I am having just the most fun. For some unknown reason (I guess I once showed an interest in the website) I have had an email from a newspaper archive service offering me a free three-day weekend pass to their records. Three days of snooping around in old newspapers, especially given that I am library-starved during lockdown – yes please! In short, you can put in any search term and time frame and the service rootles through its “20,200+ newspapers from the 1700s–2000s”. It’s not comprehensive – sadly, there’s no sign of the “Cambridge Chronicle” that was published on Fridays in the 1820s and would have been useful for my new Cambridge-set series – but there’s certainly enough to keep me going.
I have written a long list of search terms, trying to think of anything that might be useful for “Plank 7” or the Cambridge series, while hoping that I don’t stumble across anything that contradicts something I have written in an earlier Sam book. I have been clipping and saving like a demon, and have devised a new file-naming convention so that I can see at a glance which topic it covers (Crockford’s gambling club, Met Police, counterfeiting, university constables, etc.). This has made me realise that the articles I had sourced before, in the good old days when I could go into a real-life archive, are named rather chaotically, so I need to go back through those and rename and reorganise them. Don’t feel sorry for me for one single second: I’m in seventh heaven when I’m researching and organising.
I have also taken the opportunity to search for my own surname in the press; it’s unusual enough to accumulate only 393 matches between 1802 and today (and some of those are mis-readings of the words “grassy” and “grocery”). I was hoping for something glamorous or scandalous or wealthy, but sadly the high point of the family’s achievements seems to be a W E Grossey triumphing after “close and spirited competition” to win the Church of Ireland Young Men’s Society Elocution Competition in 1891.