It was significant that few newspapers were established in Wales during the 1820s and 1830s of the 19th century.
The following newspapers were all short lived:
- The Cardiff weekly reporter (Cardiff, 1822),
- The Newport review (Cardiff, 1822),
- Cronicl yr oes [The Chronicle of the age] (Mold, 1836-9)
- The Cambrian gazette: Y Freinlen Gymroaidd (Aberystwyth, 1836)
Others however, such as The Monmouthshire Merlin (Newport, 1829-91) and The Welshman (Carmarthen, 1832-1984) were more successful.
Yr Amserau [The Times]
The ordinary Welshman only slowly came to regard a newspaper as one of the essentials of life, and although newspapers increased in number during the 1830s and early 1840s, none became well established until William Rees ('Gwilym Hiraethog') established Yr Amserau [The Times] in Liverpool in 1843. This was the first Welsh newspaper to be successful and became particularly popular when its editor began to publish a series of essays entitled 'Llythyrau 'Rhen Ffarmwr' [Letters from the Old Farme] between 1846 and 1851. The letters, (written in the dialect of the foothills of Hiraethog) dealt with contemporary troubles:
- landlords and tithes
- the Corn Laws
Baner ac Amserau Cymu [The Banner and Times of Wales]
Yr Amserau was bought by Thomas Gee in 1859 and joined with Baner Cymru [The Banner of Wales], a newspaper established 2 years previously. Soon Baner ac Amserau Cymru [The Banner and Times of Wales] became a powerful influence on Welsh life. Liberal in stance, it consistently supported the populace in Radical courses, taking every opportunity to defend nonconformity. From 1861 the paper was published twice weekly for some years, and its owner succeeded in attracting a number of able journalists, such as John Griffith ('Y Gohebydd'). He was appointed London reporter of the Baner and spent much of his time reporting parliamentary debates and attending political meetings throughout Wales.
Journalism had by now become a profession in Wales, one which could offer a secure living to those who took it up. One such person was Lewis William Lewis ('Llew Llwyfo'), who was a journalist on several papers in Wales and America.
Wales' First Weekly
In 1804 the first weekly newspaper appeared in Wales when The Cambrian was published in Swansea.
Swansea was an ideal centre for such a venture. It was developing into a busy commercial and industrial town with sea and land communication facilities for distributing the newspaper. The Cambrian circulation was restricted to the small minority in the principal towns of south Wales who were able to read English. The venture proved successful and was soon followed by other weeklies such as The North Wales Gazette, established in Bangor in 1808, and The Carmarthen Journal, established in Carmarthen in 1810.
An increase in newspapers
The number of newspapers published in Wales increased considerably when the tax on advertisements and the stamp duty on newspaper copies were abolished in 1854 and 1865 respectively. Most of the denominational newspapers belong to this period, for example:
- Seren Cymru [The Star of Wales] (1851)
- Y Tyst Cymreig [The Welsh witness] (1867)
- Y Goleuad [The Illuminator] (1869)
- Y Gwyliedydd [The Sentinel] (1877)
- Y Llan a'r Dywysogaeth [The Church and Principality] (1881)
These were in fact national newspapers in that they provided home and national news and gave leadership on political and social issues. It was not until 1861 that the first daily newspaper was published in Wales, when The Cambria daily leader, a Liberal paper, was established in Swansea - once more the town at the forefront in this field. The South Wales daily news was established in Cardiff in 1872, and The South Wales daily post in Swansea in 1893. By far the most popular daily paper however, which continues to appear today, was The Western mail. It was established as a Conservative newspaper in 1869 to promote the political aims of the Marquis of Bute.
The First Welsh Weekly
On 1 January 1814 the first Welsh weekly newspaper was published, when ‘Seren Gomer’ [The Star of Gomer] was founded in Swansea.
Seren Gomer was published by Joseph Harris ('Gomer'), a Baptist minister in Swansea. According to the Seren prospectus, its aim was to publish news:
- along with literary contributions which would safeguard and spread the Welsh language
Unlike the English language weeklies which mainly published local news, Seren Gomer was a national newspaper for the whole of Wales. Though its circulation was comparatively large the Seren ended after 85 issues. This was chiefly because the tax on paper made it too expensive, and the income it derived from advertisements was too small.