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About the weekly theatrical Newspaper 'The ERA'

The first issue of the ERA on the 30th of September 1838

 

The ERA building Tavistock Street - Courtesy John Culme.See Theatreland MapsThe ERA was a weekly National Newspaper which was originally published on Sundays and then later on Thursdays instead. Its early editions covered many worldwide topics, and was heavily influenced by the Licenced Victualars of the time. It also carried some details about Theatres, actors, music hall, and related matters. The paper's early motto was 'Education Protection Union Strength'.

The theatrical side of its reporting soon began to dominate however, and it's this kind of coverage that eventually led it to become known as 'The Great Theatrical Journal' and 'The Actor's Bible'. You will find many of the ERA's in depth reports on the people and buildings relating to theatre and music hall around the UK throughout the pages of this site, without which it would be far less detailed.

Right - The ERA building in Tavistock Street - Courtesy John Culme - Footlight Notes. A present day image of the building can be seen below.

The ERA was established in 1837 and published and printed in London for over 100 years from the first issue on the 30th of September 1838 right through to 1939. Its equivalent today would be The Stage, although it is apparent, when looking through the archives, that it's coverage of Theatre buildings was far more in depth than 'The Stage's is today.

The founder and first editor of 'The ERA' was Frederick Bond whose first offices for the paper were at number 20 Catherine Street close to where the Theatre Royal Drury Lane now has its entrance. These premises had previously been used for the publishing of several other newspapers, namely the London Mercury, the London Dispatch, and the Newsmen's Weekly Chronicle.

Frederick Bond was the first Publisher of the ERA from its inaugural Issue on the 30th of September 1838 until the 14th of January 1844 Issue No.277. Bond was an active member of the Literary & Dramatic Fund by then, which had 300 members. He died in 1845 and his widow and children emigrated to Australia a few years later, his son William later worked on the Sydney Morning Herald, then the Clarence and Richmond Examiner in Grafton NSW before becoming the editor of the Inverell Times in NSW, and later the owner of that paper too, around 1875, which then remained in the family for the next 40 years.

Publishing details from page 12 of the first issue of the ERA on the 30th of September 1838

Above - Publishing details from page 12 of the first issue of the ERA on the 30th of September 1838 which reads:- 'Printed for the Proprietors, by William Cole and James Taylor, at their Office, No. 10, Crane Court, Fleet Street, in the Parish of St. Dunstan-in-the-West, in the City of London; and Published by Frederick Bond, of No. 20, Catherine Street, in the Parish of St. Mary-le-Strand, in the County of Middlesex, at the ERA Office, No. 20, Catherine Street aforesaid. - Sunday, September 30, 1838.'

After Frederick Bond, Daniel Gosden became editor of The ERA from the 21st of January 1844 and relocated the offices to No. 5 Catherine Street in 1845. He was followed by Frederick Ledger in 1849, who relocated the paper again, this time to No 3 Catherine Street. Frederick Ledger died in 1874 at the age of 58 and was buried at Norwood Cemetery. His son Edward Ledger then took over as publisher until he died in 1921 and was buried at Norwood Cemetery too. W. Hamar Bass then became the publisher, still produced at 3 Catherine Street. Later the paper moved to The ERA Buildings in Tavistock street (Shown Top Right and Below) where it remained until the paper's closure in 1939.

The ERA archives from 1838 to 1900 can now be found online and details of this and other research information can be found on my Ancestor Research page here.

 

The ERA - From 'The Melodies Linger On' by W McQueen Pope

The building in Tavistock Street which was originally the offices of the ERA - Photo M.L. August 2008.Naturally, Music Hall having become an industry, it had its own Press; trade journals, maybe, but of the more value for that. Up to 1850, there were many papers which dealt largely or entirely with the Theatre but Music Hall, then still in the "saloon" stage, hardly got a mention. How Charles Morton tackled "The Times" has been told, but the Press as a whole did not regard Music Hall as worthy of space beyond a very occasional and extremely patronising "mention" if real need arose. The first journal, to give it any space was "The Era"; that august journal, which became "The Actor's Bible", was founded in 1838, but not as a theatrical paper, far from it. It was a national newspaper issued on Sundays with separate town and country editions, giving general news, sports news, some theatrical intelligence, and a good deal about the Licensed Victuallers, whom it really represented.

Right - The Tavistock Street building which was used as the offices of the ERA in the paper's later years.

A very early manager of the paper was Charles Hibble, Parliamentary Agent for the Licensed Victuallers and also proprietor of the Sheridan Knowles Tavern in Brydges Street, now Catherine Street, Covent Garden, where Drury Lane Theatre stands. This was a great resort of men-about-town, literary and sporting gentry, a place for convivial meetings.

By degrees and largely because of increasing advertisements, "The Era" began to take more and more interest in theatrical affairs and gave weekly reports of theatrical happenings in London and the great provincial cities. Now and again a small paragraph about the saloons and music halls got in, often just as a footnote. But as Music Hall grew so the space devoted to it grew; "The Era" became the great theatrical journal and every member of the profession, stage or hall, just had to buy it although the price was steep, it remained at 6d. for many years. However, to be seen walking along the street with "The Era" under the arm, its title displayed for the passer-by to read, proved to all that the person carrying it was a "Pro". "The Era " survived until the beginning of World War II, but its importance and popularity had long since waned.

Above text from 'The Melodies Linger On' by W McQueen Pope Page 274-275.