Parish Magazines

 Cliff Webb writes:

The Library has an unrivalled collection of parish magazines from all parts of England and Wales. As of today, well over 30,000 monthly magazines are either in the Library or awaiting transfer thereto.

There is a modern study of the parish magazine in the Library. ¹ I was pleased, however, recently to secure for it a much earlier item on a different aspect of the subject: The Parish Magazine by the Rev. J. M. Swift, M.A., vicar of Garston, Liverpool, A.R. Mowbray, London and Oxford, 1939.

John McIntosh Swift (1 Feb 1886-25 Apr 1949) came from a mining background (his father was a colliery secretary, who took the trouble to correct the baptism entry 18 years later from ‘labourer’. He secured entry to St John’s College, Cambridge, and became secretary of the Liverpool Diocesan Press and a canon of Liverpool Cathedral. He wrote several books on history as well as this one.

Front board of Swift’s The Parish Magazine

Swift’s short (48 page) book is designed to give guidance to editors. Much of it would be as applicable today as in 1939, but inevitably there is a lot of obsolete material.

His statistics are, however, of interest. In 1936, there were 11,085 parish magazines, with a combined circulation of 2,763,000. I wonder what the circulation figure would be today? One fears substantially less, though most parishes still manage a monthly magazine, even if in collaboration as a group.

[1] Subscribing to Faith? The Anglican Parish Magazine 1859-1929 (Histories of the Sacred and Secular, 1700-2000), Jane Platt, London, 2015.

Item of Interest: Home Words and Homely Dogs

This month’s Item of Interest post comes from former library intern Alex Keane, who has sniffed out a shaggy dog tale.

Within the Lambeth Palace Library collections, there are countless references to some of the most famous people in history, including Henry VIII, Thomas Cranmer, and Mary Queen of Scots. However, as it turns out, Lambeth Palace Library represents not just famous humans, but also famous canines. We present to the reader, Oriel Bill.

Dog 1

Home Words, Standon and High Cross, 1898, p. 156.

Oriel Bill was Oriel College, Oxford’s bulldog at the end of the 19th Century. The first photograph (above) shows Bill after passing an exam, and the second (below) unfortunately depicts a later failure. While we are not sure what grade Bill ultimately achieved, there are more pictures of him to be found online dressed as a judge, so it can be assumed that this particular failure didn’t set him back too much at least.

Dog 2These photographs were found in the Standon and High Cross edition of Home Words for Heart and Hearth, published in July 1898. Lambeth Palace Library is currently in the process of cataloguing a huge collection of these late nineteenth and early twentieth century parish magazines from across the UK. Each one contains a fascinating insight into rural religious life, with beautiful illustrations to help convey a message of family values, agricultural education and new technology, reflecting the intended readership. For more information on this project, please look at the previous Item of Interest blog post: Local perspective – parish magazines, their writers and readers.

The photographs of Oriel Bill were taken by James Soame, who once lived where the Oriel College Rhodes Building now stands in Oxford, before becoming one of the founding members of the Gillman & Soame photography company. As a model for Soame, Oriel Bill stands in the illustrious company of the royal family – not too bad for a dog.

Home Words, Standon and High Cross, 1898

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.