St Bride's: History: Chapter VII: 1730 - 1940

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St Bride's: History

Chapter I: Intro

Stepping into 2,000 years of history. The story of St Bride's is woven into the fabric of the City of London.
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Chapter II: AD43 - 1000

The dawn of our history: a Roman house near Lud Gate. Brigid: saintly teenager & default bishop
Photo Credit: Peter Dazeley
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Chapter III: 1000 - 1500

An accident of medieval geography brings importance
Photo Credit: Paul Freeman
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Chapter IV: 1500 - 1665

Wynkyn de Worde came to St Bride's and it was time to start the presses
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Chapter V: 1665 - 1666

Plague pits, nosegays, brokers of the dead & a torrent of flame.
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Chapter VI: 1666 - 1730

'Will you rebuild our church, Mr Wren?'
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Chapter VII: 1730 - 1940

The rise and rise of the Fourth Estate
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Chapter VIII: 1940 - 1957

The night St Bride's luck ran out
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Chapter IX: 1957 - 1989

Wynkyn de Worde's revolution ends in tears
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Chapter X: 1989 - 2021

St Bride's: a church for the 21st century
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Chapter VII: 1730 - 1940

Plaque unveiled by HRH The Prince of Wales to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the first daily newspaper

Plaque unveiled by HRH The Prince of Wales to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the first daily newspaper

The year before the steeple was finished, the Daily Courant became the first regular daily newspaper to be printed in the United Kingdom, published on 11th March 1702 by Elizabeth Mallet from rooms above the White Hart pub in Fleet Street. A brass plaque to mark the 300th anniversary of this first edition was unveiled by the Prince of Wales at a special service in St Bride's on 11th March 2002.

Publishers and newspapers now began to spring up with some urgency; of the national papers that are still in existence, the Daily Universal Register (now The Times) was first published in 1785, and The Observer became the world's first Sunday newspaper in 1791.

Many renowned writers tried their hand - Daniel Defoe, for instance, founded the Daily Post.

As numerous regional and provincial titles were founded, they set up London offices in and around St Bride's, as did the first news agencies.

The vast expansion of the printing industry in Fleet Street also drew interest from intellectuals, actors and artists. Anyone who was anyone - Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, David Garrick, Samuel Richardson, Joshua Reynolds, William Hogarth, William Wordsworth and John Keats - would want to be seen in the coffee houses and inns around St Bride's.

Top row (left to right): David Garrick, John Keats, Samuel Johnson;
Bottom row: William Hogarth, Joshua Reynolds, Samuel Richardson

In little more than a century, the following familiar titles were established:

Guardian (1821)
Daily Mail (1896)
Sunday Times (1822)
Daily Express (1900)
News of the World (1843)
Daily Mirror (1903)

Daily Telegraph (1855)
Sunday Mirror (1915)
The People (1881)
Sunday Express (1918)
Financial Times (1888)
Morning Star (1930)

Daniel Defoe

Daniel Defoe
c.1659 - 1661

With the coming of the 20th century their combined circulations were immense, and the power of press barons such as Northcliffe, Kemsley, Beaverbrook, Astor and Rothermere propelled Fleet Street into the very heart of the British power structure, often shaping news as well as reporting it.

Then came World War II and, in 1940, Fleet Street watched helplessly as the news exploded right at its doorstep. For St Bride's, by now enshrined as the parish church of journalism, it once again brought catastrophe.