Read all about it! News in Georgian Cambridge

Among the items recently acquired by the Library (generously supported by the Friends of the UL) is a group of nearly fifty issues of an eighteenth-century newspaper, entitled The Cambridge Chronicle & Journal. Published weekly between 1767 and 1848, surviving copies are now hard to come by: St John’s and Corpus Christi Colleges hold collections of issues between 1780s and about 1830, as does the Gibson Library in Saffron Walden, but no complete set exists. Newspapers then, as now, were ephemeral – intended to be read and disposed of – and where sets do survive it is simply down to luck that a contemporary purchaser never got around to having a clear out! Our set of forty-eight issues between April 1786 and October 1790 bears evidence of one such individual, as almost every issue is annotated with the name of one ‘Mr Joseph Banks Esq’.

Joseph Banks’s inscription

Although the newspaper was printed in Cambridge (on Green Street) it had a wider remit, acting as a ‘general advertiser’ for Huntingdonshire, Lincolnshire, Rutland, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Isle of Ely and was sold as far afield as London. But it is possible that Joseph Banks was a member of the University, and only one individual fits the bill in University records: a student born at Cambridge in 1766 and matriculated at Trinity Hall in 1783, who took a law degree in 1788 and was later Vicar of Hemingford Grey (1794-1848). Whoever the original purchaser was, they would have found a great deal of varied material within its pages. In addition to news of local robberies (one near Stourbridge Common in October 1786) and international affairs, it contained poetry, obituaries, notes on fashion (including the popularity of the ‘sandal shoe … still graced by the foot of beauty’ and apparently most popular in light blue), news of new publications, boxing matches, theatrical events and of sales of property across the region (including in November 1787 an auction of houses opposite Peterhouse held at the White Bear Inn, bear Trinity College).

Piece on ladies’ fashions

The University was not the only source of education-related news: late in 1786 we see a fascinating advert for a school where ‘young gentlemen are genteelly boarded’ in Linton, run by a Mr George Lodge. Boys, paying 16 guineas per year, would be ‘tenderly treated, and assiduously instructed’ in the classics, maths, accounts and trade, ‘necessary to qualify them for the University’. French, drawing and dancing could be taught – at extra cost – if required. Students in Cambridge would have found useful adverts for local booksellers, including William Lunn, who in 1787 left his apprenticeship with John Deighton (his shop would become Deighton, Bell & Co., which survived until 1998). Lunn advertised the opening of his own shop, on Peas-Market-Hill (close to St Edward’s church), ‘where he intends to sell at reduced prices’. This local colour is extremely interesting, and in many cases newspapers like these provide the only source of information for a wide range of local trades, sales, crimes and events. Nine of the issues in our set are not recorded as surviving anywhere and may yield up hitherto unknown information about all sorts of aspects of life – town and gown – in Georgian Cambridge. The collection is yet to be catalogued, but will soon be available in the Rare Books Room.

Advert for William Lunn’s new bookshop, 1787


  • Hello Liam
    I’m currently researching NATHANIEL SHIRLY HARNESS HODSON ( 1785 – 1861) he was a son of FRANCIS HODSON I believe the founder/ proprietor of the Chronicle. Another of his sons became the second editor I believe .
    NATHANIEL went on to become the creator of the Botanic Gardens in Bury St Edmunds and a habitual contributor to all kinds of gardening periodicals including Curtiss Botanical Magazine .
    Do you have any inkling or leads on the following which are currently perplexing me ?
    Education of the F HODSONs children – where or who with ?
    Why or when the HODSONs developed a link with Lambeth ?( in Surrey as was then )

    • Thanks Paul. How interesting. I’m afraid I don’t have any further information on the Hodsons but do let us know if you have any luck! Liam Sims, Rare Books Specialist.

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