Provincial newspapers, communities, and local and regional identity: Ilfracombe, Devon, 1860-1

Andrew Jackson
Bishop Grosseteste University

Provincial newspaper production expanded rapidly through the second half of the nineteenth century and into the early twentieth. The local and regional press ‘heritage’ of this period is now an important resource for the historian, and continues to attract much research attention. Provincial newspapers played a significant role in the development of communities and the forging of local and regional identities. Provincial newspapers reported on the evolution of particular places and districts and the lives of their inhabitants. As such they constitute a valuable primary source. In addition they are cultural artefacts, a tangible legacy of the function of provincial newspapers in fashioning and sustaining spatial networks and identities. Newspaper editors were highly selective in their choice of content and comment, and the manner of their partiality and tone of their communication are very illuminating. They were, at times, highly critical, and, at others, keen to deploy ‘boosterist’ discourse to promote the community or region that they sought to represent. This paper takes as its case study the earliest surviving newspaper for the seaside town of Ilfracombe, north Devon, a publication that lasted for just one year. The only surviving copies of the town’s Intelligencer and Arrivals List held publicly are to be found in Ilfracombe Museum, and they have been selectively digitized for an electronic repository. Recent examination of the newspaper has focused on the prominent front-page editorials, and the main themes that the editor felt worthy of bringing to the attention of local residents and visitors. For this leisure resort, and the cultivation of the district’s sense of itself in the local press, most newsworthy were concerns relating to the weather, improvement and class.

Newspapers and Periodicals in Britain and Ireland from 1800 to 1900