The largest collection we hold by far is the archive of the local newspaper the North Devon Journal. We hold some 133 volumes of the original newspapers which cover over 120 years of news and events in the North Devon area.
The Journal was first published in July 1824 and we hold the first full year in hard copy – the only known copy left in the country. We then have a complete run of the newspapers from 1853-1980. We also hold copies of the newspapers on microfilm from 1824-1988 which are available in the public area alongside the more current films which the local studies library look after.
We also hold 29 volumes of North Devon Herald newspapers which was a rival newspaper set up in 1870 and was merged with the Journal in 1941 to become the North Devon Journal-Herald. Some of these copies are the only ones known to have survived.
In the 1980s a project under the auspices of the Manpower Service Commission saw a group of people index the newspapers by hand and create a subject index covering the years 1824/25 and 1853-1895. A surname index was later created by one of the librarians using the original index. While the index has been superseded by the online version of the newspapers, the subject and name index is still useful for finding articles within the newspapers by subject, parish and name.
More recently volunteers and staff have produced a separate index to the Birth, Marriage and Death notices in the Journal and we now have indexes covering the years 1824-1857, 1868-1876 & 1880-1949. The index is particularly useful when searching for elusive ancestors and possible reports for marriages and funerals which can provide a mine of information on both the person and their family.
The largest section of the archive is the images collection. We hold thousands of glass and film negatives from the Journal which provides a unique and fascinating window on the North Devon area. The Journal started publishing images in its pages in the early part of the 20th Century and used a local photographer to supply them. By the 1940s and 50s they were commonplace and the Journal had its own photographers.
The glass negative collection was given to us in 1983 and contains 5,774 negatives covering the years 1946-1959. In 2011 a grant from the Bideford Bridge Trust allowed us to have them digitsed. These images can be searched and viewed – in a low resolution format – on our online images and NDJ catalogues.
When the Journal moved from its old premises in Barnstaple High Street to Roundswell in the mid 2000s we were given thousands of film negatives covering the year 1963 – 2003. Further grants from the Bideford Bridge Trust allowed us to digitse all of the 1960s and 70s negatives and most of the 1980s and early 1990s negatives. In 2012 we released 2,545 images from the 1960s collection onto the catalogues and we are still in the process of indexing the 4,678 images from the 1970s. We also have some 11,346 individual images covering the 1980s waiting to be indexed and 3,633 images from 1990-1992 awaiting indexing!
In total we have some 27,885 digitised images as part of the North Devon Journal image collection with thousands more waiting to be done as part of a massive future project.
The negatives and digitised copies are all store in date order allowing us to search them by date even without a full index.
Find Out More:
You can find out more about the history of the North Devon Journal by reading our Brief History of the North Devon Journal post
Discover the images we hold via our online catalogue
Visit us to see the microfilm copies for free.