A year of Cirencester life as recorded in the Parish Magazine for 1890

by Ruth Iliffe  


When clearing my late mother’s house, I came across The Church Monthly – An Illustrated Magazine for Home Reading full of worthy articles, stories, poems and hymns for the devout Victorian churchgoer. Bound in with this was a full set of Parish Magazines for Cirencester for 1890. Presumably parishes across England could have their particular magazines attached in such a way and these books were very probably given as Christmas gifts to many people.


As well as listing the Services and Readings for each month the entries give a fascinating glimpse of Parish life – outings, various activities, charities providing basic necessities before the Welfare State, fund raising for the further restoration of the Church fabric.  Reflecting the times, it is rather a male-orientated picture with women’s activities generally restricted to the traditional domestic role or doing ‘good works’ such as Parish visiting. It all comes together to record a way of life now very long gone.


Here are some items that caught my eye. I hope you, too, find them interesting.


January 1890 – began with praise for the successful first year of the Parish Magazine (1889)

“which amply justified expectations” and provided a summary of the main Church events of 1889 including the unveiling of the Reredos in the Parish Church on Trinity Sunday and in October a service to mark the new peal of bells for Watermoor Church thus “encouraging a number of young men to take up the fascinating pursuit of bellringing”.  It also recorded rising church attendances! On a different note there is mention of the Coal and Clothing Club which allowed people to “put something by against the winter”.


February – records charitable giving for Foreign Missions totalling £65.18s.11d – with all donors and their donations listed – local gentry, lawyers and businessmen prominent amongst them. 


Cirencester’s Town Dispensary had a busy time – it seems to have provided medical advice and medicines and along with the Provident Medical Club performed a vital service to the town, at least for those who could afford to buy tickets or to subscribe.

Much “anxiety” was caused to those distributing blankets for the Blanket Charity – mainly to the Watermoor area – as difficult decisions had to be made in providing blankets only for those “striving to help themselves” and not to “be deceived by appearances”. However an average of 60 blankets was distributed each year.

 March – like all other months, March carried a list of clergy and other church staff. It listed the six Sunday Schools, each run by a Superintendent as well as separate Sunday Bible – Study Classes for Men, Choir Boys, Elder Boys and Lads, with only one for “Young Women” at 15 Cecily Hill, “conducted” by a Miss Smith.

District Visitors are listed – all female – each with a designated street or road in the town to take on pastoral work in the Parish. 

April – the work of the Gloucestershire and Bristol Diocesan Mission amongst itinerant fruit-pickers and travellers was reported on “as a power for good and an encouragement to more holy living….

Major Wilfred Cripps presented members of the Boys’ Club with prizes for items of carpentry, including a fretwork wheelbarrow!

The Guild of the Holy Trinity Missionary Working Party at Watermoor made an entire outfit for a girl at an orphanage in Pietermaritzburg, as well as aprons and skirts for local girls in service.

May – work continued to refurbish the Parish Church including two new stained glass windows for the Trinity Chapel. These were made by Hardman & Co of Birmingham (close associates of Pugin and still in business) and were paid for by the Bathurst and Cripps families.

A report on Cirencester Choral Society’s 13th Annual Concert, held in the Corn Hall featuring works by Mozart and Gounod as well as Sullivan’s great oratorio The Prodigal Son. Soloists were specially engaged and music was provided by Cirencester’s amateur orchestra conducted by the Parish Church’s choirmaster and organist Mr Brind.

June – an article gave the history of the “Ancient Communion Plate” including The Boleyn Cup, donated to the church by the Master family.

Unfortunately £13 was still needed to complete the decoration of the Chancel walls to complement the Reredos installed the previous year.

July – as was hoped, the new bells at Watermoor encouraged an increased interest in bell ringing at both churches and “their musical notes are employed worthily on occasions of true joy in the Parish”.

Parents wishing to have babies baptised were reminded to apply for a Baptismal Card – to be completed by the clergy – to avoid errors with names and ensure accuracy in the Registers.

August – provided a report on the July annual outing for the, presumably adult, male, Choir which visited Brighton; leaving Watermoor Station at 05.55 returning at 01.15 the next morning! Several people had “avowed misgivings lest the great distance should spoil the day” but Mr Harmer’s organisation and the “admirable” Midland and South Western Railway company allowed for “nine good hours” in the resort. The visitors looked at local churches (none considered as good as Cirencester); some “braved the fury of the deep” or walked along the pier, visited the Pavilion and the Aquarium.

The Sunday Schools’ festival day also in July saw the children march in fine weather to the Barracks for a special tea, followed by fun and games in Cirencester Park.

September – there were more August outings to report: the boys of the Choir visited Bournemouth by train, all organised by Choirmaster Mr Brind and his wife. Most of the day was spent on the beach, including watching a Punch & Judy Show and “all in perfect weather”; the Bell Ringers visited Portsmouth taking their hand-bells with them and the Boys’ Club went by road to Gloucester visiting the Cathedral, taking a trip on the Gloucester/Sharpness Canal with tea, on the way home, in Birdlip. “Singing and cheering all the way”, they arrived back in Cirencester at 10pm! 

October – carried a long obituary for one-time vicar, Canon Millar, who had married the daughter of local solicitor JR Mullings. There were reports of the weekly Mothers’ Meetings and the Book Club both at the Mission Room in Cricklade Street, and the Bible Class (for Men) at the Vicarage.

November – an In Memoriam for local solicitor, KC Sewell, churchwarden and benefactor of Watermoor Church recalled a man of “a profoundly religious mind….honourable dealing…….strong honesty of character….and cheerful acquiescence to the will of God.

The Guild of Saint Lawrence decided to hold a Christmas Social and thanked the Revd Cooper for his invitations to play tennis and quoits in his garden in Gloucester Street on summer evenings.

December – the Revd WF Powell (1803-90) was remembered with great gratitude. Whilst incumbent at the Parish Church he was the leading force behind the building of a church for Watermoor– an area of the town that was growing and building commenced in 1847. He was also keen to involve the church in education, being the prime mover in the building of the Infants School (at Powells) and the schools at Watermoor.

Finally – readers of the Parish Magazine were reminded to renew their subscriptions and were advised they could have their magazines bound into one volume by Mr Savory of Dyer Street at a cost of 1s 3d.