On this day December 8, 1866
In 1825, following perceived ridicule of their activities in the Times, Birmingham Tories established their own newspaper, the Birmingham Journal. William Hodgetts, who subscribed £50, became printer of the paper and in 1827 bought out the other subscribers to become sole proprietor.
However, the political orientation of the Journal shifted dramatically in 1832 when it was sold to radical Liberals, Parkes, Scholefield and Redfern for £2000.
Joseph Parkes and William Redfern were both lawyers and involved in the establishment of the Birmingham Mechanics Institute. Ironically, the then Tory Birmingham Journal described the Mechanics Institute as 'as poisonous a hot-bed of sedition as was ever formed of those two most hopeful and promising materials, operatives and radicals'. Scholefield was heavily involved in the Birmingham Political Union, campaigning for parliamentary reform. Parkes initially criticised the Union for being too radical, but later offered his professional services and was consulted by the Whigs on various aspects of the Reform Bill.
Parkes appointed Robert Kellie Douglas as editor of the Birmingham Journal. Douglas was secretary of the revived Birmingham Political Union and is credited with drafting the Chartist National Petition in 1838. He was one of 8 delegates chosen to represent Birmingham at the National Convention in 1839. The connections of those involved in the Journal with the national reform movement helped widen its circulation and increase its popularity and sales reached 2500 issues per week.
However, Parkes and Douglas were moderate radicals, anti-violence and although they applauded the aims of Chartism, they did not support Feargus O’Connor’s more extreme stance. Parkes later said “Although I am a Radical....I am a great advocate for the respect of caste and order” (Parkes to Tennyson, 24 May 1831, Tennyson D'Eyncourt MS TdE H/31/1).
Sales of the Birmingham Journal began to fall as the local reform movement waned and by the time Parkes sold the paper to John Frederick Feeney in 1844, had dwindled to 1200 per week. Feeney appointed John Jaffray as editor, maintaining its moderate liberal stance. Assisted by the railway boom of the 1840’s, which widened the advertising market, they managed to greatly increase the profitability of the paper. However, the abolition of Stamp Duty in 1855 favoured the production of cheaper, more frequent newspapers, since publishers could avail themselves fully of new technology by not having to cut individual pages for stamping. Although Feeney and Jaffray kept the weekly Birmingham Journal in production until 1869, it eventually succumbed to the cheaper dailies.
For this newspaper, we have the following titles in, or planned for, our digital archive:
- 1825–60 The Birmingham Journal and General Advertiser
- 1830–69 The Birmingham Journal
This newspaper is published by Trinity Mirror in Birmingham, West Midlands, England. It was digitised and first made available on the British Newspaper Archive in Apr 24, 2013. The latest issues were added in May 19, 2016.