Historic silk newspaper returns to Hammersmith
Australian couple donate inheritance to local archives
A 126 year-old copy of the West London Observer newspaper, which was one of only three to be printed on white silk, has been donated to the Hammersmith & Fulham Archives and Local History Centre by John and Lyn Hamilton from Melbourne, Australia.
The precious artefact was made to commemorate an important event in the borough's history - the freeing of Hammersmith, Fulham and Wandsworth bridges from tolls by the Prince and Princess of Wales on Saturday, 26 June 1880.
The three silk newspapers each comprised three double broadsheet pages of news and adverts and included an article on the Royal declaration. One copy was given to the Prince of Wales as a gift to mark the occasion, while one of the remaining two passed into the hands of Dr John Hamilton's great grandmother and her sister. They were cousins of John Thompson, the founder and editor of the West London Observer, and inherited the silk newspaper and his fortune when he died.
The silk newspaper then passed to Dr Hamilton's grandfather, who emigrated to Australia in 1911. On Tuesday, 6 June the paper finally made its return voyage to Hammersmith.
The Hamiltons decided they wanted to donate the commemorative paper to the Hammersmith & Fulham Archives and Local History Centre ten years ago after a close friend made preliminary inquiries for them and recommended the archives, based at the Lilla Huset, in Talgarth Road, Hammersmith, as a suitable home for the valuable heirloom.
However, the Hamiltons were reluctant to trust the postal system to make the donation and have only just managed to visit the archives as part of a tour of Europe and Canada.
Dr Hamilton said: "I think this is the best home for the silk newspaper that we could possibly have wished for. It is in very good condition as it has been kept in a sealed box for many years.
The Hamiltons were greeted at the Archives and Local History Centre, in Talgarth Road, Hammersmith, by borough archivist Jane Kimber and the mayor, Cllr Minnie Scott Russell.
Ms Kimber said: "We already hold many 19th century originals of the West London Observer, which was published from 1855 until 1984. This silk paper adds a fascinating new dimension to our collection and we are thrilled that the Hamiltons could make this trip to generously donate it to us."
The mayor, Cllr Minnie Scott Russell, said "This is a fabulous addition to the extensive collection of newspapers, books, documents, photographs, maps, prints, paintings and other artefacts held by our Archives and Local History Centre. It is a real treasure trove of the borough's past and I would urge residents to pay a visit."
June 8, 2006