User login

History of British Newspapers

Britain's press can trace its history back more than 300 years, to the time of William of Orange. Berrow's Worcester Journal, which started life as the Worcester Postman in 1690 and was published regularly from 1709, is believed to be the oldest surviving English newspaper.

William Caxton had introduced the first English printing press in 1476 and, by the early 16th century, the first 'news papers' were seen in Britain. They were, however, slow to evolve, with the largely illiterate population relying on town criers for news.

Between 1640 and the Restoration, around 30,000 'news letters' and 'news papers' were printed, many of which can be seen today in the British Museum.

The first regular English daily newspaper, the Daily Courant, was launched with the reign of Queen Anne in 1702.


1476 William Caxton sets up the first English printing press in Westminster.
1549 First known English newsletter: Requests of the Devonshyre and Cornyshe Rebelles.
1621 First titled newspaper, Corante, published in London.
1649 Cromwell suppressed all newsbooks on the eve of Charles I's execution.
1690 Worcester Postman launched. (In 1709 it starts regular publication as Berrow's Worcester Journal, considered to be the oldest surviving English newspaper).
1702 Launch of the first regular daily newspaper: The Daily Courant.
1709 First Copyright Act; Berrow's Worcester Journal, considered the oldest surviving English newspaper, started regular publication.
1712 First Stamp Act; advertisement, paper and stamp duties condemned as taxes on knowledge. Stamford Mercury believed to have been launched.
1718 Leeds Mercury started (later merged into Yorkshire Post).
1737 Belfast News Letter founded (world's oldest surviving daily newspaper).
1748 Aberdeen Journal began (Scotland's oldest newspaper - now the Press & Journal).
1772 Hampshire Chronicle launched, Hampshire's oldest paper.
1788 Daily Universal Register (est. 1785) became The Times.
1791 The Observer launched.
1835 Libel Act; truth allowed as defence for first time in Britain.
1836 The Newspaper Society founded.
1844 The Southport Visiter first published.
1848 The first issue of the Brechin Advertiser was published on Tuesday 3 October 1848.
1853 Ormskirk Advertiser and Birkenhead News first published.
1855 Stamp duty abolished. Daily Telegraph started as first penny national. Manchester Guardian, The Scotsman and Liverpool Post became daily. Shields Gazette is the first of 17 regional evenings founded this year.
1868 Press Association set up as a national news agency.
1889 First Official Secrets Act.
1905 Harmsworth (then Northcliffe) bought The Observer.
1906 Newspaper Proprietors Association founded for national dailies.
1907 National Union of Journalists founded as a wage-earners union.
1915 Rothermere launched Sunday Pictorial (later Sunday Mirror).
1922 Death of Northcliffe. Control of Associated Newspapers passed to Rothermere.
1928 Northcliffe Newspapers set up as a subsidiary of Associated Newspapers. Provincial Newspapers set up as a subsidiary of United Newspapers.
1931 Audit Bureau of Circulations formed.
1936 Britain's first colour advertisement appears (in Glasgow's Daily Record).
1944 Iliffe took over BPM Holdings (including Birmingham Post).
1946 Guild of British Newspaper Editors formed (now the Society of Editors).
1953 General Council of the Press established.
1955 Month-long national press strike. Daily Record acquired by Mirror Group.
1959 Manchester Guardian becomes The Guardian. Six-week regional press printing strike.
1960s Photocomposition and web-offset printing progressively introduced.
1964 The Sun launched, replacing Daily Herald. Death of Beaverbrook. General Council of the Press reformed as the Press Council.
1969 Murdoch's News International acquired The Sun and News of the World.
1976 Nottingham Evening Post is Britain's first newspaper to start direct input by journalists.
1978 The Times and The Sunday Times ceased publication for 11 months.
1980 Association of Free Newspaper founded (folded 1991). Regional Newspaper Advertising Bureau formed.
1981 News International acquired The Times and the Sunday Times.
1983 Industrial dispute at Eddie Shah's Messenger group plant at Warrington.
1984 Mirror Group sold by Reed to Maxwell (Pergamon). First free daily newspaper, the (Birmingham) Daily News, launched by husband & wife team Chris & Pat Bullivant.
1986 News International moved titles to a new plant at Wapping. Eddie Shah launched Today, first colour national daily launched. The Independent launched.
1987 News International took over Today.
1988 RNAB folded. Newspaper Society launched PressAd as its commercial arm. Thomson launched Scotland on Sunday and Sunday Life.
1989 Last Fleet Streetpaper produced by Sunday Express.
1990 First Calcutt report on Privacy and Related Matters. Launch of The European (by Maxwell) and Independent on Sunday.
1991 Press Complaints Commission replaced the Press Council. AFN folded. Death of Robert Maxwell (November). Management buy-out of Birmingham Post and sister titles. Midland Independent Newspapers established.
1992 Management buy-out by Caledonian Newspapers of Lonrho's Glasgow titles, The Herald and Evening Times.
1993 Guardian Media Group bought The Observer. UK News set up by Northcliffe and Westminster Press as rival news agency to the Press Association. Second Calcutt report into self-regulation of the press.
1994 Northcliffe Newspapers bought Nottingham Evening Post for £93m. News International price-cutting sparked off new national cover-price war.
1995 Lord Wakeham succeeded Lord McGregor as chairman of the PCC. Privacy white paper rejected statutory press controls. Most of Thomson's regional titles sold to Trinity. Newsquest formed out of a Reed MBO. Murdoch closes Today (November).
1996 A year of buyouts, mergers and restructuring in the regional press. Regionals win the battle over cross-media ownership (Broadcasting Act). Newspaper Society launches NS Marketing, replacing PressAd.
1997 Midland Independent Newspapers is bought by Mirror Group for £297 million. Human Rights and Data Protection bills are introduced.
1998 Fourth largest regional press publisher, United Provincial Newspapers, is sold in two deals: UPN Yorkshire and Lancashire newspapers sold to Regional Independent Media for £360m and United Southern Publications sold to Southnews for £47.5m. Southern Newspapers changes its name to Newscom, following acquisitions in Wales and the West (including UPN Wales in 1996). Death of Lord Rothermere. Chairmanship of Associated Newspapers passes to his son Jonathan Harmsworth. Death of David English, editor-in-chief of Daily Mail and chairman of the editors' code committee.
1999 Trinity merges with Mirror Group Newspapers in a deal worth £1.3 billion. Newsquest is bought by US publisher Gannett for £904 million. Portsmouth & Sunderland Newspapers is bought by Johnston Press for £266m. Major regional press groups launch electronic media alliances (eg, This is Britain, Fish4 sites.) Freedom of Information bill introduced. Associated launches London's free commuter daily, Metro.
2000 Newscom is sold to Newsquest Media Group for £444m, Adscene titles are sold to Southnews (£52m)and Northcliffe Newspapers, Belfast Telegraph Newspapers are sold by Trinity Mirror to Independent News & Media for £300m, Bristol United Press is sold to Northcliffe Newspapers Group, and Southnews is sold to Trinity Mirror for £285m. Daily Express and Daily Star are sold by Lord Hollick's United News & Media to Richard Desmond's Northern & Shell. Launch of Scottish business daily Business a.m. and more Metro daily frees. Newspaper Society launches internet artwork delivery system AdFast. Communications white paper published.
2001 RIM buys six Galloway and Stornaway Gazette titles, Newsquest buys Dimbleby Newspaper Group and Johnston Press buys four titles from Morton Media Group. UK Publishing Media formed. Sunday Business changes name to The Business and publishes on Sunday and Monday.
2002 Johnston Press acquires Regional Independent Media's 53 regional newspaper titles in a £560 million deal. Northcliffe Newspapers Group Ltd acquires Hill Bros (Leek) Ltd. Queen attends Newspaper Society annual lunch. New PCC chairman, Christopher Meyer, announced. Draft Communications Bill published. The Sun and Mirror engage in a price war.
2003 Conrad Black resigns as chief executive of Hollinger International, owner of Telegraph group. Claverly Company, owner of Midland News Association, buys Guiton Group, publisher of regional titles in the Channel Islands. Archant buys 12 London weekly titles from Independent News & Media (December) and the remaining 15 the following month (January 04). Independent begins the shift to smaller format national newspapers when it launched its compact edition. Sir Christopher Meyer becomes chairman of the Press Complaints Commission. DCMS select committee chaired by Gerald Kaufman into privacy and the press. Government rejects calls for a privacy law.
2004 Phillis Report on Government Communications published (January). Barclay Brothers buy Telegraph group and poach Murdoch Maclennan from Associated to run it. Kevin Beatty moves from Northcliffe Newspapers to run Associated Newspapers. Trinity Mirror sells Century Newspapers and Derry Journal in Northern Ireland to 3i. Tindle Newspapers sells Sunday Independent in Plymouth to Newsquest. The Times goes compact (November).
2005 Johnston Press buys Score Press from EMAP for £155m. Launch of free Lite editions for London Evening Standard and Manchester Evening News. The Times puts up cover price to 60p, marking the end of the nationals’ price war. The Guardian moves to Berliner format after £80m investment in new presses. DMGT puts Northcliffe Newspapers up for sale; bids expected to open at £1.2 billion. Johnston Press buys Scotsman Publications from Barclay Brothers for £160m.
2006 DMGT sale of Northcliffe group aborted but DC Thomson acquires Aberdeen Press & Journal. Trinity Mirror strategic review: Midlands and South East titles put up for sale. Growth of regional press digital platforms. Manchester Evening News city edition goes free. Government threat to limit Freedom of Information requests. Associated and News International both launch free evening papers in London during the autumn.
2007 Archant Scotland acquired by Johnston Press. Northcliffe Media buys three regional newspaper businesses from Trinity Mirror; Kent Regional Newspapers, East Surrey and Sussex Newspapers and Blackmore Vale Publishing. Dunfermline Press Group acquires Berkshire Regional Newspapers from Trinity Mirror. Tindle Newspapers buys 27 local weekly newspapers from Trinity Mirror which retains its Midlands titles. The government abandons plans to tighten Freedom of Information laws and limit media access to coroners’ courts. Former Hollinger International chief executive Conrad Black is sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison for fraud. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation buys Dow Jones, owner of the Wall Street Journal, appointing News International boss Les Hinton as chief executive.
2008 The global economic downturn hit advertising revenues and shares of media companies fell sharply during the year. John Fry was announced as Tim Bowdler’s successor at Johnston Press in September. The Independent announced a plan to move to DMGT’s Kensington building to cut costs in November. The BBC Trust rejected plans for local video that would have a negative impact on regional titles in the same month following a sustained campaign by the NS.
2009 Russian businessman Alexander Lebedev acquires the London Evening Standard from Daily Mail & General Trust and the title is subsequently relaunched as a free newspaper. Baroness Peta Buscombe is appointed chairman of the Press Complaints Commission. 
2010 Britain officially emerges from the longest and deepest recession since the war. Lebedev acquires the Independent and Independent on Sunday from Independent News & Media for a nominal fee of £1. Trinity Mirror acquires GMG Regional Media, publisher of 32 titles, from Guardian Media Group for £44.8 million. News International erects paywalls around its online content for The Times and The Sunday Times. Eleven regional print titles are launched by seven publishers in the first six months of the year. Newly-elected coalition government announces it will look at the case for relaxing cross-media ownership rules and stop unfair competition from council newspapers. The Independent launches i, a digest newspaper to complement their main title, and the first daily paper to be launched in the UK in almost 25 years.
2011 In April, following campaigning by the NS and the industry, a revised Local Authority Publicity Code came into effect to crack down on council newspapers. In July, The News of The World was closed after 168 years of publication. The Prime Minister announced an inquiry led by Lord Justice Leveson into the role of the press and police in the phone-hacking scandal. In October, Lord Hunt of Wirral was appointed chairman of the Press Complaints Commission. Five regional daily titles switched to weekly during the year. Local cross media ownership rules were abolished. Kent Messenger Group’s proposed acquisition of seven Northcliffeweekly titles was referred to the Competition Commission by the OFT forcing the deal to be abandoned. Northcliffe Media announced the subsequent closure of Medway News and the East Kent Gazette.
2012 The London 2012 Olympics and Diamond Jubilee saw national and local press titles produce a host of supplements, special editions and other initiatives in digital and print to help their readers celebrate the events. In November, the press industry came together to progress plans for a new, tougher, independent system of self regulation following publication of Lord Justice Leveson's report into the role of the press and police in the phone-hacking scandal. MailOnline became the world's biggest newspaper website with 45.348 million unique users. The creation of a new local media business Local World was announced. Led by former chief executive of publishers Mecom and Mirror Group David Montgomery, Local World is created from the newspapers and websites of Northcliffe Media and Iliffe News & Media.
2013 Significant progress was made by the newspaper and magazine industry in setting up the Independent Press Standards Organisation - the new regulator for the press called for by Lord Justice Leveson. More than 90 per cent of the national press, the vast majority of the regional press, along with major magazine publishers, signed contracts to establish IPSO. Led by Sir Hayden Phillips, the independent appointments procedures were well underway, with the regulator due to launch on 1 May 2014. Politicians, publishers and press freedom organisations from across the globe railed against the Government's Royal Charter for press regulation which Culture Secretary Maria Miller admitted could become redundant if IPSO was successful. The Guardian prompted heated debate over the issue of mass surveillance after publishing a series of stories based on information leaked by the US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. The local press was widely praised for its coverage of floods which blighted communities with Prime Minister David Cameron singling out the Eastern Daily Press in particular. Local papers created thousands of jobs distributing Regional Growth Fund cash to small businesses.