LOOK BACK IN TIME: 14th March 1857

The Editor of the Isle of Wight Observer published on 14th March, 1857 was clearly outraged at being denied access to documents by two Ryde town commissioners, the forrunners of councillors.

Nowadays the problem is somewhat different. In this computer-dominated age, the IW Council is required by legislation to produce so many lengthy and long-winded documents that it would be impossible for anyone to read and report on them all.

Sorting the wheat from the chaff can take many hours of work. It was very different when everything had to be hand-written or typed up using carbon copies.

Instead of “too much secrecy” we are perhaps plagued by too much transparency – or at least too much paperwork!


Messrs. Thurlow and Littlefield, both professing Liberal principles, made an attempt last Tuesday evening at the meeting of Commissioners to gag the Press, by not permitting its representatives to have access to the town documents, only at the time of their meetings. The reason of this attempt seems to be a feeling of deep mortification that the local Press has for a long time treated with “dignified silence” the puerile nonsense chattered by them, and merely confine their reports to results accomplished.

We are aware that wounded vanity will prompt all sorts of frantic tricks, but we did not think anything but the spirit of despotism would desire to close public archives against all persons interested in seeing them. It is a pity this brace of pseudo-liberals could not be invested with absolute power, if only for a year; we should then see, the Press gagged, elections nullified, mad schemes hurried forward, and consequence defied.

We should sincerely desire to see these two liberal gentlemen upon their re-election now, and we vouch for it that the ratepayers would not endorse this doctrine of secrecy attempted to be foisted upon the policy of the Commissioners.