The York Courant

York’s first newspaper, the York Mercury, was founded in 1719.  It was taken over in 1724 by Thomas Gent, a printer and entrepreneur, who re-named it The Original York Journal, or Weekly Courant.

In 1725 the York Courant was set up by John White, a bookseller and publisher from Newcastle upon Tyne, to compete head-on with Gent’s newspaper.  It was a gesture of retaliation: Gent had married White’s niece, to his considerable financial advantage and White’s loss.  Up to that time, no town in northern England other than Newcastle had its own newspaper.  As a result of the fierce rivalry between Gent and White, York now had two.

Gent’s business declined as other printers set up in York, and by about 1740  his newspaper had ceased publication.  In 1739 the printer and publisher Caesar Ward bought the York Courant in partnership with Richard Chandler, who – overburdened with debt – committed suicide in 1745, bankrupting Ward.  Rescued by his friends, Ward re-established himself in business and continued to edit the York Courant with increasing vigour.

After his death on 24 April 1759, Caesar’s widow Ann Ward took over the press and ran it successfully until 1789. According to Robert Davies in his 1868 Memoir of the York Press, the Wards turned the York Courant into ‘a journal of superior class to that of any York newspaper that attempted to compete with it.’

The York Courant was  published every Tuesday as a four-page broadsheet and sold at Ward’s ‘Printing Office’ in Coney Street and, presumably, through stationers and  retailers in the city and further afield.   The first two pages of the York Courant were devoted mainly to foreign and national news culled from despatches arriving in London.  On pages 3 and 4 city and county news, opinion, notices, letters and local gossip rubbed shoulders with a variety of advertisements.

The York Courant ran until 1848 when it was absorbed by the York Herald.


Bill Cleghorn

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