Friday, January 25, 2013

They didn't have Page 3 girls 200 years ago but ...

Old News
In looking through old newspapers it is very easy to become distracted by a completely different story to the one you were researching.  "Glory1505" asked a question on Rootsweb about the possible existence of a press report relating to the trial of Joseph Saunders at Hertford in 1818.

I found a very brief mention in the Bury and Norwich Post squeezed between a long report (by the standard of early 19th century papers) on a breach of promise case in which the jilted lady was awarded £4000 and a seduction, where the mother of the seduced young girl was awarded £1000. The latter was followed by two brief reports of men being sentenced to death - at a time when public hangings were considered a great entertainment - with people flocking to watch the action.

So while modern newspapers are very much bigger that those of 200 years ago things haven't changed. The early editors undoubtedly selected stories about sex, money and violence because they were popular then - and helped to sell newspapers. 

POSTCRIPT: The case of Joseph Saunders, and two of the other criminals mentioned in the press report, are mentioned in Transported beyond the Sea (I have added detailed to the page on the press report) so there are almost certainly court record at HALS. If you live in or near Hertfordshire you may be interested to know that Ken Griffin, who wrote the book, will be talking on The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: A Story of Transportation at the Herts Family History Society meeting on April 27.


  1. Amusing point but there are more extensive press reports on the Saunders trial. The Cambridge Chronicle and Journal for 24 July 1818 details the charge and reports evidence given by a shepherd, a constable and a butcher. The Morning Post for 21 July 1818 noy only has a report of the evidence in the sheep stealing case but also shows Saunders was found guilty on a separate charge of stealing linen cloth. Anthony

  2. Anthony is, of course, right and I will add details of all the court cases to the main page in the next day or two. The problem is that small differences in the search terms and the accuracy of the optical character reading can greatly affect what you get. I searched for "Saunders" and "Hertford" and missed the Cambridge Chronicle because it reported on the "Hertfordshire" assize. The Morning Post did report on the Hertford Assize but the word "Hertford" appears not to have been properly indexed.

  3. Plus the Cambridge paper had Sanders for Saunders. I used sheep-stealing as a search word. To the inadequacies of OCR add good old fashioned typos. Anthony


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