Leisure and culture: Newspapers

A History of the County of Chester: Volume 5 Part 2, the City of Chester: Culture, Buildings, Institutions. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 2005.

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J S Barrow. J D Herson. A H Lawes. P J Riden. M V J Seaborne, 'Leisure and culture: Newspapers', in A History of the County of Chester: Volume 5 Part 2, the City of Chester: Culture, Buildings, Institutions, (London, 2005) pp. 297-298. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/ches/vol5/pt2/pp297-298 [accessed 27 May 2024].

J S Barrow. J D Herson. A H Lawes. P J Riden. M V J Seaborne. "Leisure and culture: Newspapers", in A History of the County of Chester: Volume 5 Part 2, the City of Chester: Culture, Buildings, Institutions, (London, 2005) 297-298. British History Online, accessed May 27, 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/ches/vol5/pt2/pp297-298.

Barrow, J S. Herson, J D. Lawes, A H. Riden, P J. Seaborne, M V J. "Leisure and culture: Newspapers", A History of the County of Chester: Volume 5 Part 2, the City of Chester: Culture, Buildings, Institutions, (London, 2005). 297-298. British History Online. Web. 27 May 2024, https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/ches/vol5/pt2/pp297-298.


Chester's first newspaper was the Chester Weekly Journal, begun by the printer William Cooke in 1721. It continued until 1733 and was superseded by Cooke's later ventures, the Industrious Bee or Weekly Entertainer (1733–4) and the Chester Weekly Tatler (1734). No copies of either of the last two are known. (fn. 1)

Cooke was evidently forced out of business by a rival title first published in 1732, Adams's Weekly Courant, which was established by another Chester printer, Roger Adams. After the deaths of Adams in 1741 and his widow Elizabeth in 1771 the business passed to their daughter Dorothy and her husband William Monk, formerly Adams's apprentice. Their son and grandsons retained control until 1832. (fn. 2) The paper included a short column of local news from 1758, (fn. 3) and changed its name to the Chester Courant in 1793. (fn. 4) John Dixon, owner from 1832, modernized the newspaper and reduced its price. Later difficulties led to its acquisition by the Cheshire and North Wales Newspaper Co. in 1891. (fn. 5) It was published mid-week. (fn. 6) The Courant was vigorously Tory in the later 1740s (fn. 7) and had a Conservative editorial line throughout the 19th century. (fn. 8) It ceased publication in 1984. (fn. 9)

The Whig Chester Chronicle was begun by the printer John Poole in 1775 and at first struggled to survive, changing its day of publication several times before settling on Friday in 1776. It was rescued in 1783 by John Fletcher (d. 1835), whose long life, business acumen, and growing political influence in Chester ensured its continuance. (fn. 10) It retained its Liberal affiliation after the Home Rule crisis, (fn. 11) and was still being published weekly in 2000, having shed its political ties in the 1950s and been acquired by Thomson Regional Newspapers in 1965. (fn. 12)

The Courant and the Chronicle both circulated widely throughout Cheshire and adjoining counties. In 1781, for example, they were distributed throughout the area as far as Denbigh, Shrewsbury, Stoke upon Trent, Macclesfield, Manchester, Wigan, and Ormskirk. (fn. 13) The earliest efforts to maintain a third newspaper failed in the face of their entrenched position. The Chester Herald (1810–13) did not long outlast the death of its founder Thomas Cutter in 1812. (fn. 14) The Whig Chester Guardian, despite influential support, was published only from 1817 to 1823. Joseph Hemingway, who edited the Courant and the Chronicle in turn, thought that Chester could not support a third paper. (fn. 15) His point was proved again by the Chester Gazette, which lasted from 1836 only to 1840. (fn. 16)

Conditions changed with the repeal of the stamp duty in 1855. (fn. 17) The Cheshire Observer was begun in 1854 by Henry Smith and Henry Mills. It started as politically neutral but evolved by the late 1850s into a popular Liberal paper, changing ownership several times. (fn. 18) After a short period when it was printed in Birkenhead (1861–3) it moved back to Chester and throve at the expense of the Courant. Both titles were taken over in 1891 by the Cheshire and North Wales Newspaper Co., a new venture whose Conservative backers included the duke of Westminster and the city's M.P., Robert Yerburgh. (fn. 19) The Observer was published on Friday and Saturday and the Courant on Wednesday, later Tuesday. (fn. 20) The group closed the Courant, whose circulation was falling sharply, in 1984, then passed into the ownership of the Chronicle, which ran the Observer as a mid-week paper before closing it in 1989 and instead starting Cheshire Tonight, an evening paper which lasted for only 18 months in 1989–90. (fn. 21)

R. M. Thomas started the Chester Record as a popular Liberal paper in 1857 and by 1864 was selling 1,200 copies a week in the city in vigorous competition with the Observer. (fn. 22) The Cheshire News, begun in 1866, was incorporated a year later into A. Mackie's Chester Guardian, founded in 1867 and politically unaligned. It was published as the Chester News and Guardian 1867–8, took over the Record in 1868, and appeared as the Chester Guardian, Record, and News 1868–9, the Chester Guardian and Record 1869–1946, and the Chester Guardian from 1946 to its demise in 1956. The Chester Daily Guardian appeared for 18 months in 1884–5. (fn. 23)

The Farmers' Herald, a monthly established in 1843 by W. H. Evans 'for the promotion of agricultural improvement and practical and scientific farming' and published in Chester, circulated among landowners and farmers well beyond the county, latterly as a magazine, until it closed in 1930. (fn. 24)

Several Welsh-language newspapers were published in Chester, the earliest Y Geirgrawn (The Treasury of Words) in 1796; the longest lasting was called successively Goleuad Gwynedd (The Illuminator of Gwynedd, 1818–19), Goleuad Cymru (The Illuminator of Wales, 1819–31), and Y Drysorfa (The Treasury, from 1847). (fn. 25)

The Chronicle group also published a free newspaper from 1970. Initially called the Chester Mail, it closed in 1985 but was replaced successively by the Chester Express Mail (1986–7), Chester Mail (1987–9), and Chester Herald and Post (from 1989). Other free papers were the Chester and District Standard (from 1986), Chester Tonight (1989–90), and the Chester Evening Leader (from 2000). (fn. 26)


  • 1. Bk. Trade in Ches. to 1850: Directory, ed. D. Nuttall, 73; D. Nuttall, Hist. of Printing in Chester, 1688–1965, 17–18; G. A. Cranfield, Development of Provincial Newspaper, 1700–60, 13–21; J.C.A.S. xxi. 25–9; 3 Sheaf, lvii, p. 71.
  • 2. Nuttall, Hist. Printing in Chester, 18–26.
  • 3. e.g. Adams's Weekly Courant, 22 Aug. 1758, p. 3.
  • 4. Issues in C.C.A.L.S.; B.L. cat. of newspapers.
  • 5. Bk. Trade, ed. Nuttall, 15; Nuttall, Hist. Printing in Chester, 46–8, 51–2; Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1892), 193.
  • 6. C.C.A.L.S., list of newspapers held; Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1878 and later edns. to 1939); Kelly's Dir. Chester (1940 and later edns.).
  • 7. Cranfield, Development of Provincial Newspaper, 51.
  • 8. e.g. Newspaper Press Dir. (1857); Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1878), 110; (1892), 186.
  • 9. Benn's Press Dir. (1982–5 edns.); B.L. cat. of newspapers.
  • 10. Nuttall, Hist. Printing in Chester, 26–31, 49, 52–3.
  • 11. e.g. Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1892), 186.
  • 12. H. Hughes, Chronicle of Chester, 242, 246.
  • 13. [P. Broster], Chester Guide (2nd edn., 1782), 66–8.
  • 14. Bk. Trade, ed. Nuttall, 14, 74; Nuttall, Hist. Printing in Chester, 38; Hemingway, Hist. Chester, ii. 260; 3 Sheaf, xvii, p. 13.
  • 15. Bk. Trade, ed. Nuttall, 18, 74; Nuttall, Hist. Printing in Chester, 38–9; Hemingway, Hist. Chester, ii. 264–5.
  • 16. Bk. Trade, ed. Nuttall, 13, 75; R. Cowley, NEWSPLAN: Report of NEWSPLAN Project in NW. Region, no. 260.
  • 17. Newspapers Act, 18 & 19 Vic. c. 27.
  • 18. Newspapers Press Dir. (1857 and later edns.).
  • 19. Nuttall, Hist. Printing in Chester, 47–53.
  • 20. Kelly's Dir. Ches. (1878), 110, and later edns.
  • 21. Benn's Press Dir. (1982–5 edns.); Benn's Media Dir. (1989–90 edns.); B.L. cat. of newspapers.
  • 22. Newspaper Press Dir. (1858 and later edns.).
  • 23. Ibid. (1868 and later edns.); B.L. cat. of newspapers; Cowley, NEWSPLAN, nos. 261, 264–7.
  • 24. Newspaper Press Dir. (1857 and later edns. to 1931); B.L. cat. of newspapers.
  • 25. Bk. Trade, ed. Nuttall, 74.
  • 26. Hughes, Chronicle of Chester, 244; B.L. cat. of newspapers; Benn's Media (1994 edn.), 122.