Newspapers in Suffolk

Part 1

From  1720 to 1800


by Pip & Joy Wright


    The first Suffolk local newspaper, the Suffolk Mercury was published around 1717.   Looking more like a booklet or magazine, it professed to be “an impartial collection of the most material occurrences, Foreign and Domestick.” 

It contained little or no local news and, somewhat disconcertingly, opened with the London Bill of Mortality for the previous week.

    Hot on its heels, the Ipswich Journal first went to press in August 1720.  This was a publication that was to last for nearly 200 years, but the first issues were few in number, and expensive.  Only about 250 gentlemen paid “three half-pence” for their ‘local’ newspaper.

     This too was hardly a local paper in the true sense.   Items selected for inclusion were mainly of national and international interest.   If local items appeared at all, it was because they had appeared in a London newspaper first.  Many of the early stories came courtesy of ‘Stanley’s News Letter’, published in London and distributed by mail-coach 3 times a week.   Hence, by the time it was printed, news was often as much as a fortnight old.


    In the early days of the Ipswich Journal and Suffolk Mercury, news of Cadiz and The Hague was more plentiful than that for Ipswich or Bury St. Edmunds, though as the readership grew, adverts stimulated interest in local affairs…


On Monday night last the 10th instant, the House of Widow Brook of Cretingham, near Framlingham, was broke open, and Stole out of the said House 15 Firkins of Butter not Headed, no marks on the Firkins when lost, and one pair of Sheets that covered the Firkins.   Whoever shall give notice of the Person or Persons what Stole the said Butter, so that they be brought to Justice, shall receive one Guinea Reward from the said Widow Brook.

Ipswich Journal:  November 15th 1729


Whereas Edmund Smith (servant of John Welham, of Nacton, near Ipswich), about 28 years of age, five Foot nine Inches high, pale Complexion, full Ey’d, and brown lank Hair; robb’d his said master on Thursday night last of about £12 in money, a great Coat, a Shirt, a Pair of Shagg Breeches, and a brown mare, about 12 or 14 hands high, branded on the Right Shoulder with J.W., a Bridle and Saddle, a Pair of Shoes, and Silver Buckles with the mark J.W.  Whoever shall apprehend the said Edward Smith, So that he may be brought to Justice, shall be well Rewarded, and Satisfaction for any part of the Goods. 

Ipswich Journal:  November 29th 1729


Whereas I Mabel Boyce, the Wife of Richard Boyce of Ixworth in the County of Suffolk, Innholder, did being transported with Passion, say before divers Persons in my said Husband’s House many Reproachful and Scandalous Things of Susan Codd of Ixworth aforesaid, spinster; I do hereby declare (as the best satisfaction I am able to make the said Susan Codd) That I had no Reason to Reproach or Scandalise her the said Susan Codd, knowing no ill of her: But do believe her from my heart to be a Virtuous, Sober Woman, and do willingly at my own Expence, after asking Pardon of her publish this my Recantation.

      Suffolk Gazette:  February 18th 1738


     Literacy in Suffolk during the 18th Century was a bit of a hit-and-miss affair, some parishes such as Earl Stonham and Mendlesham having charity schools of long-standing.   Others had no form of education for the poor whatsoever.  For all that, it has been estimated that the early Ipswich Journals were read by thirty or forty readers per copy.


    By 1730, the price had risen to 2 pence, and the readership had increased. Early on, editors realised the value of enter-tainment.   Stories which grabbed their readers’ attention ran across a number of issues.  Take for example, stories of wrecking and piracy…


The Truelove from Leghorn had four people drowned, and rest, who got ashore were plundered by the Country People; and the Speedwell from Petersburgh, and the men, who with great difficulty got ashore in Wales, were robbed of £150 in Gold, besides other Things by the Country People, who got together to plunder the Wreck.

Ipswich Journal:  December 13th 1729


Yesterday advice came that the Vernon, James, from Jamaica for London (one of the second Fleet) was taken the 8th inst. Off Cape Clear, by a large Spanish Privateer of 200 men call’d the St. Peter, and is carried into Brest, after a smart Engagement, in which Capt. James had his Leg and Arm shot off, and is since dead.   Several others of the Crew (which were about 40 in number) were killed and wounded.

Ipswich Journal:  December 31st 1743.


The London Merchants have lately applied to Parliament for Relief against the Rapine and Cruelty of the Barbarians upon the British Coast, who when any Ship has by stress of weather been driven on Shore, have come down in Multitudes, gone aboard with Hatchets, and other Instruments, cut open the Hatches and Hold, bore down the Rigging, and murdered those that dared to oppose them, when there has been great probability of getting the Ship off the next tide with little or no damage.   Nay, they have arrived to that degree of barbarity, that when any Shipwrecked Men have swam on Shore, if they have anything of value upon them, instead of assisting them, they have Knocked them on the Head and thrown them into the Sea again, and even cut off their Fingers for their Rings.   The Honourable House of Commons being touched with a Generous and Christian concern for this scandalous Practice, so disgraceful to the Name of an Englishman, immediately ordered a Bill to be brought in to prevent the like for the future.  And we hear the Hon. Pryce Devereaux, Esq, of Sudborn Hall, near Orford, Member of Parliament for Montgomeryshire, has been since added to the Committee appointed to bring in the said Bill.   And he well deserves that Honourable Employment; for not long since a Wreck came on Shore upon His Lordship, to which, as Lord of the Manour, he had an undoubted legal Right; but he generously Relinquished it, in favour of the poor Sufferers, to the value of near £1,500, and protected them from any Insults.

Ipswich Journal:  March 13th 1736


A dastardly act was committed by a French privateer upon several Aldeburgh pilots.   It appeared that about a month previously the pilot boat, with a crew of six men, put off from Aldeburgh beach to board a Danish vessel.   Descrying another, which was flying an English ensign as a signal for a pilot, they proceeded to her.   On getting alongside, they found that the vessel was a French privateer, and notwithstanding that the pilots begged for quarter, offering to surrender themselves as prisoners of war, or to ransom themselves at the privateer’s option, they were absolutely refused quarter, and the French crew fired a whole volley of small arms into the boat, which killed one pilot (John Newell) and fired several times more and wounded two others (John Norton and Wats Richardson), one of whom died the next day.   The rest laid themselves down in the boat as if dead, and the privateer left them to pursue the Danish vessel.   Sail was soon set, and the pilots made for Southwold, where they landed. 

On the arrival home of the survivors an affidavit was made of the circumstances, and search was made for the privateer which was soon after captured by the Hound man-of-war.

Ipswich Journal:  August 11th 1744


Crime & punishment

    Of course, crime and its treatment featured large in reports.   However, it would be some time before the Suffolk court proceedings would be fully reported in a way typical of 19th Century newspapers.   Clearly, practices were acceptable that would have been frowned upon a hundred years later.


Justice Barker’s Maid of Chiswick, was try’d for the Murder of her Bastard Child, and was acquitted; And one Mary Andrews, being indicted of Felony refused to plead, but after the Executioner had thrice drawn her Thumbs with Whipcord, she submitted to plead, and was acquitted for Want of Evidence.

Ipswich Journal:  May 27th 1721


Ipswich: Last Saturday Thomas Herd stood in the pillory, pursuant to his sentence and was severely pelted by the populace. 

Ipswich Journal:  Aug. 1st 1761

(What the sensitive editors failed to mention was, he was guilty of sodomy, or what they tended to refer to as ‘an unnatural offence’)


Justice administered by the mob could be merciful, however…


On Thursday last, a man Stood at the Pillory at Aldgate, pursuant to his sentence at the old Baily for Defrauding a Poulterer of two Fowls by making use of the Name of one of his Customers.  When he was put in, one of the Officers who attended him Address’d himself to the people, and begg’d they would not throw anything at him, for he had got the Jail Distemper and was very ill. – Whether he was so or no, the Speech had its desired Effect, for instead of pelting him they made a collection for him.

Ipswich Journal:  July 10th 1736


Public and private floggings were commonplace, and reported throughout the century.

    Dastardly crimes were being reported, such as this strange theft, which gives an insight into the fashions of the age.


On Sunday last, two Gentlewomen had the Tails of their Gowns cut off during the Time of Divine Service in St. Paul’s Church, one was a white Sattin, the other a green Sattin; they suppose it was done by two of their own Sex, who stood next to ’em for a considerable Time, but went out just before the Service was over.

Ipswich Journal:  March 13th 1736.


    As the century progressed, reports of the sentencing of criminals were given more space.  This apparently ordinary account was of particular significance.



B U R Y April 4th 1787

At our assizes, holden before Mr. Justice Ashburst, which ended on Saturday last, ten prisoners were capitally convicted and received sentence of death viz.

John Wharby, for stealing eleven sheep, the property of Mr. A Willett, of Lakenheath,

John Kingsbury, for stealing a fat heifer from Mr. John Warren, of Waldringfield.

Edward Courtnell for stealing a tea chest, containing plate and money, the property of John Gowing, of Tattingstone 

James Weavers, for breaking into the shop of Mrs Hunt, of Needham, and stealing thereout two pieces of callico. 

John Gosling, for stealing a colt the property of Mr. George Culham, of Denington. 

Robert Sharman, for stealing a bell out of Duncwich church. 

William Deaves, for stealing a mare, the property of Mr. Richard Mudd, of Felsham. 

Henry Cone, for Stealing a sum of money out of the dwelling house of Mr John Wade, of Halesworth. And Issaac Blomfield and Thomas Hutchison, for robbing Messrs. Couperthwaite and Collett, on the highway.

William Gowen, convicted at the summer assizes for setting fire to a dwelling, whose case was referred to the twelve Judges, also received sentence of death.

    Before the Judge left the town, the eight first were reprieved.   Bloomfield, Hutchinson, and Gowen, were left for execution.


    The promised reprieve was only from the death penalty.  The eight mentioned received lesser sentences, as was commonly the case.  Henry Cone & James Weavers had the misfortune to become the first two Suffolk convicts to be transported for life to New South Wales.


More trivial matters

    Letters and reports of the odd and unusual began to find their way into the Ipswich Journal very early on. 


Pray resolve me in your next Week’s Paper, whether there be any such Thing in Nature as Mermen and Mermaids, I being not yet satisfied in the verity thereof, notwithstanding the Reports of Seamen and others, who have maintain’d the Affirmative.

Ipswich Journal:  May 27th 1721


    Not surprisingly, a good deal of correspondence followed this letter’s publication. It was a time of exploration and discovery. The unknown and poorly understood became more newsworthy as the world opened up…


Yesterday a very curious Animal alive, call’d a Hog in armour, supposed to be of the Tortoise Kind, being brought over in the Prince Frederick from the West Indies was presented by a Sailor to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.

Ipswich Journal:  April 11th 1730


And even the truly amazing was advertised.


For the BENEFIT of Mrs. PALANTINE, at the ASSEMBLY ROOM in Ipswich, on MONDAY, the 19th March inst. HUGHMAN PALANTINE, a HIGH German, will exhibit such Performances as never were done in England before. – Any Gentleman in Company shall cut off a living Fowl’s Head, and after the Blood has run about, he, standing in his Shirt in the middle of the Room, will, to the Surprize of all the Spectators, re-unite the Fowl’s Head to its Body, so that it shall eat, and run about the Room, with the same Agility as before without any apparent Injury; and this will be done in the space of little more than two Minutes.

            To begin exactly at Six o’clock.

Tickets to be had at Mrs. Dod’s at 1s. each.

Ipswich Journal:  March 17th 1764.


    By the end of the century, the Bury Post was in circulation and continued to appeal to this spirit of discovery of what the changing world had to offer.  Take, for example, this advertisement from October 1789…



The proprietor of the ROYAL LION, from the Tower of London, returns his sincere thanks to the nobility, gentry, and the public in general, who have honoured him with their company since his arrival in this town, and begs leave to acquaint them that this noble animal still continues to be daily exhibited in a commodious caravan on Angel Hill.   He also informs the inhabitants of Norwich that the many pressing invitations he received to continue some time longer in Bury, have prevented him from reaching that city, but he will certainly take an opportunity, in a few days, of visiting that respectable and populous place.

     This grand collection consists of near thirty curious and extraordinary animals.   In order that the public may not be deceived they are hereby assured that there is no other lion, neither young nor old, that travels this kingdom.


When, in 1785, Mr. Poole launched his balloon at Bury, it attracted a crowd of thousands.


B U R Y, October 19th 1785.

Saturday last, being the day appointed for the ascension of Mr. Poole’s Balloon from this place, the largest concourse of people assembled ever known upon any occasion.   About twelve o’clock a great number of persons of fashion occupied the ground, who expressed the highest satisfaction at the process of filling the Balloon, which was conducted under the immediate inspection of Mr. Blake, (who ascended with Major Money and Mr. Lockwood from Tottenham-court Road) and our intrepid acronaut, during the whole time shewed a degree of coolness scarcely to be paralelled.   The Balloon being sufficiently inflated, (which circumstance was ascertained by weights affixed to the bottom) the car was suspended, and Mr. Poole got in, quite collected and composed.   It was now found necessary to cut away the wings, intended to act as sails…. and which, it was supposed, would have contributed to facilitate the direction of the Balloon, but were found greatly to retard the celerity of its motion.


The story continues…  

This circumstance being effected, about two o’clock Mr. Poole ascended with great rapidity, amidst the acclamations of thousands, whole raptures on the occasion are indescribable, and which were returned in the most polite manner by the aerial voyager, who for a long time saluted them by taking off his hat, and waving his flag.

The account, which is lengthy, includes a description by Mr. Poole of his flight and ultimate safe landing.  


“…My descent was gradual, I soon after alighted in a small piece of ground at Earl Soham, in the county, without injury either to myself or balloon.   I was very hospitably received by Major Dade, who lives in that neighbourhood, and found my distance from Bury to be 28 miles, having been in the air one hour and eleven minutes.”


The reporter concludes… 

   It is impossible to describe the agitation felt by almost every individual during Mr. Pool’s absence; the wind being in a right direction for the sea, it was much apprehended that he might have experienced a similar fate with Major Money, and it was not till twelve o’clock at night that the public were relieved from this disagreeable suspence; when he arrived in a post-chaise and four, with the car and balloon on the roof.

   Nothing could equal the general joy manifested on this occasion; every one was eager to shake him by the hand, and the populace were not satisfied till they had drawn him three times round the Cross, and displayed a variety of fire-works, which were let off between one and two on Sunday morning.

    The multitudes assembled on every hill to view this delightful spectacle, formed a most agreeable picture; and the regularity and good order preserved during the time of its inflation, was such as could not be expected from the eager desire of every one to behold it.


    It is worth remembering that this was less than two years since the Montgolfier brothers had amazed the world with the first manned balloon flight.  The number of intrepid young men willing to risk their lives in such a way was remarkable.   The crowds that came to see them are testament to the public interest that new and fantastic forms of travel generated.  


    In December 1783, James Dunthorne Junr. exhibited ‘the floating air balloon’ on the Town Hall in Ipswich.  Purchasers of a 2s. ticket could also view this awesome sight at Colchester Castle later in the month, when it was intended to ‘send the balloon up.’  Though that was an unmanned flight, some eighteen months later, Parson Woodforde’s Diary would record his journey to Norwich to see ‘Mr. Decker’s balloon’ ascend from Quantrell’s Gardens in spite of a thunderstorm.  He writes that it ‘added greatly to the Courage of Decker that he ascended so very soon after the Tempest,’ and that Decker had ‘gained great credit by it.’


    Experiments were being tried everywhere.  According to the Ipswich Journal of July 17th 1784…


Last  Saturday, about four in the afternoon, an air balloon was taken up at Thetford by a baker’s boy.  By the inscription, it appeared to have come 50 miles in a right line in two hours and a half, having been launched in Spalding in Lincolnshire by Harmon Boaz, the same afternoon.


    Other diversions to the monotony of eighteenth century life included:


     Dr.Katterfelto; his various philosophical experiments are so astonishing and wonderful that they are beyond all description.    Many persons will have it that he, or his famous Morocco Black Cat, are devils.

      Ipswich Journal:  September 18th 1784


Medical matters

    Major concerns of the time were well covered, with many local references appearing.   Medical matters concerned both rich and poor, and the greatest dread was smallpox.  

    Apart from the possibly fatal consequences, it affected trade.  If a town could publish it was clear of the disease, it was very much to that town’s benefit.

    Mortality lists became a common feature of the eighteenth century Ipswich Journal.  In September 15th 1729, it was reported…


Buried in the Town of Ipswich, from September 5th to September 12th as follows;- Of all distempers 17, out of which of the smallpox 14.


Towns were often desperate to inform the public of their good record of health.


IPSWICH April 14th 1739 We have great Hopes that this Town will very soon be entirely free from the Small Pox.  We have enquir’d of every Physician, Surgeon and Apothecary that we can think of, in the Town, and can hear only of one Person that has the Distemper, which is a Child in St. Hellen’s Parish, beyond the Church.

Ipswich Journal


Bury St. Edmunds, September  23rd  1743.

Whereas it has been industriously insinuated by some ill-designing People that the SMALLPOX is very rife and fatal in the Town, to the very great prejudice of Trade, and of the Industrious Poor; we whose names are hereunder subscribed, do certify to the best of our knowledge, and from the most strict and exact enquiry we are capable of making by our proper Officers, that the Small Pox is not in more than Six Families at present, and that the number which have already had it, doth not appear to be more than Thirty Persons, two only of which have already died; and that the Public may be thoroughly satisfied either as to its increase or Diminution, proper care will be taken weekly to advertise the same.

This was signed by a number of ministers, churchwardens, physicians, apothecaries and overseers


In 1744 these adverts appeared…


Whereas several of the Linen Weavers who constantly kept the Weavers-Hall in BURY ST. EDMUNDS with Hempen Cloths, are now hinder’d their usual attendance there by Reason of the Small Pox being so much in Town;   We do hereby beg Leave in this manner to acquaint

the Dealers in Hempen Cloths, that we whose Names are hereunto subscribed have agreed to give our constant attendance weekly every WEDNESDAY, at Ten o’clock in the Forenoon, at the RED HOUSE of HORNINGSHEATH, (about a mile from BURY) where our constant Chapmen, as well as others who will please to deal with us, shall be well and kindly served, by their most humble Servants,



Ipswich Journal:  March 17th 1744


BURY ST. EDMUND’S, October 20th  1744.

THIS TOWN being now entirely free from the Small-Pox or any other contagious Distemper, Mr. Wood hopes his Friends will give him Encouragement as usual, by sending their Daughters or Relations to Board and School with him; where all due Pains and Care, with the greatest Candour, shall be taken in their Education in all its Branches, by their humble Servants.



    Much was made of prevention. Though Jenner’s cow-pox vaccination does not seem to be mentioned in Suffolk local newspapers until 1803, earlier forms of inoculation were available.  One disadvantage of such inoculation was that those treated in such a way could still be carriers.  Therefore it made sense to treat whole families or, where possible, entire populations.


Woodbridge, November 1st – The beginning of October last, Mr. Robert Warner, a young man, Student of Pembroke Hall, has lately received the Small Pox by Inoculation, under the care and direction of Dr. Beeston; He has had the Distemper through all its Stages, no way different from the Natural Sort, of the favourable large distinct kind, and is perfectly recovered, without having occasion for any sort of Medicines since the Operation was perform’d.   

Ipswich Journal:  November 1st 1729


    By 1763, this was commonplace.  Some Suffolk doctors became extremely rich, offering such a service.

William Stearn, Surgeon, at Ashfield near Debenham being encouraged by the great success he has met with in the practice of Inoculation has fitted up a house in the neatest manner for that purpose, where all Gentleman and Ladies and others, who please to commit themselves to his care will be accommodated with all things necessary (Tea and Wine excepted) at Four Guineas each month, and a Servant Three Guineas.

Ipswich Journal:  October 8th 1763


    Close by, at Kenton, Mr. Robert Sutton offered a similar inducement to a wider audience.


Persons in poor circumstances will be inoculated on Terms something less (a guinea per week); and very poor people will be prepared, inoculated, and attended on gratis by him or his father, to prevent their putting themselves under illiterate and unskilful persons, such as Farriers, &c. to the disgrace and Injury of the Practice.

Ipswich Journal:  October 29th 1763


As the safest protection against the disease was to have had it and survived, adverts such as these appeared.


WANTED for a Gentleman that lives most part of the Year in LONDON.  A Genteel Person, between 28 and 40 years of age, that has had the Small-Pox to be as Companion and Housekeeper.

Ipswich Journal:  March 3rd 1764


WANTED to live altogether in the Country, In a sober, regular, Gentleman’s Family, a WOMAN SERVANT, of an undeniable Character, that is middle-aged, and one that is well qualified for a LADY’S MAID and HOUSEKEEPER, and must have had the Small-Pox. Such a one, who answers the above Description, would meet with suitable Encouragement.

Ipswich Journal:  March 17th 1764


As late as 1783, the Ipswich Journal brought the “disagreeable intelligence that 6,000 children” had “died lately in Rome within a space of 3 months.”

    Medicine was developing rapidly and fast becoming a subject of curiosity – hence stories like this.


An ingenious surgeon at Norwich has lately transmitted to the medical society in London, a very extraordinary case of dropsy of a woman of character in that city.   She first underwent the operation of tapping, so long since as the year 1757, and afterwards had recourse to it 3,4, or 5 times in the year, to her death, which happened a short time since.  In that space she cheerfully underwent the operation 80 times, and lost 6,631 pints of fluid.   This curious case is well authenticated, and shows in a striking manner how very long life may be sustained under the pressure of a fatal disease.

Ipswich Journal:  October 30th 1784


Quacks and their remedies also had their place.

Daffy’s Elixir was reputed to…“have preserved many Hundreds of Families in that dreadful Plague of London in the year 1665 in which there died above a hundred thousand persons… It is indeed impossible to set this Noble Medicine forth as it deserves… We shall only add that they who have once made a trial of it will never use any other.” 

(Ipswich Journal:  Oct. 4th 1735)


Changing styles

      Stylistically, reporting began to change. A story from July 26th 1758 described a clergyman in Covent Garden being confronted by a weeping woman crouched at the feet of an apparently dead man.   The Reverend, unconvinced, pushed his thumb-nail hard into the thumb-nail of the recumbent figure, only to see him spring to life and run away.   “Here is a man,” said the Ipswich Journal, “who knows the difference between the quick and the dead.”  Puns were acceptable in 1753.


    Some reports appealed to a fascination with the more horrific side of life.   There were gory murders, recounted in graphic detail, and grizzly executions.   This account of a suicide seems to revel in its horrific content.


The Bishop of Grenoble’s manner of suicide is rather new and ingenious.   He took the rod on which hung the feet curtain of his bed, and suspended crossways to a string that communicated with the trigger of his fowling-piece.   Sitting himself then down gently, with his feet lightly touching the rod, he put the extremity of the barrel into his mouth, and held it fast by contracting his cheeks.   He had nothing to do but to extend his legs; the gun went off, and the contents (three bullets) went through his head.   He was found in that posture a few minutes after.

            Bury Post:  Nov. 26th 1788


    However, reports could be of a more sensitive nature.  In what we take to be a short account of a more local suicide, the following lines were printed.


We hear the son of a considerable merchant in Cambridge lately put a period to his existence.

Ipswich Journal:  January 17th 1777


    The expression felo de se was often recorded to indicate suicide.


There were, at this time, several mentions of grave robbers.


One Mrs. Ray, a maiden Confectioner, in Bishopsgate Street, was buried last Sunday night in the Church of St. Hellens, in the following manner, according to her Will, viz., She was dress’d in a White Satin Gown, and Petticoat trimmed with Black, a new Laced Head with a White Top-Knot, and White Sarsnet-Hood, a Laced Holland Shift, White Kid Gloves, a Pair of White Silk Stockings with Black Clocks, a pair of White work’d Shoes trimm’d with Black, and six elderly maids held up her Pall.   Enquiry was made a Day or two afterwards whether any Grave Robbers had paid her a Visit, but it is presum’d they were engaged on other Business in the Street, and had no Intelligence of it, so that she was found to have lain quiet enough.   She was buried in a Black Coffin with White Nails, but no Plate on it, by reason no-body shou’d Know her Age.

Ipswich Journal:  March 28th 1730


Last Friday Thomas Jenkins, a Gravedigger, of the Parish of Stepney, Middlesex, and John Brown, a young Surgeon, were committed to the Gate-house, by Capt. Michael Margets, for that the said Tho. Jenkins did that Morning, about One, bring the Corpse of a Man from Stepney Church-Yard, which he took out of a Coffin the Night before, with three Women (one his Wife), which Fact the said Jenkins confessed before the Justice that he was hired to do it by the said Brown, who had promised to satisfy him for committing so great a villainy.  

Ipswich Journal:  April 17th 1736


This practice was not limited to the eighteenth century as this story from the Bury Post of November 18th 1839 shows.


On Saturday se’nnight the body of a child, aged seven years, the daughter of Robert Whitehead, was interred in the churchyard at Ixworth.   On the Thursday following, in consequence of the sinking of the earth after the rain the grave was examined, when the coffin was found securely screwed down, but on opening it, the shroud alone remained, the body having been carried off.   What renders this act more audacious and more revolting is that poor Whitehead’s cottage actually adjoins the churchyard.


On March 31st 1739, the Ipswich Journal reported…


On Saturday the 17th last, the London Stage Waggon lost 4 Horses going thro’ Combs Water near Stow-Market. 


    The story had been to London and back in publishing terms.   However, by the 1750’s, more local stories were appearing.   Reports were clearly being gathered locally.  By the 1760’s regular IPSWICH, BURY, HARWICH and COLCHESTER columns were printed where there was room. 

    For all that, National and International news still dominated.   In 1745, the activities of Bonnie Prince Charlie were well reported.   An account that took little more than a week to arrive, in 1746, described Butcher Cumberland’s success at Culloden in glowing terms.


The rebellion which rather disturbed than endangered the kings government has been defeated, though not yet totally suppressed; but as those flagitious parricides who were abandoned enough to avow, and desperate enough to engage in the cause of popery and tyranny, have already been repulsed and pursued by the valour and activity of his royal highness the duke, there is the strongest reason to believe that he will soon complete the work which he has so gloriously begun, and restore the tranquillity of the kingdom.   This attempt therefore, to shake his majesty’s throne, will serve to establish it the more firmly:  since all Europe must now know the unanimous zeal and affection of his subjects for the defence and support of his person and government.


    In August 1777, the Ipswich Journal printed a letter written by George Washington concerning American Independence.   This came courtesy of the London Gazette, as did much of their news by this time.   News of the success of the American armies and their separation from Britain in 1782 took months to filter through, relying on reports arriving during wintertime from across the Atlantic.  

    The efforts of William Wilberforce in the abolition of slavery were well recorded in this Bury Post of 1789.



R. Gascoyne requested the attention of the house on the subject of the slave trade.   He said it was of very great importance to the commerce of this country and ought not to be hastily decided.   He applied on the part of those for whom he spoke, and who were deeply concerned in this business, for more time to consider of it.

     Mr. Wilberforce said that the honourable gentleman who spoke last had assigned no reason whatever why the business of the slave trade should be put off to a further day.   At the same time he was willing to give those who opposed his measure, every opportunity to adduce every species of evidence, and therefore should agree to this motion.


It would, however, be another 44 years before this was finally achieved throughout the Empire.

    As newspapers physically grew in size, the print shrank to enable more space to be given to advertisements and local stories.  



    Smuggling was one of the major crimes occupying column space in the newspapers of the 18th century, tea, coffee, brandy and gin being the items most in demand.   Confrontations between Smugglers and the King’s men were often violent, as is shown in this account from Battle in Sussex.


…The smugglers had landed vast quantities of Brandy and other Goods, and had got together above one hundred of them to carry them all off; of which the King’s Officers, having Intelligence, called the Soldiers to their assistance who are quarter’d in those parts for that purpose; These divided themselves into two parties and took two different routes, in case one should happen to miss them; and meeting at length with the smugglers received their fire first; then the King’s party fired and killed three horses and shot one of their men thro’ the leg’  After they had fought a good while the smugglers fled and left one hundred anchors of brandy besides other goods and forty horses without doing any damage to the officers.

Ipswich Journal:  October  11th 1729


There was, of course, any number of local incidents involving smugglers.


Last Sunday morning near Kesgrave in this County, was seized by Mr. Newbury, Collector of Woodbridge, with the Assistance of the Dragoons, between two and three Hundred weight of Tea from the Smugglers with their Horses.

Ipswich Journal:  December 27th 1735.


On Thursday Morning last, about five o’clock, a Seizure of 600 Weight of Tea was made by an Officer of the Customs of this Port, with the Assistance of some Dragoons, at Westerfield Green near this Town, when four of the Smugglers quitted their Horses and made their Escape.

Ipswich Journal:  February 7th 1736.


On Tuesday Part of two Troops of General Howard’s Dragoons marched into this Town; and we hear different Parties of them will be stationed at Stowmarket, Wood-bridge, Saxmundham, and Walton, in order to check the proceedings of the Smugglers.

Ipswich Journal:  January 14th 1764


On Friday a Smuggling-Cutter was driven on Shore near Size-well Gap, which the Officers at Aldeburgh seized, together with 25 Halves of Brandy and Geneva, five hundred Weight of Tea, and between two and three hundred Weight of Coffee.

Ipswich Journal:  September 22nd 1764


On the 30th ult., a seizure of 160 half ankers of gin, &c., was made at Orford, being part of the cargo of a smuggling cutter that bulged near that place; upon which the smugglers rescued their goods, and in the scuffle two of the officers were much wounded.    After the smugglers were gone, the officers made another seizure of goods out of the cutter, lodged them in a house in that town, and sent to Saxmundham for a party of dragoons, but about twelve at night a gang of about 30 smugglers, all armed, broke into the house where the goods were lodged and carried them off in triumph.

Ipswich Journal:  February 28th 1784


Sunday last, about two o’clock in the afternoon, a seizure of 57 half ankers of run spirits was made at Kettleburgh in this county, by Messrs. Bell and Pope, supervisors, and Messrs. Engall, Mason, and Spilling, excise-officers, with seven assistants.   The same day, about four in the afternoon, as they were conveying these goods to Woodbridge, they were overtaken, near Easton, by a gang of villains, about 30 in number (all apparently stripped to their shirts, except one), who, with horrid imprecations, and expressions of Murder!  Murder! fell upon them in a most unhuman manner, with an intent to rescue the seizure;  however, the officers made a noble stand, and a bloody engagement ensued, which lasted near an hour, when the officers put the smugglers to flight, pursued them several miles, and maintained the seizure.   Almost all the smugglers were wounded, and many of them were desperately, five or six of the officers’ party were also slightly wounded.   The officers and their assistants were armed with carbines, pistols, and broadswords – It is supposed the noted George Cullum, of Brandeston, was at the head of this banditti.

Ipswich Journal:  May 22nd 1784.


As with drugs today, you couldn’t be sure of the purity of smuggled goods, as our next story shows.


Early on Tuesday afternoon died, in great agony, after breakfasting on her usual Bohea tea, Mrs Simpson, of Shotley, in this county.   Mr. S., her husband, was very ill for several hours from the same drink, but recovered; a boy about 14 years of age, and 4 servants were sick after drinking some of the same infusion, one of the latter narrowly escap’d the fate of her mistress.   The teapot was, unfortunately, emptied before the arrival of the physician and surgeon.   These gentlemen took the canister with them on their return to this town, and have since, with other gentlemen, drank of an infusion from the same tea without any ill effects from it.

Ipswich Journal:  October 25th 1783


An inquest was held on the body of Mrs Simpson, of Shotley. The verdict was as follows:-   Accidental Death, from a quantity of tea taken, of some poisonous quality.

It was added –

The rest of the family are perfectly recovered, and the above melancholy accident should caution persons against making use of smuggled tea, as it is well known that the hawkers of that article frequently make use of a very pernicious drug, in order to give the tea a finer colour, and if unskilfully made use of, may, as in the above instance, prove fatal.

Ipswich Journal:  November 1st 1783 


Smuggling was not entirely restricted to coastal places… 

 Messrs. Pope and Acklam, officers of excise at Stowmarket, lately made a seizure of several horse loads of  smuggled goods, at Barking, near Needham, but a number of smugglers coming up retook the goods, and used Mr. Acklam, who fell into their hands, in a very cruel manner.  He  is, however, in a fair way of recovery.

Norfolk Chronicle & Norfolk Mercury:  March 1st 1783


    The birth of the Bury Post (later to be known as the Bury and Norwich Post) in 1782 was to place an even stronger emphasis on local advertising and reporting.   In the very first issue (given away free) the editorial staff headed their Bury news with this statement.


BURY July 10th, 1782

Yesterday afternoon weighed anchor, and this morning sailed from port, with a fair wind and good intelligence, a new ship called the BURY POST, she is a remarkable fast sailor, well rigged, ornamented of her head with the arms of this ancient and respectable town from which she takes her name, and on her stern are the names of her officers and gallant crew.   She has orders to touch at every port in the channel, and to communicate to her friends early information where profitable merchandise is to be taken in;  she is copper bottomed and is expected to prove a valuable bark to her owners, who unlike old cruisers, are determined, the greater their success, the more emulous they will be to deserve it.


As the Post only had one Suffolk competitor at the time, the Ipswich Journal, over sixty years her senior, there is no doubting who is meant by the ‘old cruiser.’ 


       Being published weekly, both Suffolk local papers exhibited a far higher quality of printing and presentation than their London counterparts, which were tri-weekly or daily by the end of the 18th Century.  Early copies of The Times were often very poorly produced by comparison.

    The content of the two Suffolk local newspapers of the eighteenth century was designed to appeal to the readership.  The assumption was that the paying readership came from the landed classes.   Hence, we read the following references.


To be Sold:

Ten couple of staunch well siz’d Hounds, late the Hounds belonging to Offley Jenny, Esq., of Leiston, deceas’d (which in two Years past Killed about one hundred and forty Brace of Hares, besides several Brace of Foxes and Otters). Inquire of Mr. Mulliner, of Stratford, near Saxmundham.

Ipswich Journal:  November 22nd 1735


      Blood Sports and Gentlemen’s Pursuits



On Wednesday and Thursday in Whitsun-Week.

On Wednesday the 16th of May, 1744, the Gentlemen’s Purse of Fifty Pounds will be run for, the best of Three Heats, on Beccles Course, by any Horse, Mare, or Gelding, carrying 12 Stone, that has been the Property of a Suffolk or Norfolk Gentleman at least six Months before the Day of Starting, that has never been used but as a Hunter, or for the Road, that has not been in Sweats, between St. Michael and Lady last, that never won above ten Pounds at any one time, nor ever started for any Plate but a Hunter’s.   Each Horse, &c., to pay a Guinea Entrance; and before entering to subscribe and pay a Guinea, if a Contributor to this Plate, if not two Guineas, towards a Fifty Pound Purse, to be run for on the same Course the next Year.

N.B.  There will be a main of Cocks between the Gentlemen of Suffolk and Norfolk, at Mr. Benjamin Lambert’s at the Sign of the Falcon, in Beccles aforesaid. to show Forty-one on the Main, and Ten Byes;  the Mains two Guinea a Cock, the Byes one Guinea, and the Odd Battle ten Guineas;  and to fight on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday in the Race Week.  There will be a Pit on Tuesday, the Day of Weighing.

            Ipswich Journal:  April 27th 1744



The First, on MONDAY NOVEMBER the 5th

The Second, on MONDAY DECEMBER the 3rd

The Third, on MONDAY, JANUARY the 8th.

    On which Days there are several Gentlemen who have subscribed to meet and send in Cocks.  They will be weigh’d and match’d as near as can be to each other, and to Fight for Ten Shillings a Battle, or any such a Sum as the Parties shall agree upon; to Fight in Silver Weapons, and to be subject to all the now usual Rules in Cocking.

    If any Gentleman will be pleas’d to send in any Cocks (that have not subscribed their Names in this Cocking) let them be sent to SCOLE INN about ten or twelve Days before Fighting, and they shall be taken Care of, by a careful Hand, without any Expence.

    N.B. There is a Post-Chaise, with a Pair of good Horses to go to NORWICH, IPSWICH BURY ST. EDMUND’S or any other Place.

Ipswich Journal:  October 20th 1744


A Cock Fight will be fought on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, the first, second, and third days of December next, between the Right Hon. Thomas Lord Lovell, of Holkham in the County of Norfolk, and John Thurston, Esq., of Hoxon, in the County of Suffolk, to show Thirty One Cocks on aside, for Five Guineas a Battle, and Fifty Guineas the odd Battle, at the house of Mr. John Wilson, at the Anchor, in Thetford where all Gentlemen will meet with good accommodation and a Hearty  Welcome.

Ipswich Journal:  October 18th 1729


THIS is to acquaint the Public, That there will be a BULL-BAIT on IPSWICH RACE-GROUND, on MONDAY next Nov. 1 – The first two dogs are to run the best of ten puts for Ten Guineas; and the next best dog will be intitled to a Collar of 5s. value.

Ipswich Journal:  October 30th 1784


    At Shrovetide, 1764, Colchester magistrates sought support from the Constables in enforcing a ban on the somewhat cruel and unsporting pursuit of ‘throwing at cocks’.

    Other blood-sports of the eighteenth century did not draw universal approval.


    The inhuman and barbarous practice of bull-baiting, which has been suppressed by the vigilance of magistracy in most other towns in the kingdom, is still continued here; to the great peril of the peaceable inhabitants, and to the loss and prejudice of the families of the labouring hand.  

    This ferocious exercise on Monday last was nearly the cause of loss of life to several individuals, as a girl named Middleditch, about 12 years of age, was tossed by the exasperated animal, and so much hurt, that great apprehensions were entertained for her life:  one Burton, a woolcomber, was also most dreadfully and dangerously gored in the thigh; and several other persons were slightly injured, the bull having got loose, and ran through the principal streets of the town, as far as Pakenham, before he was overtaken by his numerous idle pursuers.

Bury Post:  November 7th 1792 


Wagers & contests

    Reading newspapers of the 18th & 19th Centuries enables one to trace the development of competitive sport in this country.   Much is made in early ‘Ipswich Journals’ and ‘Bury Posts’ of wagers or challenges, which attracted large crowds and substantial prizes.  There appears to have been heavy gambling on all manner of contests, some of which had fatal consequences.


At Thorn, near Hagerstone, in Northumberland, two men noted brandy drinkers, contended for which could drink most; one fell down at the fifth pint glass, and the other was “thought he can’t recover.”

Ipswich Journal:  September 13th 1729


On Sunday Evening two Men drank Geneva for a Wager of a Crown at a Brandy-shop, near Redcross-street, in Southwark.   The Winner drank three Quarts, and walked off pretty well, but died next Morning.

Ipswich Journal:  May 15th 1736


     Of course, many such challenges were of a more athletic nature.


This day an extraordinary Trial of Skill was made on the water for a considerable wager, viz., a waterman was to swim from Blackfryars’ Stairs to Windmill Point with his hands ty’d behind him and his cloaths on, which he performed with much ease, to the great surprise of all the spectators. 

Ipswich Journal:  July 10th 1736


WHEREAS the CRICKET MATCH that was mention’d in last week’s papers was played on BARLEY GREEN in STRADBROOK on Monday  12th instant, according to the request of the High Suffolk Gentlemen;  wherein they were pleased to call it a Contest with FINNINGHAM, & for Two Guineas a man, but the former refus’d playing for so much & begg’d to be excused for one Shilling a man, which in Civility the latter Condescended to, and obtain’d a Complete Victory over the former without any assistance from STOWMARKET;  The Twelve persons who play’d on FINNINGHAM Side do hereby give notice that they are ready to play against the said High Suffolk Gentlemen at any time they shall appoint (on a Week’s notice) at the House of JOSEPH WELHAM, at the White Horse, in Stoke Ash, for one Guinea a Man & no less.

Ipswich Journal:  September 17th 1743


Yesterday se’nnight an old man aged 61, undertook for a trifling wager, to run five times backwards and forwards the Rowley’s mile on Newmarket-heath (which is more than ten miles) in an hour and a quarter.   He performed it within the time, to the great surprise of number of spectators.

Ipswich Journal:  October 18th 1783


On Tuesday se’nnight Mr Winter, baker, of Norwich, for a bet of 40 guineas, walked from thence to Yarmouth, a distance of nearly 24 miles, in 5 hours and a half, carrying 40lbs. Weight of bread in a basket.   He was allowed six hours, but performed it in the time stated.

Ipswich Journal:  February 11th 1804


At a GREAT CASTLE, in FRAMLINGHAM,in Suffolk on Monday, the twelfth day of November next ensuing, there will be a severe Trial of Manhood, between the following Champions, viz;-

I DANIEL SMITH, the Suffolk Champion, do once more invite Mr. John Slack, the Norfolk Champion, to meet and Fight me at the Time and Place aforesaid for the sum of forty Guineas, and tho’ I had the misfortune to be defeated by him before, I’m sure I’m his Superior in the Art of Boxing, and doubt not that I shall give him and the Company intire satisfaction



I JOHN SLACK the Norfolk Champion, do accept the above Challenge, and will be certain to meet and fight the above Hero for the said sum, at the Time and Place above mentioned, and don’t doubt but that I shall support the character I have hitherto maintained.


N.B.  They are to Fight upon a stage, and Galleries will be erected for the Reception of the gentlemen, &.   The Door will be open’d at Ten o’clock, and the champions will mount the Stage at Two.

Ipswich Journal:  November 3rd 1744


    This final contest appears to have gone the way of the Norfolk Champion, according to the 1927 book ‘Tales of Old Inns’ (published by Trust Houses Ltd), which places the contest at the Crown Inn, Framlingham and describes ‘half the county’ thronging to the fight.


    Adverts were taken by confident craftsmen, putting their skill against others in the county.


This is to give Notice, that on Monday, the 11th of June, there will be a silver cup to be drawn for, at the King’s Head in Somersham, of Thirty Shillings value, by any Five Horses, Mares, or Geldings; and that Team that draws Twenty of the best and fairest Pulls out of Twenty proffers, and carries the most Weight over the Blocks (which shall be left to two Judges) with two Whipmen, and a Holder for the fore Horse, to have the Prize; no less than two Teams to draw, and to enter their Names between Ten and Twelve o’clock the same Day.

N.B. I have the Promise of one Team at the above said Place; where all Persons shall meet with good Entertain-ment, and a hearty Welcome, from their humble Servant.


Ipswich Journal:  June 2nd 1744


Tuesday last there was a spinning match at the Ostrich, near this town (Ipswich), between two elderly women and a girl, for a kettle, ½lb of tea, and some blue ribbon, when one of the former won by spinning 11 knots within the hour.

Ipswich Journal:  June 5th 1784


Exchanges, such as these were quite common…


This is to let you Know from me, WILLIAM ALEXANDER, Lath and Pale Cleaver, in Framlingham, in the County of Suffolk, that I will make a Wager for Five Pounds Sterling with any one Lath Cleaver, in the County aforesaid, that I do make as much of a Load of Oaken Rift into Lath, and the Lath as good, by the Judgement of three men that understand it; where there are two lengths of a Tree, I will make one, and he the other, and so on, let the Timber be great or twisted.

Ipswich Journal:  November 16th 1743

     This is to give Notice to all Gentlemen and others, that I WILLIAM MIRET, Lath-render, of Woodbridge, do challenge William Alexander, of Framlingham, to rend forty Feet of timber and to try which of us can make most lath and best and quickest, by the judgement of two men, for Five pounds, a Half-Crown Bowl of Punch or a crooked Pin.

Ipswich Journal:  December 17th 1743


WHEREAS MR. WILLIAM ALEXANDER did, on the 6th of the Instant, advertise to meet me, WILLIAM MIRETT, at the CROWN INN, at WICKHAM, there to agree upon Articles to Cleave LATHS for Five Pounds;  accordingly I was there at the Hour of One o’clock as he propos’d; sometime after Three o’clock he came with his brother, JOHN ALEXANDER, and did not stay above a Quarter of an Hour, said they would go for one Mr. SMITH  and come again;  I waited for them ’till dark, but no Messieurs ALEXANDERS came, which makes me believe the Man was afraid to work with me, and so made a slight Excuse to get away;  otherwise, they came from home and forgot their Money, and were lost in going back;  or else the Dupes, considering their Folly, have crept into some Bye Place and strung themselves, for I have not seen or heard of ’em since.   If these two Men of GOTHAM be their own Friends, I advise them not to advertise against a whole County, without it be against Apprentice Boys, and then I can match them.


Ipswich Journal:  October 20th 1744


I have been unable to discover whether this bitter dispute was ever resolved.  Bitterness and recrimination seem to have followed a number of challenges. 


Footpads & Highwaymen

    As today, street crime was a major concern, reports of highwaymen and footpads appearing in almost every issue.


    On Saturday morning, a little before Seven o’clock, the St. Edmunds-Bury and Norwich Stage-Coaches were stopt by two Highwaymen, in South Mill Bottom, almost a mile from Hockerill, in the Way to London, and all the Passengers robbed.   The Passengers in the Norwich Coach lost £15. 7s. 6d, those in the other coach not about 25 or 30s.

    Whilst the Highwaymen were busy searching the Coaches, three Gentlemen on Horseback were separately passing the Road, who they also stopt, and took from one 7s., another £4 and a Watch, and the third betwixt 3 and £4.  The Rogues, when the two last Gentlemen came up, were getting the Passengers out of the Coach to strip them, suspecting they had concealed some of their Effects, which design they departed from after they had got the last Booty, and rode full Speed off, driving the Gentlemen’s horses before them for about a Mile, having first pulled off their Bridles.   They seemed to be Fellows of great Dexterity in the Business.

Ipswich Journal:  January 3rd 1730


They write from Colchester in Essex that last Week 9 Robberies were committed by a Highwayman, on the Roads between that place and Newmarket in Cambridgeshire, and in particular Mr. Spilsby of Witham, on his return from Sudbury in Suffolk was robbed of £18.13s.

Ipswich Journal:  February 14th 1730


On Wednesday last, Mr. Hammond, a Weaver, and another person, coming from Lavenham, in Suffolk, were attacked near the Whalebone, between Ilford and Romford, by a Highwayman, who robbed the latter of 3 guineas, but Mr. Hammond having no more than half a Crown about him, the Rogue generously refused to take it, and rode off towards Epping Forest.

Ipswich Journal:  February 28th 1730.


Ipswich, April 25th – Last Monday, in the Afternoon, Mr. Henry Salter, a Malster, of Nacton, returning home from this Town, was robb’d by a Highwayman, riding on a Black Mare or Horse, of 195£, near Nacton.   The Highwayman rode off and has not yet been heard of

Ipswich Journal:  April 25th 1730


Thomas Winter, who was on Monday last committed to the new Jail for a Robbery, confessed before Justice De Veil 36 Robberies on the Highway, and has impeached about 20 of his Gang, so proper Warrants are granted against them.  He confessed the Robbery committed on Mr. John Cutler, of Chiswick, who died last Friday of the Wounds which were given him.   He also confessed the stealing of 10 Horses out of several counties, and two from Mr. Skinner, a farmer in Essex.

Ipswich Journal:  September 13th 1735


Most notorious of the Suffolk highwaymen was Daniel Malden of Ipswich, whose exploits were well documented at the time.


    The surprising Escapes of Daniel Malden twice out of Newgate, draws Numbers of People to the old Condemn’d Hold to see him, where he sits in a Chair stapled down to the Floor, with very large Irons on and a Person watches him Night and Day, tho’ the Place is much stronger than before. He seems very easy under his unhappy Circumstances, talks freely to the People, and seems a Fellow of good Understanding, and of an enterprising Genious; but says he could not stay away from the Woman that was the Cause of his being taken at Canterbury, and that his Fate decreed it so.

Ipswich Journal:  October 8th 1736


Legends abound of civil and courteous highway robbers with an eye for the ladies.  This story appears to bear them out.


    A most extraordinary Robbery was committed on Thursday morning last on Finchley Common by a single Footpad, who stopped a Gentleman’s Coach, in which were two ladies, a Counseller of Eminence and a Captain of Foot.   The Fellow had no weapon but a large clasp knife, which he thrust into the Coach, and swore instantly to prod as he called it, into the gentlemen if they made the least Hesitation in delivering their purses.  The Counsellor gave him Five Guineas, and the Officer three and a Half.

    The Ladies were all the time in the greatest Agitation for fear the Fellow would commit some Barbarity, and held their money out, begging he might be content with it, and go about his Business; but he had no sooner done with the Gentlemen than he removed their Uneasiness, by saying, “Nay, Ladies, don’t be frightened, I never did the least Injury to a Woman in my Life, nor ever will; as for your Money Keep it to yourselves; all that I ask from you will be a kiss a-piece, and if you grudge me that, I am sure you are neither sensible nor good-humoured.”   The Ladies having complied he took his Leave very civilly, declaring this was the first Robbery he ever Committed, and should be the last, that he had served on board one of his Majesty’s Ships the whole War, but that, being foolish and extravagant, he had spent all his Wages, and was then utterly destitute of employment and bread, “but this sum,” said he, “will carry me home cleverly to Ireland and then I shall be in no Danger or wanting either, as I have a good many Friends.”  The whole Transaction lasted near five Minutes, yet no Passengers came up, and though there was a Footman behind the Coach, there was no Attempt made for having the Fellow secured.   He was a lusty, well made Man, near Six Feet high, dressed in a blue Jacket, but had very little of the Country accent.

Ipswich Journal:  February 11th 1764


    But, of course, the king of them all was Dick Turpin.   Coming from Chelmsford, he became first a local celebrity, then a nationally feared and revered figure by differing sections of the community.


On Thursday morning last between Nine and Ten o’clock, one Farmer Forde, coming from Hertford to London was attacked on Northaw Common by Turpin the Butcher, with whom the Farmer had been formerly acquainted, and making some slight resistance, Turpin pull’d off his Hat, as a Signal to another of his Gang, supposed to be Rowden, who was about 200 Yards off upon the scout, to join him, when they dismounted the Farmer, and robb’d him of £4 3s. and some halfpence, and turn’d his Horse loose;  after which they were going to bind him, but two Gentlemen on horseback appearing, they left the Farmer and gave them the meeting, and robb’d them of their Money and a Silver Watch;  Turpin chang’d his Hat with one of the Gentlemen, and afterwards obliged them to dismount, pull’d their Saddles and Bridles off, and turn their horses loose;  They made off towards Enfield Chace, were both well mounted and dress’d and us’d the Gentlemen with good Language and Civility.

Ipswich Journal:  October 11th 1735.


    Not all contemporary accounts of Turpin paint quite so romantic a picture.  Soon, he was on the run for murder.


On Tuesday last Turpin and Rowden, two of Gregory’s gang, had the insolence to ride through the City at noon day, and in Watling Street they were known by two or three porters who ply’d there, but had not the courage to attack them; They were but indifferently mounted, and went towards the Bridge; so that ‘tis thought they are gone upon the Tunbridge Road.

Ipswich Journal:  October 18th 1735


    It was rumoured that when things became too hot for Turpin in England, he had taken himself abroad for his own safety.

We hear that Turpin has been in Holland, from whence he returned about six Weeks ago in the Ostend Packet-boat.   It is said that Daniel Malden knew him there, and that Turpin endeavoured to prevail with Malden to go into Foreign Service and see England no more.

Ipswich Journal:  September 24th 1736


Of course, there were many reputed sightings in this time.


Last Saturday Turpin the Butcher was seen to ride through Edgworth towards Harrow on the Hill mounted on a strong bay Horse; he call’d to one Moreland, a Drover, a little beyond Edgworth, and ask’d him how he did, but did not attempt to rob him.

Ipswich Journal:  October 22nd 1736


    We do know from his subsequent confession that he had taken himself into hiding in Lincolnshire under a pseudonym.  For a while, the trail ran cold.     

    It is likely that Turpin was credited with many crimes he had

not committed, as highway robbers were plentiful then, and others were only too keen to increase their success by passing themselves off as the man the whole country feared.  However, we can pick up the story again in March 1739, following Turpin’s arrest and the discovery that his attempt to pass himself off as ‘John Palmer’ had been exposed.


Extract of a Letter from York, dated

March 2nd 1738-9

As the Person who was committed to York-Castle under the Name of Palmer about Michaelmas last, is discover’d, and has confesss’d himself to be the famous Turpin, I am persuaded that an authentick Account of that Affair will not be unacceptable to the Publick.   It seems that about the Time that the Reward for taking him came out, which was June the 25th 1737, instead of going beyond Sea (as was reported) he only cross’d the Humber, and boarded at a Publick House at Brough Ferry for some time, but afterwards went to Welton, a small Village, about a Mile from Brough, and wide of the high Road.   He said he was a Butcher by Trade, but had taken up the Business of sometimes dealing in Horses, and generally had two or three very good ones; used often to go over the Humber into Lincolnshire, and bring Horses over back again, which he sold to the neighbouring Gentlemen, with whom he frequently used to hunt:  And it is imagin’d, that as his Father is in Chelmsford Goal, on Suspicion of Horse stealing, they used to meet and exchange, there having been but few Horses stolen about Hemstead in Essex, where his Father lived, since old Turpin has been confin’d in Chelmsford Goal, and this Man in York-Castle.   However, this Trade he followed near two Years, till he happen’d to shoot a Countryman’s Game-Cock or Hen, which anger’d the Fellow so that, to be reveng’d, he complained to some Gentlemen of Hull that had made a Visit to a neighbouring Gentleman at Ferriby.   Upon what he alledg’d concerning this Palmer, and his manner of living, they order’d him to be taken up as a suspicious Fellow, and brought next Day to Beverley Quarter Sessions to give some Account of himself; He was carried next Day, and suffer’d to ride his own Horse, and was very jocose till he came near Beverley, but then seem’d a little daunted.   Upon his Examination, one Harris, with whom he had boarded at Brough, gave Information, that one Day Palmer told him, if he would go along with him and have a good Heart, he would show him how he might as easily take 20£ as take up that Two-pence which he had laid down upon the Board.   Says Harris, What signifies my going along with you?  You have no Arms?  Palmer replies, Have not I?  I’ll show you such Pistols as you never saw in your Life before.   Upon which information, and his Horse being challeng’d he was committed to York-Castle from the Michaelmas Quarter Sessions at Beverley. And notwithstanding he answers in every Particular the Description of Turpin in the London-Gazette, publish’d June 25th 1737, yet Country People are so regardless, or forgetful, of those publick Notices, that he has been undiscover’d ever since Michaelmas, walking in the open Yard amongst the Felons, till lately, by the following Accident; A small time since a Letter came with the York Post Stamp, directed for one Pomp, Rivinal, to be left at the Blue-Bell in Hempstead near Saffron-Walden in Essex.  (It seems this Pomp. Rivinal married Turpin’s Sister, and since the old Man is confin’d they manage the House for him) Rivinal refus’d taking it in, saying, he had no Correspondent at York;  which being observed by one Mr. Smith (who lives at Hempstead, and taught Turpin to write) he acquainted a Justice of Peace with this, and he sent to Saffron Walden and took the Letter, which was dated from York-Castle, wherein he complains he was in for a Horse or a Mare, and desires them to come down, and bring ten Pounds, &. Which Letter was signed John Parmen, which they say is Turpin’s Mother’s Maiden Name, and which he used to go by.   Now Parmen and the Yorkshire way of pronouncing Palmer are very near, they always leaving out the l.   Upon this, several more Letters were intercepted, in which he heavily complains of Hardships, and presses them by all means to bring Ten Guineas and two Witnesses, and then he does not fear but he shall come off, and desires them to persuade his Cousin Betty Millington to do something for him, it being the last she may ever do.   Now his Wife’s Maiden Name was Millington.   Upon these Circumstances, and the Hand-writing being thought to be Turpin’s the Gentlemen of Essex having had an Account from the Governor of York-Castle, to whom they had wrote, that there was one Palmer that answer’d the Description they had sent, they resolv’d to dispatch Mr. Smith into Yorkshire, who knew him perfectly well, and taught him to write.   As soon as he saw him, he immediately declar’d and made Oath before the Recorder and Justices of the Peace, that he was the famous Richard Turpin; At first he denied it; but at Night confessed ‘twas true he was the Man’   He has since endeavour’d to escape,, and with two more Felons had laid a Plot to murder the Turnkey and Porter, and so have rode off with the Governor’s Mare, but it was discovered and prevented. 

A great Concourse of People flock daily to see him, and they all give him Money.   He seems very sure that no body is alive that can hurt him; and told the Gentleman with whom he used to hunt, that he hoped to have another Day’s Sport with him yet; and that if he had thought they would have made such a Rout with him, he would have own’d it before; He makes no Scruple of owning his Name to be Turpin, and that his Father liv’d at Hempstead, and has enquired after particular Servants that lived with Gentlemen of that Neighbourhood, with whom he was acquainted.   He is put every Night into the Condemn’d Hole which is a very strong Place.


 Turpin’s popularity with the poor did not extend to the writer of this next piece of information, sent just three weeks later.


York March 23rd 

Yesterday John Palmer, alias Richard Turpin, was tried here, and convicted on two several Indictments for Horse-stealing:  The Evidence was clear and full, and the Prisoner had little or nothing to say in his Defence.  He was proved by two Witnesses from Essex, to be the notorious Richard Turpin, (one of whom was Smith, who taught him to write) and he himself own’d his Name so to be, but said he was not the Richard Turpin he was taken for, but another person of the said Name: He said he had been a Butcher in Lincolnshire, and failing there, retired into this Country, and took upon himself the Name of Palmer; he did not apprehend any Danger from the first Accusation of shooting a Farmer’s Cock, and therefore tamely submitted to the Constable’s Authority, and after he was charged with Horse stealing, he did not attempt to escape, least, if he did not succeed, an Enquiry might be made after him, and a Discovery made who he was.   His Necessity in Goal forced him to write the Letter into Essex, which pulled off the Mask and discover’d him.   Since he was suspected to be Turpin, the whole Country have flock’d here to see him, and have been very liberal to him, insomuch that he has had Wine constantly before him till his Trial, and ‘tis said the Gaoler has made 100£ by selling Liquors to him and his visitors.  Tho’ the Fellow has made a great Noise in the World, he’ll now die like a Dog.   A vast Number of Wagers have been lost on this Account.


The final stages of the story then follow...


By a Letter from York, we have an Account, that on Saturday last the famous Richard Turpin was executed there; and at the Place of Execution, he declar’d himself to be the same Richard Turpin for whom the Reward was offer’d by Proclamation, and who committed so many Robberies in Essex, &c.

Ipswich Journal:  April 1739



      They write from York, that an Attempt was made by the Surgeons of that Place to have got the Body of Turpin, but the Mob hearing that it was dug up, and being inform’d where it was, went and rescu’d it, and re-interr’d it, having strew’d it over with Lime to prevent its being anatomiz’d.

Ipswich Journal:  April 1739


It is worth noting that no mention appears in the papers of any horse called Black Bess or of the famed ride from London to York.


As the Ipswich Journal and Bury Post reached the end of the 18th Century, they faced more of a challenge.   Though literacy, and with it, readership were on the increase, improved communication with London meant a regular supply of London newspapers could be had and a clearer identity would become necessary for local newspapers.  The beginning of the nineteenth century would see the launch of a number of competitors, the strongest being the Suffolk Chronicle, first published in Ipswich in 1801.


Amuse your readers

    The battle was on for readers, and with it the search for stories to entertain and titillate the readership.   Public taste was often reflected in the adverts such as for the Newgate Calendar.   Having purchased such an item, sold as a kind of magazine, each week, you could read of…


 ‘…authentic Narratives of the executions, Dying Speeches and other Particulars relating to all the most Notorious violators of the laws of their country and who have suffered death and other exemplary punishments.


The first issue claimed to have copper plate engravings of …

‘…an exact representation of the manner of executing Malefactors on the New Scaffold and gallows opposite Newgate in the Old Bailey, London, and Capt. James Lowry flogging a sailor to his death on board of a Jamaica ship bound to England.’


It cost 6 pence an issue or one pound five shillings for an unbound set of 50 issues. Doubtless, stories like these appealed to people then as much as they do to us now. 

For example, an inquest printed in the Ipswich Journal in March 1736, gave rise to this bizarre tale.


Some of the Jury being of Opinion, that if the Husband was guilty of the Murder, and touch’d his Wife’s body, it would bleed; he readily put himself upon the Ordeal, and being carried to the Deceased, at their Desire took hold of both her Hands, and Kissed her several Times.


Of course, we don’t have to believe all we read in newspapers


We have an odd Story here of a Person who was confined in the Chartelet for Debt was observed to be a little melancholy (a Thing not very common in France), upon which the Keepers refused him the use of a Knife and Fork lest he should be tempted to do himself a mischief, but he desired he might have some Cherries to eat, accordingly a Pound was brought him every Day; he wove the stalks together in such a manner that in little more than a week he made a Rope with which he hang’d himself. See what Industry will do.

Ipswich Journal:  July 18th 1730


    In the Ipswich Journal of August 29th 1730, the will of Dr. Green, of Clare Hall, Cambridge, was published.   It contained a strange request, to the effect that his body was to be anatomised and his skeleton to be hung at the head of a class of books of which he made the Clare Hall a present just before his death.   If the College authorities refused to carry out this request none of the money bequeathed for the benefit of the institution was to be paid, but a similar request was to be made of St. John’s College, and if they refused, to any other of the respective colleges.  One wonders whether some means were devised to put aside so objectionable a clause.


    It is interesting to see what conclusions could be drawn from a surprising discovery

York, October 16th  We have an Account that a Farmer near Thorpe, in the Ainsty, digging in low Ground of Water, discover’d the Horns of a Stagg’s Head, upon which he got some of his Neighbours to assist him, and with great Difficulty they got it out of the earth, where it is suppos’d to have been ever since Noah’s Flood.   It shows the Creation of the World, and the Decline of it, for it is suppos’d to be four times greater than any of the Kind to be seen now, Great Concourse of People of all ranks have been to see it, and were much surprised and satisfy’d with the sight of so monstrous a thing.

Ipswich Journal:  October 1744


Record breakers were well in evidence…


A strange Child has been presented to the French King at Versailles, aged seven years, who is five Foot two Inches high, and has grown two Inches in Six Weeks.   It is observable that both his Parents are of a small Stature.

Ipswich Journal:  April 17th 1736


We hear that the tall Woman, Christian Godwin, from Essex, who has had the Honour of being seen by most of the Nobility and Gentry at Charing Cross for some time, designs very speedily to make a Tour round England.   She is seven Foot high, and proportionable to her Heighth, tho’ but 18 Years of Age.   She has had the Pleasure of giving satisfaction to every body whose Curiosity have led ‘em to see her.

    On the 18th Instant Mr. Henry Davies, the Master of Harry’s Coffee-house in Fleet-street, entered the 109th Year of his Age, and perfectly enjoys all his Senses to a Miracle; he can read the smallest Print without the Assistance of Spectacles, and almost every Day walks to Westminster and back again before Dinner.

Ipswich Journal:  June 5th 1736


    Royalty have always been newsworthy, and the various ailments suffered by George III, both physical and mental, were given a thorough going-over by the local papers at the end of the eighteenth century.  Indeed, readers were treated to quite lurid descriptions of symptoms and suggested cures.       


    Whether, read for their entertainment value alone or used as contemporary record of great and lesser events, the archives held at the Suffolk Record Offices at Ipswich & Bury St. Edmunds are a real treasure.  Above all, our local newspapers are a priceless resource for the local and family historian searching for information about the people of Suffolk.  They contain much information that exists nowhere else.

    The following advert appeared regularly throughout the 1790s and early 1800s.



Several opulent and respectable gentlemen in London from motives of humanity towards industrious persons, who may be unable to support the heavy charge of providing substitutes in the militia, and unwilling to serve personally, have formed themselves into a society for the above purpose – by which every person paying the small sum of -



Will have a receipt given to them, engaging to provide a substitute, should they be chosen by lot from the day after their subscription is paid, to the first day of November in the succeeding year, 1796.


    Each parish had to provide at least one fit man for the Suffolk Militia at any given time.  Volunteers were not often forthcoming, so villagers drew lots.  If you could afford to pay a substitute to take your place, you were not too troubled by drawing the short straw.  Alternatively, insurance schemes like this existed to offer peace of mind for a relatively small sum.  It was the craftsmen and tenant farmers who tended to pay into such a scheme, unable or unwilling to leave their families and businesses for long periods.


Some would go to any lengths to avoid being called up.


       Yesterday, one White, a famous Boxing-Man, who was pressed last week by the City Marshall, and confin’d in Wood Street Compter, in order to be sent abroad, into His Majesty’s service, took an Axe and cut off two Fingers quite to the Stumps to prevent his going.

            Ipswich Journal:  April 21st 1744


    By the end of the eighteenth century, the two existing local Suffolk papers were growing in strength and popularity.  They knew what sold papers!  Not a lot changes really; furry animal stories will always be popular.


A singular circumstance lately occurred at the Chequers Inn Boxford – A Boy bought in a nest of young rats, one of which he threw down to the cat, who had kittens.   The cat, instead of destroying it, as was expected, carried it to her kittens, and has suckled it with them for three weeks and whenever it strays out of her nest, she brings it back again.

Bury Post:  May 18th 1803


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