Wezzy Gezzy at 200

P1000264The title refers to the pet name for our local newspaper, the Westmorland Gazette. It’s based in Kendal and has just reached a rather impressive milestone – it’s 200 years old this year!

The paper was first set up in 1818 by William Wordsworth and a crony, to counter what they saw as the Whig (liberal) leanings of the existing local newspaper in the run-up to an election. Mercifully it has long since ditched the political stuff and become a good, solid weekly newspaper running stories with a local slant (and a weekly Spot the Sheepdog contest).

To celebrate the achievement of reaching such a grand old age, Kendal’s Museum of Lakeland Life and Industry has put on an exhibition dedicated to the paper. Over the bank holiday weekend we grabbed the opportunity to go and take a look, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The exhibition is quite small – just one room in the museum, plus overspill into a couple of other display areas – but it’s fascinating. There’s more detail about the original foundation, plus details of early printing equipment, plus an entire timeline wall made up of old headlines. Some of the early ones are hilarious – why would a fat pig be front page news, for instance?! – but some, about disasters or the outbreak of various wars, are of course more poignant. And there’s also a modern twist, with sections where visitors can try to spot fake news, or put themselves in the headlines with a removable photo frame.

For anyone interested in the history of Westmorland, or of old newspapers in general, I’d say this is a must. It’s on until December, so there’s plenty of time to head to the museum and see the exhibition for yourself. And have a good rootle round the rest of the displays while you’re there, because this is a fascinating place.

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The top photo shows the view out across the Kendal rooftops from part of the museum. Above is the outside, formed from the stables of Abbot Hall.

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