Rochdale Newspapers

With the rise of automated printing presses, broadsheets became popular and these were the
forerunners of what we think of today as newspapers. In Britain, the first Sunday newspaper was the British Gazette and Sunday Monitor published in 1780. In 1785 the Daily Universal Register was
published but was later renamed The Times. By the 19 th century newspapers were regularly sold. The
first one to appear in Rochdale was on Jan 6 th 1827. It was ‘The Rochdale Recorder’ and as a strong
Tory newspaper it supported the Lord Liverpool and then the Canning governments of the day. Only
four pages in length with six columns to each page it could be bought for 7d (just over 3p). It lasted
only fifteen months and was closed down for financial reasons, a common enough occurrence in
those days as there was stamp duty to pay on newspapers and a tax on advertisements so for
newspaper owners there was little profit to be made in the news business unless you set a high price
on every copy, in which case no-one would buy it !
By 1843 the stamp duty on newspapers had been reduced so individuals with an axe to grind looked
to journalism to engage with a wider population. One such was the curate Dr William Nassau
Molesworth who, whilst not intending to go to print for profit, set up a monthly periodical –
‘Common Sense’ – which took a pro-church stance and looked to recruit Rochdale people to the
Christian faith. In the same year a radical newspaper called ‘The Vicar’s Lantern’ went to print with
the express intention of challenging ‘Common Sense’ and in particular, the church rate (a tax in
favour of the Parish Church) but the publication lasted only two months. These newspapers were
lobbying agents for particular issues and therefore not aimed at reaching a wider Rochdale reading
‘The Rochdale Journal’ came along in 1844 ‘to diffuse a taste amongst the labouring classes for the
higher and more solid pleasures of intellectual gratification,’ Although it had lofty ideals for working
people, unfortunately only one copy of the Journal appeared. The same year saw ‘The Rochdale
Spectator’ which picked up the same objectives but again lasted for only one edition although it was
revived a year later and lasted until 1847 by which time it had a rival in the ‘Rochdale Pilot and
Reporter’ which gave a platform to a certain Mr Edward Taylor who, editorially, had policy questions
over church properties. ‘The Pilot’ also printed local news, aiming ‘to foster literary pursuits among
the self-educated portion of our labouring classes.’ Publication of the ‘Pilot and Reporter’ lasted four
years until 1848 but other papers were appearing during that period. 1847 saw ‘The Beacon,’ a Tory
newspaper which charged 2d a copy (double what was customary) and then ‘The People’s Paper’
(1948) and ‘The Looking Glass and Rochdale Reflector’ (1850).
The first newspaper to be recognised as such appeared in 1853 with the title ‘The Rochdale
Sentinel’. It was sponsored by the Liberal Party, the main opposition to the Conservatives of the
time. It consisted of 8 pages, the first page given over to local advertisements, the inner pages to
general news and the back page to local news. It cost 4.5d or 5d if delivered. Stamp duty by that
time was down to one penny and in 1853 abolished altogether so the price of the Sentinel was
reduced to 2d. A dispute amongst its proprietors saw it shut down in 1855. In the same year, 1855,
came the ‘Rochdale Weekly Banner’ but that didn’t last long. A year later saw the ‘Rochdale
Observer and General Advertiser.’ Sold for 2d a copy it had able Liberal contributors writing for it
with the intention of ‘exciting and fostering moral and religious sentiments amongst its readers.’ At
six pages it was a decent read with local and national news covered. However, as with so many
ventures it fell foul of poor financial backing and would have folded but for radical supporters who
reorganised matters by reducing the size of the paper and the price.

The ’Rochdale Standard’ of 1856 was a competitor Liberal newspaper which eventually, as it had the
same political leanings, amalgamated with the Observer under the uninspired new name, ‘The
Observer and Standard.’ It was larger and improved although the price stayed at 1d. A rival paper
was set up in 1857 to represent the Tory party. The ‘Rochdale Pilot’ didn’t sell too many copies
however and folded after one year. An interesting publication in the same year was the ‘Rochdale
Spectator and Illustrated Advertiser’ which was mostly advertisements and pictures with no news.
London-based, it eventually went to four pages promoting freedom of speech and radical politics.
1858 saw the ‘Observer and Standard’ renamed ‘The Rochdale Observer.’ It was a publication which
used a steam printing system and one of the first in the country to introduce a rotary press. Like the
Manchester Guardian its funding source was liberal so its editorial line tended, in the early days, to
follow that political view. ‘The Ob’ remains the local paper we all know to this day albeit was
challenge in a small way by the satirical ‘Rochdale’s Alternative Press’ or RAP in the 1970’s.