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What Odd Names for Newspapers!

Beetle and Wedge Masthead

Manchester Cricket Masthead

Visitors to Manchester-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts, chuckle when they see the local newspaper is named The Manchester Cricket. They would laugh out loud if they knew that from 1875 to 1889 the town boasted a newspaper with an even stranger name: The Beetle and Wedge.

Stranger still, neither paper was named after an insect.

We wrote in this e-book in November 2001 that the name Cricket referred neither to that cheerful little insect immortalised by Charles Dickens (Cricket on the Hearth), nor to the international sport which often lasts for five days and then ends in a draw (cricket on the grass), often played in the English city of Manchester, that gave its name to Manchester-by-the-Sea.

Twenty-five miles north of Boston, Manchester-by-the-Sea was first called Jeffrey's Creek, and its early settlers became known as Creekites. In 1645, the name of the village was changed to Manchester. Over the years, Creekites was corrupted to Crickets. When a  newspaper was founded in 1888, editor I. M. Marchall thought it should be called The Manchester Cricket, and that's been its name ever since.

Last month, Manchester-by-the-Sea resident Mark Coen emailed us: "The Cricket was not the town's only unusually-named newspaper. Prior to it, locals got the news in the Beetle and Wedge, which from what I can tell was named for implements used in splitting wood."

We googled the phrase "Beetle and Wedge" and confirmed Mark's belief.

"The beetle and wedge... a very effective way of splitting large logs for firewood," says an English website. "The beetle is a heavy hammer, and the iron wedges are hammered in to force the log apart, using much less effort than splitting with an axe."

Thomas Tusser, who farmed in Suffolk and Essex in the16th century, published a book, Five Hundred Points of Husbandrie, in 1573. It contained this verse:

When frost will not suffer, to dike and to hedge
then get thee a heat, with they beetle and wedge:
Once Hallomas come, and a fire by the hall,
such slivers do well, for to lie by the wall.

In the 19th century, people played a game called Beetle and Wedge, and woodmen displayed a symbol showing, as their tools of trade, an axe, beetle and wedge.

And in the 21st century, there's a Beetle and Wedge Hotel in Moulsford on Thames, Oxfordshire  (UK). "Its pretty gardens run down to the stretch of river immortalised in 'The Wind in the Willows'" says the hotel's website. "Jerome K Jerome lived here, and chronicled the escapades of his friends' visits in 'Three Men in a Boat'."

An Oxfordshire travel guide says: "Beatle and Wedge Hotel - Converted boathouse standing right on the river Thames with a superbly warm welcome. The food is excellent, good sized portions and a wide choice of mouth watering dishes along with a large pudding selection."

To see Alex Dean of Speen splitting a beech log with a beetle and wedge, click on IMAGE. The photo comes from a UK webpage, illustrating an interesting story about CHAIR-MAKING.



Copyright 2003

Eric Shackle

Story first posted August 2003


The story you have just read is the latest of a series about newspaper names. Here are links to our previous articles:

Australian readers will be surprised to learn that a link to John Howard Newspaper Articles does not mention Prime Minister John Howard, but refers to his namesake, an 18th century English prison reformer. The John Howard Society of Canada describes that first John Howard as "a strange and complex individual who could not have been everyone's cup of tea." Just like our PM!

American readers may be similarly surprised to learn that the Chelsea Clinton News has no connection with ex-president Bill Clinton's daughter Chelsea. It's a New York suburban newspaper.

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