by Yoland

Time was when news and gossip was exchanged when meeting friends and neighbours at work, in the street, the church, or over the garden gate – those were the days when people lived and worked within walking distance of their home.  However,  technology came


In 1874 The Ellesmere Rural Deanery started the monthly Parish Paper `A Parochial Magazine for Cottage Homes`.  The object of the Parish Paper was to provide sound and profitable reading for times of leisure, especially Sundays.  It was to be printed in large type such that even aged eyes can read with comfort. “Information will be given about services in the church, Confirmation classes, Guild, Missionary and Parish meetings, the Choir, the Offertory, the School and many other matters of parochial interest.  It will also contain a register of baptisms, marriages and burials and will thus form a complete record of every event of interest to our church and parish”.

The Parish Papers were published for at least the next 28 years.  They were collected and ended their lives in the Victorian Reading Rooms, which was Ruyton`s village library and billiard room.

These documents are indeed, as was stated in 1874, `A complete record of every event of interest to our church our parish`.  In Rev Wilkinson`s time in Ruyton we learn about many improvements to the church – the north isle was enlarged, the gallery demolished and an organ acquired, 3 new bells were hung, central heating installed, a clock in the tower and the choir were presented with surplices and cassocks made by the ladies of the village.

Land was bought to extend the churchyard, demolition of the cottage within the castle and an excavation of the ruins organised by the vicar.

The Penny Readings was a sort of social club where people could enjoy anything from magic lantern shows, lectures on Astronomy, Geology or Natural Philosophy or just to learn to read and write.  There were science classes with exams at the end, on Acoustics, Light & Heat or Theoretical Mechanisms, in 1876!

In 1889 there was a Ruyton Men`s Art Exhibition with work entered in wood carving, brass, copper, stone and iron.

In the last decade of the 19th Century there were St. John Ambulance courses and Dressmaking, Shorthand, Cookery, Horticulture, Church history, Hygiene and Home Nursing and Drawing classes.  120 years ago, you could have learned Bee and Poultry Keeping and Agricultural Chemistry right here in the village!

In the years before the Welfare State there were Friendly Societies into which you could pay a subscription and they would support you and your family in hard times.  Reports on the doings and celebrations of the Ruyton Order of Foresters, The Oddfellows, the Girls, and the Young Men`s  Friendly Societies were all reported in the Parish Papers.  You could pay into the Coal Club at the school and the Clothing Club at the village shop.  In the winter of 1879/80 there was a Soup Kitchen thanks to the generous donation of venison from Mrs. Hunt of Boreatton.

There are regular reports on missionary work supported by the church and in 1877 the Ladies Association was formed to sew items to be sent to missionary societies working in Africa.  Dolls, toys, work bags, 3 chemises, 6 pocket handkerchiefs, 6 red & white handkerchiefs, 2 flannel petticoats and 3 pairs of knitted socks.  Several of those items would have been more useful to the missionaries than the people they were trying to convert to Christianity.

There were reports on the doings of the Temperance Society and the junior Band of Hope as well as the sporting fixtures of the Cricket Club, the Quoit Club not to mention the popularity of playing football on the nights of the full moon!

Then there were balls and dances and concerts in the School Room – usually the toffs performing for the masses, and towards the end of the century, the Rummage Sales became a regular event.

There is information on school and choir outings on the train, school inspections, and Mr. Wilkinson`s travels to visit his sons in India and Canada.  On his return he gives a talk on the opportunities of emigrating to the New World.

There are regular reports on the progress of building the Village Cross, the Hearse House and the Fire Engine house.

More amusing is Rev, Wilkinson`s attempt to light a Fire Balloon – perhaps on the lines of a modern Chinese lantern.  Unfortunately, it came down on somebody`s thatch roof.  Another of his stunts was to take a dancing bear into the school.  Although, there is no information about where the animal came from.  There is even an account of the vicar turning up at church in his trousers, having forgotten to don his cassock!

In later editions of the Parish Papers there was a regular Children`s Corner with Bible stories and improving stories for adults.  Also, a Railway Timetable as more people were travelling from the station in Baschurch.

 Parish paper front Parish paper 2 
 Front page of the 1894 Ruridecanal Magazine or Parish Papers An interesting part of the Ruyton Entry for March 1889   

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