The Southampton Examiner, and Steam-Packet and Railway Guide was first published in August 1854, priced 2d. It was a monthly newspaper. The proprietor and editor was James Charles Cox. Born at Titchfield on 30 August 1818, James moved with his family to Southampton eight years later. Brought up to the printing business, he joined one of the local newspaper offices, passing through the various grades to become overseer. Two of his younger brothers also became printers. In 1846 James began business as a bookseller, printer, stationer and news-agent at 39 Lower St Mary's Street. At the time of the launch of The Examiner, Cox was a town councillor and poor-law guardian for St Mary's. The Examiner was characterized as politically neutral in the Literary and educational year book for 1854, although Cox himself was a Liberal. The British Library holds one copy: number 3, October 1854.
J C Cox was a leading member of the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows. Joining the Prosperity Lodge in Southampton in 1843, he rose to become treasurer and corresponding secretary of the Southampton District and, in 1856, Grand Master of the Order.
This was the highest office in the gift of the Oddfellows. In February 1857 he laid the foundation stone of the new offices of the Manchester Unity in Grosvenor Street, Manchester. Three months later the Hampshire Advertiser exposed his misappropriation of funds belonging to the Widows' and Orphans' Fund, of which he was treasurer. His reputation in ruins, Cox was expelled from the offices he held in the Southampton District, forced to sell all his trading stock and, after a very public examination by the borough magistrates, confined in Southampton gaol for three months.

The Examiner temporarily ceased publication about this time. The last recorded date so far found is May 1857.
The Southampton Examiner and Free Press rose, Phoenix-like, from the ashes in January 1858. The first issue in the new series is dated 23 January 1858. The second element of the title reveals a spiritual connection with the Southampton Free Press (qv) published in late 1856 and early 1857. Published and allegedly printed by J C Cox, it was, with a cover price of three half pence, a direct challenge to the Hampshire Advertiser and Hampshire Independent. "In no town in England of the size and importance of Southampton are the local papers charged so high, or the terms for advertisements so exorbitant" (editorial of 23 January 1858). It was published weekly from Cox's re-established printing, stationery and bookbinding business at 39 Lower St Mary's Street. Its masthead proclaimed "Open to all parties, influenced by none". The founding editorial spoke of a guaranteed circulation of 1,000 copies each issue.

An advertisement in the second issue for The illustrated Southampton magazine and travelling guide, also published by J C Cox, suggests confidence in the future. It was misplaced. The last issue was published on 20 February 1858. The British Library holds all five issues. On 26 February Cox was arrested for insolvency with 57 creditors. These included Messrs Tribbett and Mate, proprietors of the Poole Herald, who were owed, according to evidence given to the insolvency court, for printing the revised Examiner. The cause of the insolvency was stated to be "The sale of my stock in July, 1857, and the closing of my shop for three months". Cox again spent time in Southampton gaol.

The Southampton Examiner, Winchester, Portsmouth, and Isle of Wight News is a third manifestation of the title. The British Library holds one copy: number 1, 28 April 1860. It may be that this was the only issue to be published, although it is known that a second edition of 1,000 copies was mooted. The Southampton Examiner had three joint proprietors, Patrick Barry (the editor), Edward Allen (the printer and publisher) and G K Lucas (a reporter), all of whom had been dismissed from the Southampton Times (qv) the previous week. Several of the Southampton Times staff apparently joined the exiles, occupying their previous professional positions. Money to help pay for the first edition was given by James Cocks, outfitter of 135 High Street. A handbill issued later in the week announced that the Examiner was in future to be published by Mr Rayner. Nothing came of this. We would know little of this transient newspaper were it not for the revelations of Edward Allen, published in The liberty of the press assailed!!!: a narrative of the extraordinary proceedings in connection with the ‘Southampton Times’, by one who knows all about it.

Patrick Barry was still in Southampton on 6 May 1860 when he gave a lecture in the Carlton Assembly Rooms on ‘the United States and Canada at the present time’ (Southampton Times, 12 May 1860). He was in London however eight years later when bankruptcy proceedings were begun against him (London Gazette, 28 February 1868). He was described as a journalist of 4 East India Avenue, Leadenhall Street in the City of London. In May 1869 he applied for a patent for the invention of “an improved mode of, and means for, delivering sheets of paper to the feeding apparatus of a printing machine” (London Gazette, 14 May 1869). Bankruptcy engulfed Edward Allen less than six months after the collapse of the Examiner, appearing before the Southampton Insolvent Debtors’ Court in September 1860 (Hampshire Advertiser, 29 September 1860). He blamed bad debts and want of sufficient employment. The creditors were chiefly stationers, printers and brokers who had received goods while he was a printer in London.

The Reverend Herbert Smith (qv) may have been influenced by this breakaway paper in his choice of title for The Hants Examiner, Winchester, Portsmouth, and Isle of Wight News, of which the British Library holds numbers 1 to 26 (12 May to 13 November 1860). Patrick Barry was the kind of radical reformer who Smith would have admired, and his current political obsession – reform of God’s House Hospital – would similarly have found a ready friend in Pat Barry. The Hants Examiner was published in Winchester and sold at local markets and through local agents. Its remit was the entertainment, instruction and benefit of the working classes.


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