British News

The Lost Exeter Bank note – 1776

The Exeter Bank had been established in 1769 along with England’s first hotel, The Royal Clarence, destroyed by fire in 2016.

Mr. Short was in Oxford in July 1776 and placed this advertisement in the Oxford Journal on Saturday 6th July:

Oxford, 5th July. 1776.

LOST, last Night, – An Exeter Bank Note, signed Short, for 30l (shillings) and supposed to be dropped either in the Theatre, between that and Merton College, or in Merton Garden. – A handsome Reward will be given to any Person who brings the above Note to the lodge of Oriel College.


Dubious John Shepherd, died aged 100 in 1830

Nottingham Review and General Advertiser for the Midland Counties - Friday 04 June 1830The Nottingham Review and General Advertiser for the Midland Counties – Friday 04 June 1830 reports the extraordinary story of a recently deceased 100 year old man with a long and dubious past.

“The veteran rogue.

On Friday the 21st ult., John Shepherd was interred in Ripponden churchyard.  The deceased was 100 years old; he was father to 15 children, grandfather to 55, great grandfather to 89, great great grandfather to four; she was a native of Rochdale, and obtained a settlement in the township of Spotland, from which in the course of his life he has received of relief, him money, to the amount of £250.

He has received from the Benevolent Society, held at the Angel Inn, Blackwater street, Rochdale, £135. 5s 3d in the weekly pay.  He residing at a distance from the society, the stewards could not easily prevent he is imposition, and it is known whether one time he was receiving six shillings per week from the society, two shillings per week from the overseers of Spotland, and was earning at the same time 15 shillings per week, with working; he has had three wives, and his younger son was born the very day he was 80 years of age.

His widow mortgaged a part of his funeral money, 10 years since, with Mrs. Sally Mills, of the Angel Inn, but in consequence of the old man living so much longer than she expected, the whole of the funeral money was claimed, and Mrs. Mills debt was disowned; however, the old woman at last acknowledged it, and in cant terms thanked Mrs. Mills for her former kindness, and even extorted a promise of future favours, for having been for once to acknowledge the truth.”

Ian Waugh
Old British News

Lamplighter assaulted in Whitechapel – 1869

Clerkenwell News - Wednesday 14 July 1869A lamplighter in Whitechapel, going about his business in the early hours of Wednesday the 14th of July 1869, was set upon and assaulted.  Various excuses were made when the case went to court as was reported in the Clerkenwell News:

“At Worship-street, yesterday, James Hart, 23, described as a gas fitter, residing in Goulston street, Whitechapel, was charged before Mr. Newton with assaulting James Lomell, a breaking his lighting stick.

Mr BG Abbott, solicitor, of Worship-street, defended the prisoner.

The prosecutor stated that he resided in Edward street, Bethnal-green road, and was a lamplighter in the employment of the Independent Gas Company.

About 3.15 on the previous morning he was in Goulston street, engaged in turning out of the gas lights, when the prisoner, who was standing talking to a young woman there, began making some remarks to which the witness replied that he had better mind his own business.  The prisoner walked up to him, and seizing hold of the stick with the light at the end, with which the witness turned out the gas, struck him with it on the forehead, then a below between the eyes with his fist, which knocked him against the wall and blackened his eyes.  He then broke the stick across his knees, and from the pieces into the road.  Police constable 166 H came up at the moment, and witness gave prisoner into custody.  The Constable gave evidence, stating that saw the blow given.

Mr. Abbott cross examined the constable very severely, and taxed him with having been drinking with the prosecutor that morning before the case was called on.  The constable deny this, but admitted being in a public house with the prosecutor was.  The defence was that the prosecutor was drunk and could not see to turn out the gas; that when the prisoner went to help him he abused him, and, saying that he would make the – “Jew swallow the stick” struck him with it.

They then enclosed, and the prosecutor, who fell against the wall, broke the stick in the struggle, and received the injury to the eye.  Witnesses were called in support of this, but Mr. Newton, characterising the defence has an aggravation of the offence, find the prisoner 60 shillings, for six weeks hard labour.

The money was paid”.

Ian Waugh
Old British News

Dangers of building the Princetown Railway – 1882

What became the amazing Princetown Railway over Dartmoor from Yelverton to Princetown was fraught with danger during it’s creation.

During it’s building phase there were news stories of danger caused by the weather or those constructing it.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette – Friday 29 December 1882 reported an event of a ‘riot’ by some navvies which cost the nose of a Police-Constable:

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette - Friday 29 December 1882“TAVISTOCK. A Prisoner Rescued.—On Wednesday morning, while Sergt. Richards, of Tavistock, was conveying a prisoner from Princetown to Tavistock Police-station several navvies made an attack upon him, seizing the conveyance and overpowering the police-sergeant and driver with clubs, &c. The mob rescued the prisoner, who was got away. Forty navvies afterwards made their way to Horrabridge to intercept any police who might be sent for. All the police in the district were summoned, and twelve of the warders the Convict Establishment, by the permission of the Governor, volunteered their services. Firearms were served out to them and to a large force of police. The riot arose out of an assault on Police-constable Vanstone, made on the previous evening on his apprehending escaped prisoner. Vanstone had his nose almost bitten off, and Richards was severely cut about the head and face”.

The Princetown Railway was one of England’s most spectacular lines and was opened in August 1883. It sadly closed 73 years later in March 1956.

Ian Waugh
Old British News

The Plight of Victorian Youngsters

Morning Post – Tuesday 07 October 1845

The Morning Post on Tuesday, the 7th of October 1845 was reporting a significant number of accidents involving children. It highlighted only too well the plight of youngsters during this era and how their lives were quite frequently endangered by the lack of care, attention or action from adults around them. Articles like this, apart it’s historic social value, also provide historians and researchers with crucial detail such as names and related places.

Numerous Accidents

During Saturday and Sunday the following numerous and serious accidents occurred, and the persons injured were admitted to St. Thomas’s and Guy’s Hospitals: – the first case was that of Harriet White, aged five years, his parents resided in Three Tun Court, Borough. She had accompanied them to Malling, in Kent, for the purpose of “hopping”, and whilst they were busily employed had their work she approached to nearer fire which had been kindled in the open air to prepare their food, when the windblown all the flames towards her, and her clothes became the ignited, and she was burnt all over her body in a frightful manner.

The second case was that of Jane Murphy, five years of age, residing at number 12, Holland street, Blackfriars road, who having been left in the care of two children younger than herself whilst her father and mother were out drinking, opened the second floor window and endeavoured to get hold of a piece of line which hung outside, and in so doing fell headlong to the pavement below, from a height of thirty feet, causing a severe concussion of the brain and several internal injuries.

The third was that of Eliza brown, aged nineteen, who, whilst quarrelling with some of her companions in the street, was pushed off the kerb, and by her fall dislocated her shoulder bone.

The above were conveyed to St. Thomas’s Hospital. At Guy’s the following were also received:- with Ian Jones age of seventeen years, in the employ of Mr. Dalton, Potter, High Street, Lambeth, who, whilst superintending the delivery of some goods in his master’s warehouse, inadvertently stepped backwards and fell through a trap door in the floor which have been left open, and fractured his shoulder.

The last case was that of John Johnson, of Cornwall road, Lambeth, who was attending to some pigeons on the top of a high house, when his foot slipped and he was precipitated from the roof to the street, whereby he sustained a concussion of the brain and other injuries.

Ian Waugh
Old British News

Road to War – 29 July 1914

Manchester Evening News – Wednesday 29 July 1914

As the days have passed the mood in the British Press is towards an inevitable war in Europe. The options for Britain and its Empire are becoming fewer. On the 29th of July, 1914 newspapers were pointing towards the British Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey. His general slowness and an overall reluctance in this fast developing crisis has been marked in history. But in 1914 the British media are at least polite towards this politician.

The events on this day were moving furiously and without the immediate rolling news formats that we’re used to today it was impossible for British Newspapers to keep pace. Many were announcing that special editions were being printed later in the day. Without any broadcasting whatsoever this was the best and fastest way to get events across.

Before we look at the editorial of The Manchester Evening News on this day, here are the main points of events on the 29th of July 1914:

  • Churchill persuades Asquith to authorise “Warning Telegram” to fleet
  • Nicholas II telegrams Kaiser, start of “Willy-Nicky” telegrams in English over next three days
  • Vienna refuses to negotiate with Serbia, Belgrade shelled by Austrian artillery
  • Franz Josef sends letter to Tsar Nicholas
  • Austrian forces repulsed at Losnitza
  • Montenegrins occupy Cattaro
  • Serbs blow up bridges at Semlin
  • Belgian army reserves called up
  • Trade in Antwerp “paralysed”
  • Tschirischky transmits Kaiser’s ‘Halt-in-Belgrade” proposal
  • Poincaré and Vivianni return to Paris and hold Cabinet council meeting
  • Business in Paris almost at standstill
  • Kaiser holds military councils and issues German warnings to Russia
  • Moltke sends a memorandum to Chancellor and demands general mobilization of German Armed forces; Moltke also send telegram to Conrad suggesting Austria begin full mobilization and Germany would follow
  • Bethmann-Hollweg makes moves to keep Britain neutral; final draft of ultimatum to Belgian Government sent to German ambassador in Brussels
  • Grey informs Lichnowsky (German Ambassador) that Britain could not remain neutral in the event of a continental war; proposes mediation
  • Grey and Cabinet begin meeting daily, sometimes twice or more a day over next several days; following this meeting “Warning Telegram” sent to all British naval, military and colonial stations warning that war was possible
  • (and 30th) R.N. leaves Portsmouth
  • British and German fleets in Far East begin mobilizing
  • King of Montenegro’s yacht evades capture by Austrian destroyers
  • Russian general mobilization ordered, but revoked by Tsar later that same evening; Russian hopes for Serb victory; Russians black-out Baltic coastline
  • Kaiser holds Crown Council at Potsdam over possibility of British involvement over France

The Manchester Evening News, 29th of July, 1914:


Failure has attended Sir Edward Grey’s well meant efforts to preserve peace. His plan of calling together a conference, attended by representatives of Great Britain, Germany, France, and Italy, with a view to arranging prevailing differences has not met with the approval of the Powers. It is promptly fallen through, and along with it, of course, the suggestion that until the Conference reported hostilities between Austria and Servia should be suspended.

German influence largely accounted for the failure. The authorities at Berlin took the view that conversations between the Powers would be more useful than a conference, and for anything the public know, there plan may be the better of that two. Conversations or conference, whichever the diplomats think best, but let the efforts to restore peace and confined hostilities to the narrowest possible area by continuous and vigilant.

At the moment all I ease our turned towards Saint Petersburg, owing to the strong stand taken by the advisers of the Czar on the publication of the first intimation that Austria was menacing Servia. The warlike words attributed to the Russian statesmen have not been withdrawn, nor have they been qualified. They have been followed, we regret to say, by alarming reports about mobilisation of troops on the Russian frontier on a large scale. The feeling in Saint Petersburg, so far as we know, has been uninfluenced by the reports had Austria has no intention of annexing any part of the Serbian Territory. Probably the Russians know as well as a any nation the considerations which had dominant before war is entered upon her way of becoming of no importance as war proceeds.

When Great Britain began the Boer war she announced that she had no intention of securing the gold fields of the Transvaal, but today the gold fields are under the control of the British government. What we know is that the message has been dispatched from Saint Petersburg stating that if Austria occupies Belgrade the actor will be regarded by Russia has a cause of war. It is not an official message and may be, and we hope is unauthorised. But if represents the view of the Russian government, how history repeats itself!

In the seventies of the last century, it will be remembered, England was thrilled by the intimation that if Russia occupied Constantinople the actual be regarded by Great Britain as an actor war. Meanwhile the war that is already in operation has, as usual, been a financial advantage to are few and are serious loss to many. Already some industries are badly hit. The only hopeful sign of the times is that the European Powers, with the possible exception of Russia, show a keen desire to keep out of the turmoil if they can.

In France the idea rough going to war on account of Austria is quarrel with Servia is said to be extremely distasteful. We can quite believe it, and if it be true the news should be spread to Saint Petersburg, where it may have the effect, to some extent, of curbing enthusiasm of the war-mongers. No nation ever had much cause to look with complacency on the results of any war except one waged for the defence of the hearths and homes, and the record of Russia during the last quarter of a century provides no exception in this respect.

Very often the people who clamour for war of the first to lament that a shot was fired.


Peregrine Clarke the ‘Charmer’ – 1818

Morning Post – Monday 10 August 1818

Born in the late 1700s in Trinidad, Peregrine Clarke came to England as a servant.  Described in the media as a “handsome young man of colour” he seemed to be quite a charmer.  He did have quite an extraordinary life. His time in England ended suddenly when found guilty of robbery. He was sentenced to transportation in 1818 on board the ship Justitia which sailed from Woolwich on the 29th of August bound for Hobart, Tasmania.  By the mid 1830s Peregrine’s charges were lifted and from there he started a new life in Australia by marrying his sweetheart Charlotte Stevens and having six daughters and three sons – the descendants of which are, as far as I know, still alive today.

It seems that Peregrine Clarke was quite successful in business and opened several public houses in the years that followed.  He died on the 15th of January, 1851 at the age of 55 and is buried at Hobart St Davids Anglican cemetery.

In 1818 news of his criminal adventures in England were reported in The Morning Post on the 10th of August:

Domestic Treachery

Peregrine Clarke, a handsome young man of colour, apparently a about 24 years of age, was charged on two indictments, with stealing a large quantity of linen, wine, a gold watch, and many other articles, the property of James Harris Esq., in his dwelling-house at Barnes, in this county.

It appeared that from the opening of Mr. Holland, the substance of which was proved in evidence, that the prisoner had been brought from the settlement of Trinidad by a widow lady, with whom his mother and other relatives lived as favoured servants.

Being desirous of leaving her employment she recommended him in very favourable terms to the prosecutor.  Soon after coming into his service, ill health obliged Mr. Harris to retire into Suffolk, and the prisoner from that period commenced his course of depredations.  These he carried to a very great extent, making his late mistress a present of a gold watch, wine, and other things, which he had purloined from his master.

At length, to conceal his guilt, as he thought, in the most effectual manner, he wrote a letter to his master, stating very circumstantially that the house had been broken open in the night; that he had been slightly wounded in a conflict with the robbers, who, at length, had effected their escape, after plundering the house of a great many valuables.

To give more effect to his deception, he went at the same time that he wrote his letter, and laid an information at Bow Street.  Taunton, the officer, repaired to the spot, and to the greater mortification of “Poor Peregrine”, discovered that the house had never been broken from without, but that all the injury had been done from within.

Pursuing the investigation to which the circumstance served as a clue, the active and ingenious officer soon discovered where the false servant had concealed in some of the property; and, by a letter, which he had received from a young lady, which was in the prisoner’s possession, discovered where he had deposited a great deal more in a trunk.

The property was produced, and identified; and the Jury found him guilty upon both indictments.

Ann Rudderham, a fellow servant of the last prisoner, and who appeared to have been seduced by him into malpractices, was also indicted for stealing some other articles, the property of Mr. Harris, but from some circumstances which were disclosed in the evidence by Ann Dodson, a fellow servant of hers, the Jury were induced to find her Not Guilty.

Ian Waugh
Old British News

Frank Lester – ‘To save their lives he sacrificed his own’

Frank Lester (18 Feb 1896 Lancashire, England , died 12 October 1918 in France)

News coverage of events during the First World War in a way marked a new beginning of the manner in which correspondents cover conflict. The journalists working 100 years ago have left behind a unique and outstanding record of this dramatic moment in history. In the coming years you will see through Old British News the finite micro stories, the heroism and grief and the general coverage as events unfold. This was the first war when not only editorial but images played such a huge part to paint a clearer if highly patriotic picture.

As the war is heading towards ceasefire, and after four years of conflict and pain, news media is still as sharp as ever. Here, The Liverpool Echo, is reporting on two local men who received the Victoria Cross.

Here is their special report;

Corporal of Frank Lester, 10th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers, one of the two Cheshire men who figure in the new list of VC winners, was the second son of Mr. and Mrs. John Lester, “Miller’s Hey”, Irby (his family research data here).

02The official account of his deed is as follows:

During the clearing of the village of Neuvilly on October 12 1918, with a party of about seven men under an officer, he was the first to enter a house from the back door, and shot two Germans as they attempted to get out of the front door. A minute later a fall of masonry blocks the door by which the party had escaped. The only exit into the street was under fire at point blank range. The street also was swept by the fire of machine guns at close range. Observing that an enemy sniper was causing heavy casualties to a party in a house across the street. Corporal Lester exclaimed, “I’ll settle him,” and, dashing out into the street, shot by sniper at close quarters, falling mortally wounded at the same instant. This gallant man knew well it was certain death to go into the street, and the party opposite was faced with the alternative of crossing the fire swept street or staying where it was and being shot one by one. To save their lives he sacrificed his own.

Corporal Esther was born in Hayton, and came with his parents to reside in Hoylake, when he was one year old. About six years ago the family went to reside in the dreamy little village of Irby; and it was from there that Corporal Leicester went to serve his country on the 30th of March, 1916. Prior to joining up he helped his father, who was a market gardener.

The first intimation of his bravery King to Mrs. Lester in a letter, which told of the death of a gallant son. Lt. Roderick Graham wrote:

I regret to tell you of the death of your son, Corporal F. Lester, 10th the Lancashire fusiliers. He had not only been very long in my company, but I had noticed him as a very good soldier. It has been a great blow to me as he was with me when he was shocked by a sniper. He died at once. I have brought his bravery to the notice of my colonel.

Early in his training the dead hero showed promise of becoming a good soldier. He came away from a Chelsea military school with the highest honours, and with certificates which qualified him for the post of sergeant major. He was made sergeant instructor but like many others was reduced to a private when he left England for the front at the beginning of March of this year. He entered the back door of the fray, and, after a fierce encounter, was one of 30 left either 1100.

On 30th of March he came to England on rest leave suffering from a slight wound he returned to the front in September.

Corporal Lester was of retiring disposition, and, when writing to his parents, really mentioned anything appertaining to his military life. He was 22 years of age, and in his younger days was an enthusiastic member of the Hoylake Boys Brigade. He was a keen musician, and play the organ at the chapel at Irby.

Mr. and Mrs. Lester lost another son in July 1917. He succumbed to heart failure after the battle of Gaza. There is one son left – a boy of 12 – and two daughters.



A special Old British News report on Thomas Neeley is here.

See our wide ranging highly informative special features and coverage of World War One here. A free voluntary research service is available for you if you are looking for a family relative who served in, was alive during or was lost in war.

Devon Olympic Hero – Fred Holman

Friday 24th July 1908 and crowds of Edwardian Devonians welcome home their Olympic sporting hero Fred Holman when he arrived by train at Queen Street (Central) Railway Station.

Dawlish man Fred had victoriously won the 200 metres Breast Stroke Contest in London. Hundreds were ready to carry Fred shoulder high to the Guildhall where he was welcomed by the Mayor.

The story of this real Devon hero was sadly to be a short one. Respected greatly by all in the county, sadly Fred Holman died five years later in 1913.

(above, left: Swimming hero, Fred Holman and right: Fred’s close friend and trainer Percy Matthews).

(above: The Western Times, July 24th 1908, reporting the homecoming of an Edwardian hero).

A special feature looking at the life, career and lasting legacy of Fred Holman as told through newspapers of the time will be published here soon.

The Race for Flight – 1899

As the Victorian age was slowly coming to a close the brave and exciting Edwardian era was to bring a brief and thrilling period for invention and development. Experiments in wireless broadcasting were already underway, cable telegraph transmissions throughout the Empire were already established, the motor car was beginning to feature on our roads and tracks. But the biggest prize was air flight.

Here is a special feature I have found from The Penny Illustrated Paper of August 1899 that would have thrilled any adventurous Victorian living in a world that was already beginning to shrink.

1899 Flying Machine