Bi-weekly (then weekly) provincial newspaper, circulating in Kent and the surrounding counties. Founded in 1768, merged with the Kentish Post (founded in 1717), remains in print.
‘The Intelligence inserted in this Paper will be of the latest date, and selected from the most approved News Papers of London and other Parts of the Kingdom… I have the pleasing Prospect of some valuable Correspondents by whom, with some approved Extracts from the best Authors, Accounts of New Books, Pamphlets, Poetry, &c. I hope to render it not only valuable but entertaining ; that, biased to no Party, and under no Influence whatever, it shall be open to the favours of every corresponding Friend’. James Simmons, Inaugural Editorial, May 1768.
The Kentish Gazette was established by James Simmons in 1768 as a bi-weekly newspaper. The first issues cost 2d. Simmons quickly merged the Gazette with the Kentish Post, and began a partnership with the Post’s owner, George Kirkby. In its inaugural issue, Simmons stakes a claim to political neutrality, although Hannah Barker has suggested that, in the second half of the eighteenth century, the paper supported colonisation, as well as the Pitt administration from 1784. Simmons himself was also closely involved with local and national politics, serving as an MP for Canterbury in 1806, a year before his death. Simmons printed the Gazette in his offices in Canterbury, and addressed his inaugural issue to ‘The Inhabitants of the County of Kent and City of Canterbury’. On the final page of this issue, Simmons also lists booksellers to whom the publication will be distributed, including contacts in Margate, Deal, Sandwich, Rochester, and one vendor in London, staking an early claim to a county-wide, and perhaps even a metropolitan circulation.
By the 1830s, Robert Smithson had succeeded Simmons as both printer and publisher. Prior to this and until 1831, Smithson had published and printed the Northampton Mercury alongside Thomas Edward Dicey. Which explains why the list of London agents selling the Mercury in 1831 and the Gazette in 1833 are identical. At the same time, the bi-weekly publication schedule became too difficult to maintain, possibly because of limitations on circulation rates, which meant that in May 1833, the Gazette began publishing one issue each week. By 1833, Stamp Tax meant the paper cost 7d, but the change in publication schedule did not prove more cost effective for readers, as they simply received one four page, 7d issue per week instead of two.
At about this time, the Gazette can be described as Conservative and anti-Reform. This stance continued into the 1840s and beyond, with the 1846 Newspaper Press Directory stating that the publication ‘[a]dvocates the agricultural interest chiefly. Is attached to the Church of England, and the friend of religious toleration’. By this time the Gazette was also circulating through Surrey and Sussex. On 1st July 1851, the Gazette came under the proprietorship of Henry Ward, who reiterated the paper’s Conservative allegiance in an address in his inaugural issue. The paper remained in the Ward family for much of the nineteenth century: passed to Henry’s wife Jane Ward upon his death in December 1857, and subsequently to their daughter Mary Ann Ward in 1881. In 1944, the Luftwaffe bombed Canterbury and destroyed the offices of the Kentish Gazette, although publication continued, and the next issue even contained a report on the bombing. In 1980, the Gazette joined the Kent Media Group and still publishes today, winning ‘Newspaper of the Year’ in the 2019 Kent Press and Broadcast Awards.
Hannah Barker, Newspapers, Politics and English Society 1695-1855 (Essex: Pearson, 2000).
‘History’, KM Media Group [Accessed: 25/06/2020].
James Simmons, ‘To The Inhabitants of the County of Kent and City of Canterbury’, Kentish Gazette, Saturday 28 May 1768, p.1 [Accessed 25/06/2020]. ‘Kentish Gazette’, British Newspaper Archive [Accessed: 18/05/2020].
‘Kentish Gazette’, Kent Online [Accessed 18/05/2020].
‘Kent Press & Broadcast Awards Results’, Kent Press and Broadcast Awards (2019) [Accessed: 25/06/2020].
Machado, Tina, ‘Kentish Gazette’, Historic Canterbury (2007) [Accessed: 25/06/2020].
Mitchell, Charles, The Newspaper Press Directory (London: Charles Mitchell, 1847)
Northampton Mercury, Saturday 29th October 1831, p.4 [Accessed: 30/12/2019].
Waterloo Directory of English Newspapers and Periodicals [Accessed: 30/12/2019]