of the page. This offers a choice between searching "The main cataolgue" or "Newspapers only". 

A printed guide to historic newspaper titles, and where to see them — the Gibson Guide, Local Newspapers Second edition. Compiled by Jeremy Gibson, Brett Langston, and Brenda W. Smith. 82 pages. ISBN 1-86006-157-5 — is still useful, but some content is now outdated.

British Library Newspaper Library

The British Library's  Newspaper Collection (once at Colindale, London) closed in 2013 and the newspaper collections were moved to a purpose-built storage facility at Boston Spa, West Yorkshire.

The British Library St Pancras (London) building has a dedicated space — the Newsroom — for newspapers, broadcast and web news. Here, you can access microfilm and digital newspapers, with reference sources and expert help. Print newspapers for which no microfilm or digital copy exists are available to order within 48 hours into the Newsroom at St Pancras or the Boston Spa Reading Room. A Reader's Pass is needed in both cases.

The British Newspaper Archive: digitising British Library newspapers

The British Library has a 10 year partnership with online publisher D C Thomson Family History to digitise 40 million newspaper pages. This programme aims to transform the way that researchers are able to access news content, making historic newspapers accessible to a wider audience than ever before. By January 2017, almost 18 million pages from old newspapers were searchable online.

Explore The British Newspaper Archive Searches are free — but you need a subscription to view individual page content.

Members and visitors to the Society's Research Centre in Reading can access and view pages of The British Newspaper Archive FREE OF CHARGE

The BNA is also accessible free of charge in the British Library’s Reading Rooms in London and Boston Spa.


It is vital to understand that reporting of local events, news and individual achievements (or misdemeanours!) was not confined just to locally published papers of the time. Reports were often syndicated and might appear a few days later in newspapers published hundreds of miles away, with no obvious connection with where the events themselves took place. A suitably structured online search will find these "out of county" reports.

The following list of Berkshire newspapers comes from the former British Library Newspaper Online Catalogue. Today, the British Newspaper Archive is the first thing to check for a specific title, or for newspapers from a particular location or time period.

Enter a search term. For example, "Windsor" or "Reading Chronicle" to find out what is available. 

The British Library Newspaper collection does not hold every issue of every title. Certain local papers are variants, with only a few pages differing from one another. You can still see certain titles — often for a limited date range and usually on microfilm — in some archives and local studies libraries.

The benefits from swift and easy keyword or surname searches of The British Newspaper Archive make this online source today's route of first choice for newspaper-based research.

NOTE: The newspaper listings that follow may contain a few omissions or inconsistencies. For example, the Wokingham Times and its variants ceased publication on 18th December 2014 and have been superseded by the online Get Reading

Use this link to check on the British Library website for a specific place or title, restricting your search to the "Newspapers only" option.

Alternatively, use The British Newspaper Archive to search by Title or by Geographical County.

Read more: Berkshire Newspapers

The Newbury Weekly News

The Newbury Weekly News was founded in 1867. Although not the first in its field, it is the only Newbury newspaper to have been published continuously from its Victorian beginning through to the present day. It is still published on a Thursday, Newbury's market day, givng rise to the local phrase "Pig and paper day".

Circulation area

From the start the paper aimed to serve and cover the whole of west Berkshire, and from time to time laid claim to portions of adjoining counties. In the north of the county it competed with Jackson's Oxford Journal, to the west with the Marlborough Gazette, to the south with the Basingstoke Gazette and to the east with the Reading newspapers.

NWN-mastheads

Content

Much of the content in the early years was taken from national papers, because many readers would not have seen any other newspaper, but local news was an important element from the beginning, and gradually took over the full run of the paper. Institutional proceedings, such as meetings of the town corporation, gas board, board of health and the various local courts of justice were reported on at length, often verbatim.

Birth, marriage and death announcements were carried (as paid items) from the beginning, but from the 1920s onwards weddings and funerals were featured as news items, usually with extensive lists of attendees. Photographs appeared regularly from the post-Edwardian period.

Freemasonry was far less publicity-shy in Victorian times, and  many pillars of the civic establishment were masons. The gatherings of local lodges were reported fully, usually giving the names of officials.

Coverage of sporting events, initially reserved for gentlemanly activities such cricket and hunting, expanded from the 1880s to cover more popular activities such as football. Bank holidays usually featured sporting galas of various races, matches and contests, the results of which were faithfully reported.

At the beginning of the First World War deaths of local soldiers were reported. As they multiplied this became a simple listing, abandoned altogether by 1916 because of the horrendous scale of fatalities. During the Second World War there was a ban on identifying the exact location of any bomb damage, which gave rise to headlines such as "Air fight over a Home Counties village" and "Bombs near a town in the south of England". The articles usually contained enough clues for locals to pinpoint the event, but when this censorship was lifted, a fuller account was published in April 1945 of local damage.

Access to old issues

Copies of the Newbury Weekly News can be seen on microfilm in Newbury Library (as well as the British Library Newspaper Collection). The Newbury Weekly News office (in addition to its own microfilm set and the original bound volumes) has its own library of cuttings filed by subject, going back to around the mid-1970s, although some subject files go back much further. This library is not generally open to the public, although access may be granted on special request. The NWN also has a subject index to the issues from 1867 to 1914; handwritten into a bound volume, it is not easy to use and is often inaccurate in its references, but it is the only such index that exists.

Additional information