Imagine a source of information, available for many (although not all) parishes in Hampshire from the late 19th century down to the present day, giving information about baptisms, weddings and funerals; obituaries of local people; details of activities of local churches, schools and clubs; advertisements for local shops; and clues to local people’s concerns over the years. An ideal source for local and family historians – so it’s perhaps surprising that more people don’t consult the parish magazines we hold.

Once more people could read, by the mid 19th century, it was feasible to produce a magazine for a wide spectrum of society – but only if it could be made both interesting and affordable. There were already magazines providing family reading for the working classes, containing the mix later found in parish magazines – short stories, serialised fiction, articles about nature, religion and travel, household hints, and children’s pages. The Revd John Erskine Clarke, a vicar in Derby, had the brilliant idea of producing such a magazine for parish clergy who could make it into a parish magazine by ‘localising’ it: the cover could be over-printed with the name of the parish, and the four sides of the cover sheet filled with local news, details of services, advertisements, etc; more ambitious parishes could add extra local sheets. ‘Localising’ was done either by a local printer or the publisher of the inset.

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Illustration: Cover of the Hurstbourne Priors parish magazine, 1928, supplied by Home Words (96M82/PZ2)

His publication, Parish Magazine, started in 1859. By 1885 there were about 22 different insets to choose from, such as Dawn of Day, Home Words and The Sign. The contents of the inset are of interest too, showing what a significant number of people in the community were reading: at the end of the Second World War four insets had a combined circulation of 2.3 million, as large as that of many national newspapers.

The earliest known Hampshire magazines started in the 1860s-70s, in towns such as Basingstoke, Bournemouth (St Peter) and Andover, and also villages such as Sopley, Broughton, Hedge End, and Yateley. In some parishes, District Visitors delivered the magazine in one or two roads each; this regular contact with working-class residents helped them find out about their needs.

Smaller parishes might produce a joint magazine: the New Forest Magazine eventually covered the Rural Deanery of Lyndhurst, from Exbury to Copythorne. In the Petersfield area, 12 parishes were producing a joint magazine by 1886, including some in Sussex. Other denominations also localised national magazines, such as Abbey United Reformed Church in Romsey, formerly Abbey Congregational Church.

For local historians, parish magazines cover a wealth of topics. There may be reports of the restoration of churches and the building of new ones – often with more vivid detail than the formal minute books, or with photographs.

There is usually information about services, sometimes even listing the hymns. Many magazines show the clergy’s concern for their community’s practical welfare: at Hedge End in 1893 there is a report of the proposed soup kitchen.

If it weren’t for the parish magazine, we would probably know little about many local societies, such as the Kimpton and Adjacent Villages Cottage Gardens Association which offered prizes in the 1880s for gardens, allotments and beehives. Magazines also reveal local responses to national events, such as jubilees and war.

Local advertisements were originally intended to help finance magazines, but have much historical interest, showing what could be bought locally, and shopkeepers’ perceptions of their customers’ aspirations.

30M77_PZ75

Illustration: In 1901 in Bishops Waltham customers for Salmon and Son’s choice teas in packets, and French coffee in tins, presumably didn’t mind buying it in T Duffett’s boot and shoe warehouse, along with “light Laced and Button Boots and Low Shoes” (30M77/PZ75).

Parish magazines help family historians in various ways. Monthly lists of baptisms, marriages and burials may record weddings of parishioners that took place elsewhere, and funerals followed by cremation or burial in a cemetery or another parish, not recorded in the parish burial register. Family members may be mentioned as choir members, Sunday School teachers, or school prize-winners: in Basingstoke, almost 300 Sunday School prize-winners were listed in March 1901. Obituaries may help build up a picture of family members.

In the later 20th century, technological developments – first the duplicator and then the word processor – enabled parishes to produce the entire magazine in-house, such as Preston Candover and Bradley’s Oxdrove, launched in 1966 with cover artwork by local people.

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Illustration: drawing of Bradley Church from the cover of Oxdrove, 1971 (49M69/PZ3/6).

The amount of local content grew, and many parishes dispensed with the national inset. Recently some civil Parish Councils or independent committees have begun producing parish magazines covering a wide range of local activities.

Parish magazines are easily searchable on our online catalogue.  If you enter the name of the parish, and the word magazine* (the star means that the system will find references to ‘magazine’ or ‘magazines’) into the Any Text field  you should find at least summary details of magazines we hold, within the parish’s records, those of  nearby parishes, and in personal archives. Parish magazines for Portsmouth/Gosport/Fareham/Havant, Southampton, and Aldershot/Crondall/Farnborough are likely to be at Portsmouth History Centre, Southampton Archives and Surrey History Centre respectively.

We are grateful to parishes that have deposited magazines, and continue to send their magazines each month, or in yearly batches. But there are many Hampshire parishes for which our holdings are limited. If you find old parish magazines at home, or among someone’s effects, we’d be very pleased to have the chance to check if they fill any gaps. If you spot a volume which on the outside is titled Dawn of Day or Hearth and Home, do look inside: in addition to the nationally-produced magazine, it may contain – at the front, at the back or interspersed between the issues – the only surviving set of a previously undiscovered parish magazine.

David Rymill, Archivist

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