Item of Interest: A local perspective – parish magazines, their writers and readers

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


Platt, Jane. Subscribing to faith?: the Anglican parish magazine, 1859-1929, London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

‘Faith seeking understanding’: Finding Saint Anselm at Lambeth Palace Library

Today marks the launch of the second year of The Community of Saint Anselm, a community of prayer, theological reflection and service, based at Lambeth Palace and established by Archbishop Justin Welby for Christians aged 20-35. The Community draws its name from Saint Anselm of Canterbury – a Benedictine monk, renowned scholar and Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1114.  Standing out in history as a teacher, philosopher and theologian (Vaughn, 2012), Anselm expounded the close relationship between knowledge of God and love of God, encapsulated in his motto, ‘faith seeking understanding’.  It is therefore fitting that his prayers, letters and theological texts find a home among the manuscripts and earliest of printed books treasured in the Library of Lambeth Palace.

Arms of Archbishop Anselm, from MS 555 f.4

Anselm himself was committed to monastic life and learning.  Despite being turned away when he first sought to become a monk at the age of 15, he went on to become an influential Prior and Abbot of Bec monastery in France, where he taught the monks and wrote a number of works that gained him a reputation for deploying reason to understand faith, and developing the ontological argument for the existence of God (Shannon, 1999). These works can be found in a number of manuscripts held at Lambeth Palace Library, dating from the 12th to 15th century.  The earliest of these is a manuscript compilation of Anselm’s treatises and a collection of his letters, compiled and copied in the 1120s by historian and monk, William of Malmesbury (MS 224).

MS 224 f.152r, with headline and numbers added in red by Archbishop Parker

When asked to become Archbishop of Canterbury in 1093, Anselm saw it as his duty to lead the church in moral and doctrinal teaching, and to continue to develop his own understanding alongside that of his monks at Christ Church Canterbury (Shannon, 1999). It was here that the second earliest volume of Anselm’s work held at the Library was made, in the late 1120s: a major collection of letters that remained at the Cathedral Priory until the Dissolution (MS 59). 

MS 59 f.64

Along with several of the Anselm manuscripts in the Library today, both of these volumes feature in Archbishop Abbott’s catalogue of Archbishop Bancroft’s personal library, the founding collection of Lambeth Palace Library in 1610.  They also bear the classmarks of Cambridge University, where they would be preserved during the Commonwealth occupation of Lambeth Palace.  A list of contents written in the hand of Archbishop Sancroft in both volumes shows the care afforded to them on their return to Lambeth, while headlines added in MS 224 by Matthew Parker, Archbishop to Elizabeth I, and annotations in MS 59 believed to indicate Thomas Cranmer’s ownership (Selwyn, 1996), demonstrate that these volumes had long been the subject of close attention by earlier Archbishops. One annotator’s references to ‘alius liber epistolarum’ in MS 224 suggest that these volumes may even have been studied side by side.  Further enforcing the long-standing esteem in which Anselm’s works were held, these works can also be found adorned within presentation volumes, such as a fine late 14th or early 15th century illuminated copy of his meditations copied alongside work from Bernard of Clairvaux and undoubtedly prepared for a dignitary (MS 194).

MS 194 f.1

Thomas Becket requested Anselm’s canonization in 1163, shortly after his own appointment as Archbishop, and a copy of the Bull of Pope Alexander III responding to this request can be found in Lambeth’s collections (MS 159 f.76v). It lies within a volume of Saints’ Lives, bound for Archbishop Sancroft, which also contains a Life and Miracles of Anselm written by his chaplain and secretary, Eadmer of Canterbury, as well as the only known copy of Anselm’s Life written by John of Salisbury, Bishop of Chartres, on Thomas Becket’s request. The presence of a second bull regarding his canonization, however, listed within Archbishop Morton’s Register for 1494, suggests that he may not actually have been canonized until three centuries later (Reg. Morton 1, f.220).

The path did not run straight for Anselm, however, and the earliest archival item in the Library’s collections to make reference to him evidences the more troubled aspects of Anselm’s career. Thought to date from 1100, the document is a notice from King Henry I in Latin and English, confirming the ownership of Anselm and the Canterbury monks of all the lands that they held in the time of King Edward and King William I (CM/XI/1).  This marked the return of lands confiscated by William II after Archbishop Lanfranc’s death, which were temporarily given back as a condition of Anselm’s acceptance of the Archbishopric, but seized again in 1095 as part of the long-running Investiture Controversy over whether the King or Pope had primary authority to invest ecclesiastical symbols of office. Even after this notice, the Controversy continued and, having already spent five years of his office in exile in 1095-1100, Anselm was exiled again from 1103-1106, until the dispute was settled at the Synod of Westminster in 1107 (Kemp, [n.d.]).


It was during the earlier of these periods of exile during his tenure as Archbishop that Anselm completed what is often considered his greatest work, Cur Deus homo (“Why God was man”). This is the text printed in the earliest of 7 incunabula containing Anselm’s work held in Lambeth’s collection. Printed between 1474 and 1500 in the continental printing centres of Strasbourg, Passau, Nuremberg and Basel, they illustrate Anselm’s ongoing influence.  This first printed edition of Cur Deus homo is believed to have been printed in 1474 in Strasbourg by George Husner (F220.A6 [**]). Demonstrating Anselm’s typically rational approach, it is formulated as a dialogue between Anselm and his student, Boso, and argues for the necessity of Jesus’ nature as fully human and fully divine in order to atone for mankind’s sin against an infinite God (Williams, 2016). This copy was purchased in 2002 by the Friends of Lambeth Palace Library.

Cur Deus homo f.1r (F220.A6 [**], 1474)
This work features again amongst Lambeth’s incunabula, in an edition printed 11 years later in 1485 in Passau by Johann Petri (F220.A6 [**]).  Here it is bound with Anselm’s short narrative on the Passion of Christ, De planctu Marie, which again takes the form of a dialogue, this time between Anselm and the Virgin Mary, and aimed at a young audience. Bound with a copy of 5th-century priest Julianus Pomerius’ treatise, De vita contemplative, it still retains its original 15th century wooden boards and clasp, and was presented to the Library by the Friends in 2000.

F220.A6 [**] (1485) manuscript pastedown and printed title page
The attention of eminent writers, scholars and theologians is evident in these incunabula.  Opera [et] tractatus beati Anselmi archiepiscopi cantuariēn ordinis Sancti Benedicti (1491), carries a donor inscription gifting the book to Archbishop Tait from R.C. Jenkins in 1869 ([ZZ]1491.2). This was most likely the theological writer Robert Charles Jenkins, rector of Lyminge with Paddlesworth in Kent, and a frequent correspondent with Tait.

Donor inscription from Jenkins to Tait in [ZZ]1491.2, front pastedown
Significantly, one late 15th century edition of Anselm’s works ([ZZ]1500.7) has been signed by historian and martyrologist, John Foxe, who would later include Anselm’s history and letters in his Actes and Monuments. The copy retains its early 16th century blind-stamped binding by Nicholas Speirinck and, along with several of these incunabula, contains fine examples of manuscript waste used in the printed volume’s pastedowns. Its title handwritten on the fore-edge reminds us of the book’s history in libraries at one point shelved with the fore-edges displayed, while a second copy of this edition, transferred from Sion College Library, displays the staple marks of hasps from its previous residence in a chained library (L40.4/43). Sion’s copy also retains a contemporary blind-tooled calf binding with a dragon motif, listed on the animals roll as made in Cambridge.

John Foxe’s inscription on the title page of [ZZ]1500.7
Anselm’s presence in the collections continues throughout the centuries, with further volumes of his works and studies on them dating from the 16th century through to the modern day.  As the second year of the Community of Saint Anselm gets underway, these volumes are further testimony to the influence of this faithful monastic theologian at Lambeth Palace and in Christian thought from the 11th century to today.

Title page of D. Anselmi Cantuariensis archiepiscopi … in omnes sanctissimi Pauli apostoli epistolas enarrationes … printed in 1533 in Coloniae (E2649.(A6) [**])

Further reading and bibliography

  • Kemp, John Arthur, ‘Saint Anselm of Canterbury: Archbishop and philosopher, in Encyclopaedia Britannica (n.d.)
  • Selwyn, D.G., The Library of Thomas Cranmer (Oxford, 1996)
  • Shannon, William H., Anselm: the joy of faith (New York: Crossroad, 1999)
  • Sharpe, Richard, ‘Collecting Anselm’, in Lambeth Palace Library: treasures from the collection of the Archbishops of Canterbury, edited by Richard Palmer and Michelle P. Brown (London: Scala, 2010), pp.38-39
  • Vaughn, Sally N., Archbishop Anselm 1093-1109: Bec missionary, Canterbury Primate, Patriarch of another world (Farnham: Ashgate, 2012)
  • Williams, Thomas, ‘Saint Anselm‘, in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta (2016)

The Broughton Missal: Online

One of our most important acquisitions of recent years, the Broughton Missal, has now been digitised and is now online. It is a rare surviving manuscript of the text and music for Roman Catholic church services, according to the Use of York, with adaptations reflecting the practice and interpretations which developed at York Minster during the Middle Ages. York missals are extremely rare compared with Sarum Use missals, which were used in the south of England. Prior to the Reformation, most parish churches in northern England would have owned least one York Use missal, but now only 12 examples are known to survive anywhere in the world and several of these are incomplete.
Broughton Missal_07
The Missal is beautifully decorated throughout with initials in gold, blue and red.


Each one of these manuscripts is different, ranging in date from the 13th to the 15th century, and each has its own story to tell, offering new insights into the liturgical practice in the York diocese, the way in which medieval church services were conducted and how they were experienced by the congregation. The Broughton Missal, for example, gives detailed information about the colours to be worn by the different ranks of clergy participating in the Mass. However, it also contains annotations detailing gifts to Broughton church and notes on the building and its maintenance. For Lambeth Palace Library this extraordinarily rich historical document now represents an invaluable source of information about pre-Reformation life and religious practice in a northern English village.

Broughton Missal_18.jpg
The pages of the Broughton Missal were used to record various parish matters, including repairs to the building and gifts to the Church


It is still in its original late medieval binding and is written on parchment in brown ink. Its penwork and decoration is English and of high quality, with capital letters, rubrics (instructions for services) and major feasts picked out in red.  The manuscript is decorated throughout with large illuminated initials in gold, blue and red, with elaborate borders around the pages. It is not known where the missal was made but it may have been produced in York, which was developing as a centre of the commercial book trade at this time.

Broughton Missal_27
A page with a Mass for the Pope crossed out showing that the book continued to be in use during the Reformation


The Broughton Missal was in use in the parish church of All Hallows, Broughton (three miles north of Preston, Lancashire), for at least 150 years, spanning the English Reformation. The various notes and alterations written on the text, including replacing mentions of the Pope with references to the King, provide an important witness to the religious and cultural life of a parish in the north-west of England during that period of upheaval. It remained in the church until the mid-16th century, and from about 1845 became the property of a Lancashire family, through which it has passed down the generations. It was the last known example still to be in private hands and is the first to be acquired by a British institution since 1932.  Purchase of this manuscript was supported by the Friends of Lambeth Palace Library, to mark the 50th anniversary of their foundation, with further contributions from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Art Fund, the Friends of the National Libraries, and the B.H. Breslauer Foundation. We are grateful to them all for their help.

Broughton Missal_34
The Broughton Missal retains its original medieval binding



Further reading

Francis Carolus Eeles, On a fifteenth-century York missal formerly used at Broughton-in-Amounderness, Lancashire. Manchester : Chetham Society, 1935.

Matthew Cheung Salisbury, The use of York : characteristics of the medieval liturgical office in York. York : Borthwick Institute, 2012.

Mass and parish in late medieval England : the use of York. Reading : Spire Books, 2005.

History of Sion College Library, part III

Recession and inflation in the 1970s hastened Sion’s long standing financial problems.  In May 1975 Sion decided to sell books again in order to raise capital.  This sale was not mentioned in the minutes until 1977, after dozens of the library’s most valuable books had been sold.  The sale raised £450,000, which was thought to be sufficient to last until 1990 when the lease could be renegotiated.  However, due to the recession the true value of the books was not realised, again.  Despite the sale, in just two years Sion was again finding outgoings exceeding income.  Other books were offered for sale, but declined.

In 1986, the Greater London Council was disbanded and the Inner London Education Authority took over the remainder of the lease.  In 1990 the ILEA was also disbanded, leaving no tenant with which to renegotiate the lease.  Another recession made it impossible to find a new tenant, despite refurbishment of the building, and the building was sold for an amount that did not clear the College’s debts.  Sion was now left with an empty bank account, its books and its building.  In one of the last meeting minutes it was suggested that it might be preferable for the College to be handed over to another institution rather than to see the library dismembered piece by piece ‘like orphans being lined up and some selected to be shot’.  It was ultimately decided that the ‘historic core’ of the library, an estimated 50,000 volumes, were sent to Lambeth Palace Library, as ‘Lambeth believed it could attract funding for this and build more library accommodation’.

In the end, Lambeth Palace Library accepted the pre-1850 Sion collection books, manuscripts and the entire pamphlet collection.  The administrative archives of Sion College were sent to London Metropolitan Archives and King’s College London accepted the post-1850 books for use by the theology department.

Lambeth Palace Library has hired a conservator and two cataloguers to work solely on Sion Collection books.  Their posts are funded by the Headly Trust and the Friends of Lambeth Palace Library.  Work has started on the ARC sequence, the books which Sion classified as most rare and valuable.

A proposal has been developed to house both the Lambeth Palace Library and Church of England Record Centre archives in a new library building within the grounds of Lambeth Palace, thereby retaining the historic links with Lambeth Palace and the Archbishops of Canterbury.

New library model

The Church Commissioners Board of Governors have now agreed in principle to funding a new building for Lambeth Palace Library, subject to approval of final costs  and have established a small group of Commissioners and senior staff to take forward the project. The next phase will be to select and appoint architects. A project Manager has been appointed to lead this task with the aim of appointing architects in mid-2015.

The current draft timetable envisages that the building will be designed and costed by the end of 2015.  Achieving planning permission and constructing the new library will take up to three years. The likely date for opening a new library is therefore 2019.

In these ways Lambeth Palace Library is fulfilling its promise to ‘attract funding for (the collection) and build more library accommodation’.  Future blog posts will look at individual volumes in the Sion collection in more detail and from a conservation and cataloguing point of view.

Compiled by Anna James, Edited by Talitha Wachtelborn

History of Sion College Library, part II

Although the library’s building survived the bombings of the First World War, it did not emerge unscathed.  By the end of the war the College found itself in a position where it was necessary to sell off rural properties acquired in the 1630’s when Thomas White made his original bequest.  Unfortunately the property had been rearranged during a recession in 1919 and the sale of the land did not generate the hoped for amount.  Sion was also liable to pay full business rates in the 1920s, which was a nasty and unforeseen surprise.  Symbolic of the College’s problems in the 1930s a decision was made to purchase lower watt light bulbs to save on electricity, but not to discontinue to provide monogrammed soap with the logo of Sion College running through like a stick of rock (Huelin 1992).  This sort of behaviour led to the sale of valuable early medical books between 1937-39.  Although these were not essential to a collection mainly for use by clergy, the books sold came from early bequests from John Lawson and Edward Waple, brutally splitting up collections left to the library’s care.  As before, the sale generated less than the expected value due to economic difficulties at the time – only £3,000.

Destruction of London Wall site (probably) (Guildhall MS 33554)
Destruction of London Wall site (probably) (Guildhall MS 33554)

During the war the college was hit several times and roughly 6,000 books were lost.  Unfortunately, one of these was the final volume of the catalogue, which represented the most up to date catalogue of Sion holdings which had been available.  This makes it difficult to know exactly what the library’s holdings were or to know what was lost.  By 1943, the College provided no lunches, had few members and was considering sale of the buildings to the British Legion.

Help arrived in the form of the City Livery Club in 1944, which had been bombed out for a second time and needed a new meeting place.  Most of the building was sublet to the club for a low rent on condition that the club paid the utility bills, provided and paid for a caretaker, and allowed Sion members to partake of the Livery Club’s catering.  However, the situation, which continued into the 1990s, could be strained at times.  The former reading room and storage area for the majority of the books, some printed as early as 1501, became the club’s smoking room.  This, in part, accounts for the heavy soiling on many of the volumes.

Reading Room/Smoking Room.  Readers were confined to the balcony areas.
Reading Room/Smoking Room. Readers were confined to the balcony areas.

After the war the College showed a shortfall in its annual accounts every year in the 1950s.  In the 1960s the Court of Governors repeated reduced Sion’s capital without too much concern or discussion, being primarily concerned that the port continued to be handed round.  The College’s reluctance to change can be seen in the continued refusal to allow full membership to deaconesses, which was available to their male counterparts.

At this time Sion was made to sell part of the building to the council as part of a road widening scheme.  Rather than taking compensation and settling its bills, the College made arrangements to purchase 9 Carmelite Street at a reduced cost.  It was thought that this building would more than make up for the space lost to the road widening scheme and that the ground floor units could be rented out for a lucrative rent.  Unfortunately, the Greater London Council was a sitting tenant with a lease not due to be renewed until 1990.  They were paying only £475 per annum on property that should have been generating £10,000.  Despite these factors, the governors felt that they could hold out until the lease was renewed and new tenants could be found.

Compiled by Anna James, Edited by Talitha Wachtelborn