Yet another end of an era: 'The London Gazette', the UK’s most venerable publication, goes online

It's one of the oldest newspapers in the world, dating back to 1665

Sooner or later, modernity has to come even to the oldest institutions – and so, the oldest continuous publication in the UK, and one of the oldest in the world, has gone online. The London Gazette is not just the country’s oldest newspaper: it is also the worthiest.

It contains no gossip, no interviews, no photographs, no inaccuracies, nothing but official announcements set out in bald detail, without commentary. It is a newspaper for the Leveson era, telling its readers only what the authorities decide that they need to know.

The Gazette owes its origin to the Great Plague that swept London in 1665. It was so virulent that King Charles II and his court decamped to Oxford for fear of contagion, and did not want to touch London newspapers. So they launched the Oxford Gazette. When the court returned to the capital, the Gazette followed. Never sold on the streets, it was posted to subscribers.

It was the first official newspaper of record, the outlet through which the King communicated with his subjects. It recorded when Bills that had passed through Parliament received Royal Assent, when writs for parliamentary elections or by-elections were issued, bankruptcy notices, military appointments and appointments to some public offices, the granting of awards and medals, and royal proclamations. When a new military appointment or an act of gallantry was recorded in the Gazette it was said to have been “gazetted”.

Sometimes, a birth or marriage is considered important enough for the Gazette. On 22 July this year, for instance, it noted that “this afternoon, at 4.24 o’clock, Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Cambridge was safely delivered of a son at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington.”

Whereas other newspapers find the volume of news to fill the available space, the Gazette adjusts its size to the volume of information the Government wishes to impart. A century ago, on 31 December 1913, there was not much that needed saying, so a one-page supplement was issued, containing a single item: “THE KING Commands that the Court shall wear Mourning for Two Weeks from this day, for Her late Majesty Sophie, Queen Dowager of Sweden. The Court to change to Half Mourning on Tuesday, the 6th January, 1914. And on Tuesday, the 13th January, the Court to go out of Mourning.”

By contrast, issue 17,028, dated 22 June 1815, was four pages of close type. It was a dispatch hand-delivered to the War Department, from Field Marshal the Duke of Wellington, which described how a huge French army led by “Buonaparte” had attacked the Austrians, under Marshal Blucher, on 19 June, and how on the following day the Duke had drawn up his army “in front of Waterloo”, and had beaten the French, at terrible cost.

By going online, it will add nothing to the amount of unchecked gossip sloshing around the web, but it will offer readers an immense archive, a cornucopia of facts and small insights into the world as it used to be.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Recruitment Genius: External Relations Executive

£33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An External Relations Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Project Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This established Digital Agency based in East ...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links