The Stamford Mercury is the oldest continuously-published newspaper in Britain and possesses the finest archive of any provincial newspaper.
It contains over 20,000 newspapers and is complete from the middle of the 18th century. It also holds substantial numbers of annual volumes and individual copies prior to that, dating back to 1714.
Since 2005, the archive has been in the care of The Stamford Mercury Archive Trust, a specially-formed charitable body established to care for the newspapers and halt deterioration in the collection.
In that year the Trust received a grant of £305,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to undertake a five year conservation programme.
The papers were sent away in batches to a professional paper conservator and on return were stored horizontally in special archival acid-free boxes. The archive room was made fire resistant and inert mobile shelving was installed to ease access and increase storage space.
As part of the programme, and in a project supported by the British Library and regional local authorities, the Trust set out to microfilm every known copy of the Stamford Mercury in existence. The search to identify all existing copies was extensive, some coming from as far away as the United States.
All consultation is now via the microfilm, which relieves pressure on the original papers and will help safeguard their future for generations to come.
The Stamford Mercury Archive Trust is proud that this precious archive is still housed in its home town, the important historic town of Stamford, and on the premises of the newspaper that originally produced the newspapers.
Using the archive
Access to the archive is free for personal research, but a fee of £10 per visit is charged for commercial use.
All consultation is via the microfilm, unless there are exceptional circumstances. The Trust possesses two microfilm readers, both of which can produce prints and one is capable of making digital electronic copies.
All sessions are supervised by a trustee or trust volunteer, who will also be available to provide advice.
The Trust owns all back copies of the newspaper and should be contacted, rather than the Stamford Mercury newspaper itself, for access to even the most recent issues of the paper.
Visiting is by appointment on Thursday mornings 9.30-11.30 and Friday afternoons 2.00-4.00, though special arrangements can be made for other times.
Requests to visit can be made in writing to The Stamford Mercury Archive Trust, Cherryholt House, Cherryholt Road, Stamford, Lincolnshire. PE9 2EP or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is also a copy of the complete microfilm run of the paper at Stamford Library, which has longer opening hours. However, between 1929 and 1955 many items relevant to the Stamford area were published only in the local edition, held solely in the archive.
If a visit is not possible, some enquiries can be answered by trust staff. These will be charged a minimum of £20.00 per enquiry (£40.00 commercial). This will cover up to two hours' search, and an hourly rate of £10.00 (£20.00) will apply thereafter.
Trust staff will advise enquirers on framing their enquiries to make them as inexpensive as possible.
A4 and A3 microfilm print-outs are £1.00 each. Payment may be made by cheque, cash, or PayPal. The Trust is unable to accept payment via credit or debit cards.