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Parish Magazines -a Source for Historians

January 30, 2013

Parish Magazines are usually thrown away after they have been read but in Worfield Parish I have just found magazines going back to the 1870s when they were first produced. True, they are not a perfectly complete set, some of the months are missing but I would imagine that every year is covered. They are stored in a garage so I suppose we are fortunate that the mice have not made nests out of them. I intend to upload them to www.sharehistory.org and to describe and tag them. I have made a start with the first box, from 1921-1937 and am just starting on the next 10 years which, of course, includes the war years.

The period after the 1911 census is a time when family historians often have difficulty tracking down their relatives so it is very useful to have parish magazines to fill the gap. Sometimes one is also lucky to have a vicar who is interested in history and in the 1930s Worfield was fortunate to have such a man.

Cyril M. Lee was from Peterborough and was a graduate of Cambridge. He arrived in Worfield as a curate and one might have thought that he would be an academic with no practical skills. But no, he was a good horseman and invaluable to farmers as he would go from farm to farm helping with the harvest. You just can’t imagine this today.

From the point of view of history his contribution was immense. It was a shame that his stay in the Parish was brief. He was altogether, as curate and vicar, in the parish for six years from 1932-1938. The parish magazines he published are a joy to read and bring to life what was happening in this huge parish at that time.

Weather was of constant concern being a farming parish and Cyril Lee was a great recorder of it. Take this report in 1935. the letter is dated July 27th. ‘It has been wonderful weather for getting the hay in and all the hay is in. I saw the first field of oats cut on the 21st July in Ackleton …I only hope that the hot sun over the past two weeks has dried and not burnt the grain.

It is sad to see the Mere Pool quite dried up and hundreds of eels lying dead, some as thick as your wrist.’

Cyril Lee seems determined to get alongside his parishioners and allow them to speak. The choirboys’ outing was described by Henry Seedhouse who was later to be the village blacksmith. Typical of a country lad, they go to the zoo and their favourite animal was a tigress -‘she was lovely and clean and in perfect condition. I can hear Henry Seedhouse whom I knew, utter these words. ‘When we got to Blackpool the weather there was none too good. The sea was very rough making it impossible to bathe. It’s that lovely calm understatement which is typical of country folk. Tea was had at Booth’s restaurant – ham, tongue and salad followed by trifle.

Whether Rev Lee had studied history I don’t know, but he certainly had a great interest in the subject.

He was responsible for depositing the Court Rolls in the Public Record Office and for transcribing some of them. After working on some of the Churchwardens’ Accounts he finds that much of this work had already been done. Instead of throwing in the towel and saying, ‘What a waste of time, I am not doing any more of that,’ he starts on the Constables’ Accounts since there was no evidence that these had been transcribed. He selects some of the more interesting pieces and publishes them in the Parish Magazine.

1614-1615 John Walker Jnr of Halon and William Goolde of Bradeney

Item for one hue and cry that came from Wheaton Aston after an yoke of oxen that were stollen 2d

Item bestowed upon a poor man that had losses upon the sea and conveyinge him out of the parish 6d

Item bestowed upon the conductor that had government upon a company that came in the name of Egiptians accordinge to his passe 2/-

Item bestowed upon a poor man who had hys father with him, hys wife and children which had great losses by fier. 18d

How many vicars nowadays would have been interested and able to read these documents? But Cyril Lee seemed always mindful of history and anxious also to record what was happening at the time. If there was road widening he mentions it, if the weather was unusual he records it. ‘1937 will long be remembered for its very wet and backward spring …1938 will go down to the history as having witnesses the warmest and driest first quarter within the memory of anyone now living.’

What a wonderful man to have as a Vicar. He was Captain of the Cricket Club, too, but given the position because he was a good player not because he was the vicar. If there is one fault that Cyril Lee had it was that he wasn’t a photographer. He never speaks of taking photos but had he done so I am sure he would have mentioned them and what a fantastic archive they would be.

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One Comment
  1. Very well written and researched.

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