The Parish Magazine

A potted history of the parish magazine

In light of Mike Cooper’s mere 20 years in the saddle as editor of this magazine, I thought it worth putting his service into some sort of context. The Historical Society has, we believe, a full set of the magazines from 1925.  These have changed both in format and focus over the 144 years of, non-continuous, publication.

From our archives …

Below are extracts from ‘The Parish Records’ made by the new incumbent in 1941: –

As no entries had been made in these records since 1897, the Rev. R C J White ( the newly installed Priest in Charge of St. Mary’s) compiled the following brief entries from various sources but mainly from old Parish Magazines.

1895 A Parish Magazine was started afresh this year after an interval of seven years. It’s first appearance was in 1887, in conjunction with Staplehurst parish, but its life was short, it did not survive the year of its first publication . From this date (June 1895) it runs alone.

1918 The Parish Magazine ceased publication in June.

1920 An occasional Parish Paper was introduced [of which the Historical Society has only two examples]. 

From January 1925 to June 1925, the magazine was revived under the title ‘Frittenden Parish Magazine’.  At that time, the Rector, Cecil Stooks, wrote:

The Magazine as you will now have it is somewhat different to what you have been accustomed. But I believe it is absolutely essential to have a Magazine of some sort in a Parish, for without it people are apt to lose touch with the organisations and activities of the Church. I hope that the first hundred copies will sell out (they are being printed at the Rectory by myself and my son) and that none will grudge paying 1/6 and others, who can afford it, 2/6 a year.

In fact, the magazine consisted of a general Church of England publication, “Home Words”, inserted within a front and back cover showing very limited Frittenden parish information.

Into modern times …

From the Book of Parish Records is the following entry …

1943 January – The first number of the Parish Paper appeared today. This publication takes the place of the Parish Magazine which was abandoned some years ago.

From September 1947 to November 1961 the title became ‘St Mary’s, Frittenden Parish Magazine’.  This  had  an A5 format but continued with a cover of local information and the ‘Home Words’ insert.  A significant change came in January 1950 with the inclusion of local trade adverts on the rear page, but the highlight of that edition must be the cookery section’s time-consuming recipe for turning whale meat into a substitute liver sausage!

From January 1962, ‘Frittenden Village Parish Magazine’ continued as before with inserts, although in a larger size, but now had 4 pages, allowing more space for Frittenden church content.  But there was still no wider parish news.  January 1974 saw the name again changed, this time to include the ‘Holy Trinity, Sissinghurst’.  However, this was short lived for in May 1979 this was dropped and there was also a change in format, reverting to the smaller A5 size.

Frittenden Parish Magazine, December 1973
Introducing the editors

Until 1973, the role of editor had not been acknowledged in the magazine, the Rector at the time undertaking that task.  However, in November that year, Miss Audrey Willmott, who had previously been described as ‘Distribution Secretary’, took the title of editor. 

The major change came in January 1981, when the practice of using inserts was dropped and the magazine became truly a parish magazine. 

Audrey held the position of editor until January 1983.  She was followed by:- Dame Jean Taylor (February 1983 to January 1989); Nikki Stephens (February 1989 to March 1991); Christine Newman (April 1991 to January 1995), after which the position became vacant until April 1996 when Peter and Jill Sims (May 1996 to May 2002) took over.  By 2002, Jill was operating as editor by herself.

The main changes introduced by editors were a large (A4) format by Nikki Stephens, in February 1989, and a colour cover by Christine Newman, October 1992.

Mike Cooper

With his appointment as editor in 2002, Mike introduced ‘E FOR EDITORIAL’. In the first editorial he signalled a slightly lighter tone than previous magazines. He also commented that the magazine was for all the village and should therefore ‘ideally be written by all the village’. I think readers will agree that he succeeded on both these points. He also demonstrated his capacity to take on board other opinions. In his Editorial of August-September 2002, only a few months into his editorship, he explained that the wish of some readers to reduce the size of the magazine to A5, which had been in use from 1979 to 1989, would cause him problems with some regular items. However, the next magazine, October 2002, was indeed A5 size, as an experiment. It is to his credit that the new smaller size has continued throughout his editorship!

Early 2020 saw the arrival of Covid, restricting the hand delivery of the magazine, and an online version became available, although there were very few events on which to report.  A hard copy reappeared from October 2020, until December/January, when it was the victim of a further lockdown.

I should like to take this opportunity to thank Mike for his forbearance over the years.  He has borne some very long contributions from me with good grace and I am very grateful to him for withholding his ‘blue pencil’ from my efforts to publicise the History of Frittenden.