A regional publisher will open up thousands of historic newspapers pages to readers with the launch of an online archive this month.
The KM Group has created the free online archive which features tens of thousands of pages of The South Eastern Gazette, the forerunner of the Kent Messenger Series, which were published from 1852 to 1912.
This period covers arguably the greatest period of social and industrial revolution in British history and the newspapers have been digitised thanks to a Your Heritage grant and a group of dedicated volunteers.
The archives are fully searchable and will go live on 22 March with a launch event at the Historic Dockyard in Chatham, which will be attended by 200 Kent schoolchildren and members of local history groups.
Project manager Lesley Bellew said: “I hope this is just the start of creating a seamless archive of KM Group newspapers for the next generation.
“It is a great resource and should prove invaluable to all age groups from children studying Key Stage 2 to family and local history societies.”
KM Group editorial director Ian Carter added: “This is the culmination of a huge amount of work from Lesley and the team of volunteers, and we are immensely grateful for the time they have put in.”
The volunteers spent more than 1,000 hours cataloguing, cleaning and repairing the pages.
The archive will be accessed via the Messenger’s website www.kentonline.co.uk, which was recently named News Service of the Year at the Shepherd Neame Kent Media Awards.
In 2009, the KM Group launched an online archive of its wartime stories from the Second World War.