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Weekly dating back to 1770s goes part-free

A weekly newspaper founded more than 235 years ago is to adopt the part-free, part paid-for publishing model from the end of next month.

The Shrewsbury Chronicle, which was first published when George III was on the throne, is to go free throughout the county town while remaining a paid-for title in the surrounding villages along with sister title the North Shropshire Chronicle.

The move follows the recent departure of the paper’s veteran editor, John Butterworth as part of the wider restructuring across parent company Shropshire Newspapers.

In a statement, the company said the decision had been taken in the wake of the Chronicle’s falling circulation.

“The paper has always been highly respected and successful with a committed local following and our intention is to build on that,” it said.

“A careful re-design is currently under way to make the title brighter and appeal to an even wider section of the community it serves. Content is vitally important and there are no plans to reduce the number of journalists involved with the paper.”

According to the latest audited figures, the Chronicle’s circulation is 14,015 for the six months up to December 2008 – a fall of 10.3pc on the same period the previous year.

Founded by a drapery salesman, Thomas Wood, the paper was first published on Monday, 23 November 1772 – more than 20 years before The Times started up.

In its early days the paper covered national, international and local news including such major news stories as the death of Nelson, the American War of Independence and the Crimean War.