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Civic identity, municipal governance and provincial newspapers: the Lincoln of Bernard Gilbert, poet, critic and ‘booster’, 1914

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 September 2014

Bishop Grosseteste University, Lincoln LN13DY, UK


The provincial press played a significant role in forming local attitudes and senses of civic identity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Local and regional newspapers often adopted a ‘boosterist’ language, a style that enthusiastically promoted the particular qualities of places. The persistence of boosterism into the early twenty-first century makes it a concept worthy of further exploration. This study considers just one ‘booster’, Bernard Samuel Gilbert, and his illuminating series of articles on Lincoln for the Lincolnshire Echo in 1914. His correspondence illustrates the contrasting stances towards improvement typically employed within the local press – including the boosterist alongside the more critical.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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14 Gilbert, ‘The football crowd’, in Hodson (ed.), Living Lincoln, 19.

15 Gilbert, ‘The handicap’, in Hodson (ed.), Living Lincoln, 29.

16 Gilbert, ‘Amusements’, in Hodson (ed.), Living Lincoln, 88.

17 Gilbert, ‘Within the Minster’, in Hodson (ed.), Living Lincoln, 34–6.

18 Gilbert, ‘Labour’, in Hodson (ed.), Living Lincoln, 77.

19 Gilbert, ‘Labour – continued’, in Hodson (ed.), Living Lincoln, 81.

20 Ibid., 81–2.

21 Gilbert, ‘The city streets, 52.

22 Hodson, ‘Introduction’, in Hodson (ed.), Living Lincoln, 1; Anon., ‘Obituary: Bernard Samuel Gilbert, 1882–1927’, in Hodson (ed.), Living Lincoln, 4; Jackson, A.J.H., ‘On the preconditions for council-estate building in Lincoln: some contemporary observations by Bernard Gilbert’, The Lincoln Enquirer, 22 (2012), 68Google Scholar; Sawyer, J.J., ‘Bernard Gilbert. Mediocrity or Genius? The Lincolnshire Poacher, 1 (1953), 79Google Scholar; O’Shaughnessy, P., ‘Introduction’, in O’Shaughnessy (ed.), Lincoln Fair and Other Dialect Poems (Boston, 1986), 45Google Scholar; Williamson, J.R., Bernard Gilbert (London, 1915)Google Scholar; LCL, UP7883, W.E.G.R., ‘Death of a Lincolnshire novelist. Mr Bernard Gilbert – a writer who depicted Lincolnshire for future generations’, typescript, from The Lincolnshire Chronicle, 14 May 1927, 2. I am grateful for the helpful comments and pointers, and encouragement, received from two anonymous reviewers of an earlier version of this article.

23 Gilbert, in Hodson (ed.), Living Lincoln, respectively: 38–41, 58–63, 74–7, 78–82, 94–7, 98–103.

24 Gilbert, ‘The future’, 94.

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26 Gilbert, ‘The future’, 95–6.

27 Ibid., 97.

28 Rowntree's influence is remarked upon in, for example, Butt, J., ‘Working-class housing in Glasgow, 1851–1914’, in Chapman, D. (ed.), History of Working-Class Housing (Newton Abbot, 1971), 82Google Scholar; Harrison, M., ‘Housing and town planning in Manchester before 1914’, in Sutcliffe, A. (ed.), British Town Planning: The Formative Years (Leicester, 1981), 110Google Scholar, 169; Pepper, S. and Swenarton, M., ‘Home front’, in Swenarton, Building the New Jerusalem: Architecture, Housing and Politics 1900–1930 (Bracknell, 2008), 15Google Scholar.

29 Gilbert, ‘The future’, 94–6.

30 Cherry, G.E., Town Planning in Britain (Oxford, 1996), 2465Google Scholar; M. Day, ‘The contribution of Sir Raymond Unwin (1863–1940) and R. Barry Parker (1897–1947) to the development of site planning theory and practice c. 1880–1918’, in Sutcliffe (ed.), British Town Planning, 156–68; Ravetz, A., Council Housing and Culture: The History of a Social Experiment (London, 2001), 25CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 41–55; Swenarton, ‘The education of an urbanist’, in Swenarton, Building a New Jerusalem, 95–124.

31 Gilbert, ‘Labour – continued’, 78–9.

32 N. Wright, ‘The varied fortunes of heavy and manufacturing industry 1914–1987’, in Mills (ed.), Twentieth Century Lincoln, 74–83.

33 Gilbert, ‘Labour – continued’, 79.

34 Cooper, ‘Housing and social structure’, 26–7; Nurse, P. and Gadd, T., Devils Let Loose: The Story of the Lincoln Riots, 1911 (Grantham, 2001)Google Scholar.

35 Gilbert, ‘Labour – continued’, 79.

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37 Gilbert, ‘The future’, 96–7.

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39 Gilbert, ‘The water tower’, in Hodson (ed.), Living Lincoln, 63.

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41 For relevant local studies: Broxholme, ‘Back to the future’; Dresser, M., ‘Housing policy in Bristol, 1919–30’, in Daunton, M.J. (ed.) Councillors and Tenants: Local Authority Housing in English Cities (Leicester, 1984), 156–68Google Scholar; Robert Finnegan, ‘Council housing in Leeds, 1919–39: social policy and urban change’, in Daunton (ed.), Councillors and Tenants, 102–22; Jennings, J.H., ‘The geographical implications of the municipal housing programme in England and Wales 1919–39’, Urban Studies, 8 (1971), 121–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Hulme, ‘Urban governance’, 240–1; Shinner, ‘Pocket borough to county borough’.

42 Hartley, ‘Politics’, 223–8.

43 Cooper, ‘Housing and social structure’, 27–8; Scott, ‘Early days’, 185–204.

44 Gilbert, ‘The soul of Lincoln’, in Hodson (ed.), Living Lincoln, 101.

45 Ibid., 102.

46 Ibid., 102.

47 Cherry, Town Planning, 24–79; Doyle, B. and McElligott, A., ‘The rise and fall of European municipal power since 1800’, International Journal of Regional and Local Studies, 7 (2012), 1017Google Scholar; Sutcliffe, ‘Introduction’, in Sutcliffe (ed.), British Town Planning, 4–6; Stobart, ‘Building an urban identity’, 486–7, 498.

48 Briggs, Victorian Cities, 48.

49 Bromley and Hayes, ‘Campaigner, watchdog or municipal lackey’; Daunton, ‘Introduction’, in Daunton (ed.), Councillors and Tenants, 20; Day, ‘Contribution of Sir Raymond Unwin’, 156–68; Hayes, ‘Civic perceptions’; Hulme, ‘Urban governance’, 240–4; Ravetz, Council Housing, 2–5; Swenarton, ‘Introduction’, in Swenarton, Building a New Jerusalem, 3–8.

50 Gilbert, B.S., ‘General introduction’, in Gilbert, B.S. (ed.), The Rural Scene (London, 1923), 30–1Google Scholar.

51 Gilbert, B.S., Old England: A God's Eye View of a Village (London, 1921), viiiGoogle Scholar.

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