This month’s Item of Interest post comes from Niamh Delaney (Library Assistant), who has been working on the parish magazines collection.
Thanks in large part to the generous donations of a good friend of the Library, Cliff Webb, Lambeth Palace Library boasts an enviable collection of parish magazines. Dating largely from the late 19th and early 20th century, these brief publications were produced monthly for and by the members of a parish. Whilst content differs from one parish to the next, in general the style and substance of each reflects the character and concerns, as well as the resources, of the areas in which they were produced. Most routinely they include details of births, marriages and deaths within the parish, as well as religious articles, calendars, church and other local notices. The collection covers the full length of the country, with parishes from Aberdeenshire to Cornwall – as well as churches in Ireland, Ceylon, America and Hong Kong. As hinted by a contributor to the January 1890 edition of the Abbotsham Parish Magazine, it is not hard to see how these publications offer a rich resource for researchers in a variety of fields:
Kept, as they may very easily be, and bound up at the end of the year in a handy little volume, these magazines may, in years to come, prove of the greatest interest. They make up in fact, a simple history of the life of the parish, and many amongst us, who may be spared to live, will often turn over the leaves of such a book, and recall, we trust, with ever-growing thankfulness, memories of the past…
Often just a few pages in length, the survival of these publications owes much to the fact that they were regularly bound together into more durable annual volumes at the end of the year. In many instances these volumes were further bolstered by the inclusion of national ‘insets’: more substantial, nationally circulated monthly magazines, which contain a wider range of general interest material – from recipes and gardening tips, to poetry and stories, clergy biographies, church history, and articles on wildlife and foreign lands.
From this combination of local and national content it is possible to garner much about the parochial life of the readers and the wider interests and values that impacted upon those lives. This glimpse into past lives is made all the more intimate by the marks these readers left behind. As well as written inscriptions and hand-coloured images, the parish magazines within the Lambeth collection have been found to contain a range of objects laid-in – from postage stamps and pressed flowers, to cut-out images and programmes.
Judging by the inscriptions, parish magazines were most often owned by women and children, and were regularly given as gifts or Sunday school prizes, often years after their original publication. These marks then, might suggest that these were highly valued possessions, perhaps because they offered their owners a means by which to identify themselves as readers and members of a community, whilst simultaneously opening a window on the wider world.
Library staff are currently in the process of cataloguing and processing these items to make them more easily accessible. In the meantime, we encourage anyone interested in learning more about our parish magazines collection to email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Platt, Jane. Subscribing to faith?: the Anglican parish magazine, 1859-1929, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.