Worcester - an Historic Centre of Printing

  • 16 Jan 2012
  • Newspaper Surveys
  • Back
Worcester has been an important centre of printing from the mid 16th century. The first of that craft to practise in Worcester began there in 1548. He was John Oswen of Ipswich, which at that time, had three printers. Worcester was the nineth place in the British Isles to take up the 'art'. Other places ranking in time before Worcester were Tavistock 1525, Cambridge 1521, York 1509, Edinburgh 1507, London and St. Albans 1480, and Oxford between 1478 and 1486.

John Oswen was the most famous of the three Ipswich printers. He is known to have printed at least 29 works, though of these, only about 30 copies in all, and not one apiece, have been preserved. He is said to have been patronised by Cardinal Wolsey, and came west on being appointed as official printer for the Marches, which included the counties of Worcester, Hereford, Gloucester, Salop, and all Wales.

Like Caxton and the other early printers, he also translated some of the books he printed. His religious views were in sympathy with the Reformation, and when Queen Mary came to the throne, his work ceased. He probably took cover on the Continent, for his books were proclaimed heretical, and every possessor was ordered to submit them to the authorities for destruction. on pain of summary execution as a rebel. Hence natuarally, the extreme scarceness of the volumes.

Worcester's chief claim for fame in the field of printing however, lies in the fact that it has the oldest continuously published newspaper in the world. Berrow's Worcester Journal, which began its existence in 1690. But a surprising number of other local papers were being produced in Worcester in the 18th and 19th centuries.The height of Worcester's newspaper activity must have been in 1888, when eight different newspapers were being produced in theCity, not counting the specialist weeklies. They were:-

  • Berrow's Worcester Journal Worcester Daily Times
  • Worcester Herald Worcestershire Echo
  • Worcester News Worcester Sauce
  • Worcester Advertiser Worcester Chronicle

It has been fairly claimed that no other provincial city can match the number and variety of the newspapers provided in this City.