View old copies of local newspapers for free at your library

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The British Newspaper Archive is now available to view free at all Central Bedfordshire Libraries, where old editions of the Leighton Buzzard Observer and Linslade Gazette (1861-1904) can be found.

It is the latest e-resource from the service, which allows residents the chance to search for a local newspaper from virtually every county in the UK between the 1700s and the 1950s.

The British Newspaper Archive is a ground-breaking partnership between the British Library and findmypast to digitise up to 40 million newspaper pages from the British Library’s vast collection over a 10-year period and make them available for the first time.

The bulk of newspapers cover the period from 1830 to 1950 because of the massive growth of the industry at that time.

Other Bedfordshire newspapers currently available are the Bedfordshire Times and Independent (1859-1954), the Biggleswade Chronicle (1898-1954), the Luton Times and Advertiser (1855-1916), and the Luton News and Bedfordshire Chronicle (1897-1954).

Where previously, story hunters had to endure hours of painstaking manual searching through hard copies or microfilm – which will still be available in libraries – they will now be able to search hundreds of millions of articles, family notices, letters, obituaries and advertisements by keyword, name, location, date or title and watch results appear in an instant.

Digital access to the British Newspaper Archive from anywhere outside a library is available through a subscription fee of either £9.95 (one month) and £79.95 (annual). Free access is only gained from a library computer or through a personal device that is connected to the internet via the library WiFi – a list of which can be found at:

Brian Spurr, Executive Member for Community Services, said: “The scale of this huge undertaking is stunning and, while the hard work has and is being done by the British Library and findmypast, it is a privilege for Central Bedfordshire Libraries to offer residents this vast wealth of information for free.

“The British Newspaper Archive can provide an unrivalled picture of almost 100 years of Bedfordshire life and its accessibility is an example of how our modernisation programme is ensuring our libraries move with the times, while maintaining a connection with the past.”