Articles from the Thoroton Society Newsletter

Nottingham’s first local news story

Nottingham’s earliest weekly newspapers are believed to be The Nottingham Mercury, which was first printed in 1714 - by John Collyer in Long-row - with the Weekly Courant - printed by William Ayscough in Bridlesmith-gate - following in 1715. The Mercury gave ‘A General View of the Affairs of Europe, but more particularly of Great Britain’ while the Courant contained ‘A Faithful Account of all Publick transactions both Foreign and Domestick.’ Neither of these were what we would understand as ‘local’ newspapers, despite being printed in Nottingham. They were concerned with national and international affairs and were effectively reprints of London papers. In the early days the only regional content was in the form of ‘Advertisements’ tacked on at the end. These were mostly for buildings to let, and lost or stolen items; horses, dogs, a surgeon’s plaster-box and ‘betwixt Nottingham and Derby a yellow silk gown’. Copies of these newspapers, with some gaps, are held in Nottingham Local Studies Library. The earliest extant report of a local event was printed in the Mercury on Thursday May 31st 1716. This was of a church service and parade held in the town on the previous Monday. The article is printed in full below but it may be helpful to give a brief resume of the national and local situation at the time.

For centuries there had been a struggle between the Crown, Church and People for supremacy. The Act of Settlement of 1701 is seen as the defining moment when Parliament gained control. The Act required that the monarch had to be a protestant descendant of King James I. Parliament now effectively controlled who wore the crown and by association, as the monarch was its Supreme Head, the Church of England. The death of Queen Anne in 1714, without issue, again raised the problem of succession. The closest ‘legal’ heir was Georg Ludwig, Duke of Hanover who was crowned King George [the First] in August 1714. A lot of people, not just the Catholics and Scots, didn’t approve of this turn of events and in 1715 there was a Jacobite rebellion in Scotland and Northumberland. In December of that year Prince James Stuart (the Old Pretender) had landed in Scotland, but he was too late. The Duke of Argyll, for the Hanoverians, was in the ascendancy and James Stuart returned to France in February 1716.

Nottingham had been an early supporter of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 but, nearly 30 years later, not everyone had been convinced. Just two months before this parade took place Nottingham’s Mayor, Thomas Hawksley, had been removed from his post and sent to the House of Correction. His alleged crime is that he went down on his bare knees in his own house, the Eagle and Child on Chapel-bar, and drank a toast “Success to the House of Stuart”. This is probably the main reason that the parade was arranged, King George’s birthday being a convenient excuse.


‘Monday last being the Anniversary of the Birth of His Sacred Majesty King George, the Artillery Company of this Town, who at the beginning of the late horrid Rebellion, associated and Armed themselves at their own proper Charge, in defence of their King, Religion and Country, pursuant to the trust reposed in them by his Majesty’s Gracious Commission for that purpose, and have ever since been improving themselves in the Exercise of Arms, &c. had a mind to shew a distinguishing Honour to such an Auspicious day; having provided themselves with Fuzes, Bayonet, Sword, &c. all New and Clean; and not only the Officers, but every private Gentleman (containing about 100 besides some that were on journeys) were all Clothed in Scarlet, with Gold Laced Hats, and Gold Trimmings on their Coats, white Stockings and Gloves, and Orange coloured Cockades on their Hats. Betwixt Nine and Ten in the Morning on Beat of Drum, they appeared on the new Pavement in the MarketPlace, in three Ranks, with the Officers at the Head of them; after which the Ensign attended by the Sergeants, Drums, and a Detachment from the Middle of the Battalion, fetched the Colours from the Captains House in the usual Form, who being returned, they marched in good Order through several Streets, the Town Music Playing before them, Drums beating and Colours flying, and having lodged the Colours and Arms in the County Hall, they went to Church, (where they had a particular place reserved for them, that they might not be incommoded by the prodigious Crowd of Spectators that Attended them in their March, and which the Church was full). After prayers the Reverend Mr Beardsmore, a person always well affected to the present Government, Preached an Excellent Sermon on Gal. 4. 18 - It is good to be always zealously affected in a good Thing. It is needless to mention how the Reverend preacher applied his Subject to the day, and those bright Examples of Zeal, that made up the Principal Part of his Audience, seeing there is some Hopes he may be prevailed upon to print the Discourse. Sermon being ended, the Right Worshipful the Mayor and the Loyal Part of the Corporation in their Formalities, with several Gentlemen and Clergymen out of the Country, marched with the Captain at the Head of the Company, through several streets again, into the Market-place, where they were drawn up as before, and gave several Volleys, after which having a Handsome Dinner prepared at the Prince of Wales Arms, they retired thither, and after Dinner, expressed their Loyalty by Drinking his Majesty’s Health, with the Prince, Princess, and the rest of the Royal Family &c. About 8 o’clock in the Evening, the Drums beat to Arms again, and having marched round the Market-place, they were drawn up before a large Bonfire before the Tavern Door where they dined, where the Loyal Healths before mentioned were repeated, and at every Health a Volley; the Officers treated the whole Company with Wine. The whole was performed with all imaginable order, and several Gentlemen that were Spectators, and have been in other Places on like Occasions, did the Company the Honour to say that taking all together in respect of their Clothing and Expertise of Exercise, they never saw a finer or more regular Appearance’.

In Bromley House library there is a bound copy of the sermon preached by the Vicar of St. Mary’s, the Rev. Samuel Berdmore, which was also printed by John Collyer. In the introduction the Rev. Berdmore names the principle attendees at the service. They included the High Sheriff and the Deputy Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire as well as the new Mayor, Samuel Watkinson, and the Officers of the Artillery Company. The Officers were all Aldermen, so had been colleagues of the former Mayor Hawksley. Their Captain was John Collin who had been the Mayor himself in 1713-14. By writing that it was “the Mayor and the LOYAL part of the Corporation” that marched back to the market place says something about the author of the newspaper article and the proclivities of the printer. Perhaps they were one and the same as John Collyer was known for his Whig sympathies. The location of the Prince of Wales Arms is uncertain but this may have been the formal name of the Feathers (3 ostrich feathers?) situated on the corner of, what is now, Friar Lane and Wheeler-gate. The conduct of the Company after the church service was either reassuring or intimidating, depending upon your point of view. It was probably intended to be a bit of both. The sight of a hundred uniformed men, marching, banging drums, eating, drinking, lighting a bonfire and firing volleys into the air would certainly have been arresting. Even if you could not hear the toasts the ‘Orange coloured Cockades in their Hats,’ would have left you in no doubt as to their fealties.

On a final note, the fact that the soldiers had provided themselves with ‘Fuzes’ would seem to indicate that some, at least, were carrying old-fashioned, matchlock muskets. The more reliable wheel-lock, snaphaunce and flintlock actions had been available for well over a hundred years. These may have been obsolete weapons but, if you were hit by a musket ball, the niceties of the type of lock would seem rather academic.

Keith Fisher