How historic news of Nelson’s death was broken

The front page of the paper from Monday, November 11, 1805 was filled with advertisements. News of Nelson's death was broken inside.
The front page of the paper from Monday, November 11, 1805 was filled with advertisements. News of Nelson's death was broken inside.
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You might well need your reading glasses to trawl through it, but this is probably the most historic newspaper in our vaults.

It appeared in one of the forerunners of The Evening News, the complicatedly-named Hampshire Telegraph, and Sussex Chronicle Or Portsmouth and Chichester Advertiser.

It’s the edition which contained the breaking news of Nelson’s victory and death at the Battle of Trafalgar.

As any schoolboy knows, the battle happened on October 21, but it took a long time for the bitter-sweet news to make it back to Britain in a despatch on board HMS Pickle.

And in those days the paper serving the Portsmouth region only appeared weekly. It cost sixpence, the equivalent of two-and-a-half modern pence.

As you can see, even the momentous news from the waters off Cadiz was not deemed hot enough to dislodge advertisements from the front page.

In those days news was printed in the chronological order in which arrived at the Portsmouth offices and printers of JC Mottley.

So, you have to turn to the bottom of the fourth column on page two of the four-page paper to find a report headlined simply with the date on which the office received it – November 6.

It began: ‘At one o’clock this morning, Lieut Lapenotiere, of the Pickle schooner, arrived with dispatches from Admiral Collingwood, announcing a most complete victory gained by Lord Nelson over the Combined Fleet, off Cape Trafalgar, between Cadiz and the Gut of Gibraltar.

‘With this glorious news came also an account of the lamented death of the victor.

‘The Admiralty, at a very early hour, sent a communication with the intelligence to Lloyd’s.

‘It soon got abroad; and from that moment, such was the impatience of the public to know more, to know everything, especially respecting the circumstances of Lord Nelson’s death, as perhaps has never been known before in this metropolis.

‘The Newspaper offices were besieged in an unexampled manner; indeed, no detail can describe the general emotion excited by the two events, of the victory and the death, which was its too dear price.

‘This does honor to the British people, honor to their character.

‘It was a sensation at once of patriotism, of pride and of gratitude.’

The despatch continues for several hundred more words before stopping abruptly to announced the latest births, deaths and marriages.