Fleet Street is a famous street in London, which has been named after London’s largest underground river, River Fleet. It’s connection to the Titanic today is the memorial that stands on the embankment, honouring first class passenger William T. Stead who was a famous journalist and peace activist. The inscription on the memorial reads: “This memorial to a journalist of wide renown was erected near the spot where he worked for more than thirty years by journalists of many lands in recognition of his brilliant gifts, fervent spirit & untiring devotion to the service of his fellow men”.
Fleet Street is recognised as the home of British newspapers and the British National Press, despite all of the major news giants having left the area. The British press was one of the most reliable sources of information on the Titanic when it sank in 1912 and was one of the most trustworthy sources of information.
Fleet Street has an extensive history and back story. The east-end of the street is where the River Fleet flowed against the medieval walls of London and the west-end marks the boundary between Westminster and the City of London.
Today the street houses three churches that are also known as the areas ‘communities’. These include: Temple Church, St Bride’s Church (which is still associated with the print industry) and the St Dunstan-in-the-West Guild Church.
A History of Fleet Street
In the mid-1730’s, London was a hub for news and newspapers. In fact, it had 31 papers – six dailies, 12 tri-weeklies and 13 weeklies, circulating with about 100,000 readers, which is estimated to have been heard by around 42% of Londoners.
The boom in press triggered an addiction to news, with the middle-classes being the most intrigued and were the ones who could afford to buy the newspapers. Workmen who could not afford such luxuries would go into coffee rooms just to hear all the latest news. Being illiterate was common back in those days, but that didn’t stop people gathering around someone with a newspaper, and begging for it to be read out to them.
Fleet Street is where British journalists started out. They would eavesdrop in local establishments and return to the office with all of the latest gossip. People used to dismiss newspapers that told the complete truth with the belief that they were boring, in favour of those who put a spin on things, writers has to be bold and a little bit phoney with their stories.
Obviously, the Fleet Street of today is nothing like it was during these times. Almost everything has changed from press freedom to the newspaper industry in general. However it is certain that without this street the British press industry would not be what it is today.