Historic Newspaper Research Services

With over 4 million original newspapers in the archive, the largest in the world, we have access to a huge wealth of information and fascinating history. We therefore get regular research requests, ranging from media production companies to private individuals, and have a dedicated expert in place to help you search newspapers.

An interesting archive newspaper search request that came in recently was from a lady named Heide from the US who is an avid fan of the popular 1987 film ‘ Withnail and I’. Heide has created a fantastic blog about the movie, the star of which is ‘The Wall-O-Withnail’, you can check it out for yourself here.

The wall showcases items, props and collectables from the film that have been sourced in tribute. Historic Newspapers were contacted with some screenshots from the film and a somewhat tentative enquiry as to whether we could identify the exact newspapers that had been used. Here are the screenshots taken from the film:

And a personal favourite where Heide is re-enacting the scene:


The Newspaper Research Process

Our in-house newspaper research oracle John McMillan talks through the process followed in order to determine the newspapers used, and most importantly make sure we held them in the archive. Fortunately we did! John says…

“It was a stroke of luck in being able to identify the date of the newspapers so quickly since the front page of the News of the World had a headline about “Only 24 hours to go- and the new Sun will be with you”. I already knew that the UK Sun newspaper (the sister paper of the old News of the World) was re-launched on Monday 17th November 1969 as a tabloid (with smaller sized pages). This meant that the News of the World had to be dated Sunday 16th November 1969 and this proved to be the case when I checked.

I thought it would be worthwhile to check the Sunday People for the same date 16th November 1969 and it also proved to be the right date. The Sunday Mirror was a little more difficult since it was not 16th November 1969 as well, but I thought that it must not be far from that date.

I checked the Wikipedia page for Ronnie Biggs on the internet and discovered that his secret hideout in Australia was discovered in October 1969. Thus I only needed to check the front pages of the Sunday Mirror for October 1969. Unfortunately, stories can change between different editions of the newspapers and thus the story may not have been found if we did not have the right edition in stock for that day.

However, after checking through all of the different editions we had in stock of the Sunday Mirror for October 1969 I discovered that it was the 19 th October 1969 since we had the correct edition in stock. This was very fortunate since all of the other editions that we had of the Sunday Mirror for that date did not have the correct story on the front page.”

Finding The Treasure

It was with great pleasure that we were able to confirm to Heide that, after just one day, the newspaper search was a success, and we would be able to ship them across the pond. Here’s a close up of the front pages for the requested items:

Can you spot them from the screenshots of the film? Notice that the ones over 25 years older are in much better, near perfect, condition after having been carefully stored and preserved in the Historic Newspapers Archive all this time.

A Happy Customer

Here’s a great photo of Heide proudly showing off the new additions to her Wall-O-Withnail, which had to be expanded to accommodate the newspapers! Make sure you visit her blog to check out some of the other fascinating vintage items as she’s an avid collector.

A fantastic Historic Newspapers review was left by Heide, which really makes going the extra mile worthwhile! You read all our latest reviews here, and see Heide's below, which highlights John's great work:

“I will admit to being a bit nervous about using the site, as I am in New York and the company is in the UK, but my email inquiry was immediately answered by John McMillan. I was looking for three newspapers featured in my favorite film, "Withnail & I".

Mr. McMillan found the exact papers I was looking for the very next day, using only some grainy, blurry screen shots from the film that I sent him via email as a reference. The papers arrived very quickly, and in great condition.

John McMillan gives the kind of customer service you always wish for but rarely get. Historic Newspapers is lucky to have him - their sales will definitely be higher because of his attention to detail, his detective skills, and his prompt and personable communication.”

The newspapers on display are actually copies of the originals sent to Heide. The reason being that keeping originals on display in such a way could damage the items over an extended period. For this reason the precious original editions have been correctly stored in a blackout box with acid-free paper between the pages. This ensures they’ll be in great condition to be enjoyed for years to come.

So whether you’re looking for nostalgic newspaper gifts, or would like to search newspapers with a special research request, Historic-Newspapers.co.uk is the place for you.

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