Sunday, 10 February 2013

Church Record Sunday - A Parish Magazine

Esh Winning & Waterhouses Parish Magazine 1932

Parish Magazines might not be what is usually thought of as a "church record" but they provide a fascinating snapshot into parish life.  I was lucky enough to find this 1932 magazine from the parishes of Waterhouses with Esh Winning in County Durham amongst my great-aunt belongings.

The little two sided magazine contains the normal list of officers, (my great aunt Lillian Thompson was at just 19 the organist), religious reflections and parish news: communion times, the Mother's Union service, a whist drive by the choir to raise money for the church and a planned bazaar later in the year because both the church and the church hall are in need of repair.

I loved the announcement of a "Magic Lantern Service" for Lent, which would include slides of stories from the old testament.  More prosaically it was just a "slide show" but magic lantern is a delightful connection to an older world.


Marjorie Thompson left Esh Winning
I was also fascinated by all the references to the GFS. It wasn't something that I had ever heard of but turned out to be the Girls Friendly Society.  Founded in 1875, it's original intention was to be an organised association for the upholding of the purity of Christian maidenhood".(1)

More practically it's aim was to provide help and support for young women from - particularly - working class communities when they left their home parish for work.  At its inception, this was through a two tiered membership of "members", working class girls between 8 and 24, and "Ladies", middle and upper class girls and women who were supposed to be moral mentors to the members!

Although, the societies were meant to be non-sectarian, each society was tied to a Church of England parish and over the years it became effectively a parish social group for young women but with a special remit to keep in touch with girls who left the parish.

Nancy Thompson - centre - left
Esh Winning for London in 1933
This responsibility can be seen very clearly in the parish magazine which details the activities of young women from the parish ...

"No organisation  has suffered more than the G.F.S. through our girls going to other parts of the country, but what a benefit to the other parts of the country, and how pleased everyone was to hear about a member of the G.F.S, Gracie Spence, winning the gold medal in her examination, and being publicly presented with the same by the Mayoress of Leeds, and of another old parishioner Marjorie Thompson winning the gold medal in her examination and now Nancy has gone to join her in London, and we all think it is a good thing for London if not for ourselves. Space now prevents the tale being told of several other G.F.S. members who are doing splendidly, there are Mabel, Lalla, Dorothy, Lexie, Ruby etc, we remember them all, and do not forget the good work done in the Parish by those whose work lies at home."

I had thought previously that the journeys of my aunts Marjorie and Nancy Thompson away from their home village were perhaps just individual stories about their own ambitions and strong family ties in London.

But the departures of Gracie and "Mabel, Lalla, Dorothy, Lexie, Rubie etc" suggest that their journeys were part of a wider social trend.  Whether this was a result of economic distress after the close of the village mine in 1930 or whether this had always been the way, I don't at this point know.

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