The Blacket Family of Newbury

Author: Penny Stokes
Date published: 19/02/2017

James Blacket (born 1809, Southwark) came to Newbury 1841 to take over bankrupt stationer’s business at 34 Northbrook St. Prospered as printer and stationer, and from about 1859 - 1914 as publisher of many titles, mostly of local interest (imprint sometimes as Blacket, later as W J Blacket, and later still as Blacket Turner - a company which still existed 1990s as the parent company of the NWN). At one time he stood for election to the town council – slightly controversial at that time for a strong nonconformist. The Blackets were Congregationalist.

Wife’s name unknown but might have been Mary: FBMD has an 87-year-old Mary Blacket dying in Newbury in 1894.

Walter James Blacket, born Newbury 1842, son of James. He had younger brothers Edmund and Frederick (b1845) who both moved away from Newbury. FBMD notes death of a Sarah Blacket in Newbury 1847 – connection unconfirmed. WJB was educated at Woodpseen Academy and joined his father in the business 1858. Did the family live in Donnington Square?

James Blacket launched a local newspaper, the Newbury Advertiser, in 1859. It was abandoned the same year. He retired around 1866, leaving Walter to run the business.

WJB wanted to start another newspaper. Went to Cheltenham where he recruited Thomas Wheildon Turner, one of his father’s former printing apprentices, now a reporter on the Cheltenham Examiner. They launched the Newbury Weekly News in 1867.

According to FBMD WJB married in 3Q 1871 in Kingsclere (Hants) to “Shelley” or “Shirlsmith”. ??? But his wife’s name was known to have been Louisa. They had two daughters: Lily, born and died in 1872, and Gertrude Marion, born 1874. Lived at no 6 Porchester Villas.

WJB held many public offices including governor of the Grammar School, on the Board of Public Health, secretary of Newbury Scientific and Literary Institituion, trustee of National Savings Bank and several charities, plus heavy commitment to Congregationalist church. Enthusiast for “Penny readings” a movement in 1860s to make literature available to all social classes. Liberal in politics.

James died Newbury 1877.

Walter died Newbury 1919 aged 74, and was buried Newtown Rd His shares left to widow Louisa and daughter Getrude now surnamed Collins, who in time sold them to the Turner family.

34 Northbrook St remained the NWN’s high street office throughout most of the 20th century, albeit declining badly in the last 20 years. Now demolished for Parkway development

Sue Hopson has an 1850s photo of the three Blacket boys. NWN has a photo of Walter Blacket, and a photo of 34 Northbrook St at the turn of 1900.

30 May 2011


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