The Parish Hand

Recently I was given a book, a review of handwriting, the styles and the way they’ve been taught over the past two centuries. Then, in an email from a friend, she remarked on how she missed the handwritten letter, missed the act of writing long missives, missed the rhythms and the patterns made—on which I do wholeheartedly agree. I had already decided to write this post, but that email was the final push.

The Parish Hand are clips of scans taken from various parish registers in South Norfolk (UK) during a project I recently completed. I cannot say they all were written by clergy, whether rector or curate, since often it befell the parish clerk or a church warden to update these registers. Whether we credit our handwriting with the ability ‘to reveal all’ about us, these certainly do reveal something of their authors. But at these are legible, some I encountered were not.

I make no further comment but leave you to peruse at your leisure. (My favourite is the ‘robot v. teddy-bear’ doodle!)

Denton 1650s

Alburgh 1671


Hempnall 1678

Attleborough 1683

Billingford 1706

Diss 1731
Brockdish 1757

In 1754 printed registers became available
at first for marriages, then for baptisms and burials (1812)

Upton 1783

My project covered the century up to 1830 and not beyond it.
So for these last couple I have drawn on those found while researching my roots.

Hempnall 1820
Saxlingham 1879

Due to a fault on my phone line it has just taken me 5 hours to upload these samples. So though I know my captions are far too large, I’m letting them stand (while I still have some hair on my head!)


About crimsonprose

After years as a multi-colour octopus in entertainment, now chilling and writing
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12 Responses to The Parish Hand

  1. Joy Pixley says:

    My favorite is the good day-bad day page. Thank goodness nobody has to rely on my handwriting for any legal or historical documents, because it’s *all* “bad day” with me!

    • crimsonprose says:

      As I noted in the post, none of the sample are actually illegible–which is a disappointment because I did come across some real disgraces. Obviously the registrar had no intention of anyone ever reading it. Also, I thought I’d taken some same of what looked to me like ‘knitted’ writing (like garter stitch, all interconnecting loops.) But it was an interesting project. It’s not only births, matches and dispatches recorded but, as with one of my samples, local events, like a king’s visit, and details of murderers hanged for their crime and . . . real treasure houses for the local historian. I even came across the baptism record of a certain Horatio Nelson!

      • Joy Pixley says:

        Wow, sounds like a fun (if very time consuming, and eye straining) project!

      • crimsonprose says:

        It was, though it wasn’t my usual period of history. It was undertaken for an old friend who wanted a list of people living in the village in 1830. The village was source of one thread of my family. So I opened my mouth, and kinda volunteered. But, of course, 1830 is too early for census (begun in 1841), and to catch everyone in the village in that year I had to back track—at least a hundred years, AND widen the net to include villages within a 15 miles radius. Yea, it was fun. And yes, it was eye-straining. And I got very good at reading Church Latin, and the older styles of handwriting. In a way I miss it. The historical research I’m presently doing is all via internet, and the worst of it is C18th French. (Am I a masochist, do you think?)

      • Joy Pixley says:

        Maybe a little bit of a masochist, but in a fun way! That’s quite a challenge you volunteered for. I know some demographers who work with that old Census data, and boy, it’s enough of a mess as it is! And it puts my own, much more modest level of research into Medieval and earlier level technology into perspective — all secondary sources on the internet, much easier. I’m happy to let someone else go through the original documents and just tell me what they found! 🙂

      • crimsonprose says:

        Hey, so we’ve more in common than merely the writing. What period, Medieval? And is the interesting purely to support your writing? Or does it go deeper, to stand on its own. I think mine began with the history (or rather prehistory–I’m obsessed with Western European neolithic) and the writing evolved as carrier for my idea arising from this. The current story (Alsalda) is set at the change from Neolithic to Bronze, though totally fictious and fantasy; previous story, The Priory Project, was a time-slip, contemporary to Neolithic. While Feast Fables is a quest that begins in the mesolithic and ends—yea, you’ve guessed it–in the neolithic. And its riddled through with a warped kind of mythology.

      • Joy Pixley says:

        The research began as a way to support my RPG habit — I was the DM/GM so I had to be sure my Medieval-like setting made sense. But since developing and working on Eneana further, it’s mostly for that. Although I’d say that my writing stems from my interest in Eneana, rather than vice versa. 😉 For technology levels, the oldest I go is late Ancient Egypt and early Ancient Greek, for my Azza’at Empire, roughly late Roman to early Medieval for my Pyanni Empire, a dark age and some backtracking when the Pyanni Empire falls, and then it maxes out at about 15th Century western Europe with the latest period. But throughout, I have people living in remote nomadic tribes whose technology level is completely different. Those are all rough approximations, though, because the Pyanni discover some things that Europeans didn’t yet (but, say, the Chinese had already), and don’t have certain other things (like, no horses until the war that ends the Pyanni empire). Plus of course, all that MAGIC. Since it’s fantasy and not intended to be an exact historical replica, I can be creative with the details, but the basic physics, chemistry, etc. still have to work.

        And I haven’t gotten that far in Feast Fables yet, but I love your “warped” mythology. It inspires / intimidates me!

      • crimsonprose says:

        I regret that role-playing games didn’t really reach UK until fairly recently, then very much a cult thing. I certainly missed out on it; I’d have loved it. But having said that, I do remember our games of ‘You be Lancelot, I’ll be Ivanhoe, and Rosie can be Robin Hood.’ But your personal history does help explain your ability to create believable worlds (you have to understand how it all fits together before you can tweak it.)
        FF is now in its 3rd volume (wordage totals about the same as LOTR–ouch! Not really ideal for a blog. But I do still have the faithful followers who’ve been with me from them start. It’s now drawing to a close–at least it’s on the home run! Some time next year, comes the ultimate climax when all is revealed. And what’s revealed is a total reversal of a well-known myth (can’t say more). I like playing around with reversals, turning the familiar upside down and inside out.
        When the story hits that end I intend to use the blog for ruminations and speculations centred on myths. My thoughts, ranging far for sources though I admit, mostly Eurasian, biased to Celtic, though I can riff on Zoroastrianism too. Don’t be intimidated. It’s all for fun.

      • Joy Pixley says:

        I love the idea of playing a game with Lancelot, Ivanhoe,and Robin Hood together, how funny! Yes, your Feast Fables is an impressive feat — not just so many words, but all so well written! I could swear you’ve already written and edited and re-edited the whole thing to perfection years ago and are just teasing us with one chapter at a time. Unfortunately, I got into the game late and have not been reading much of anything on line lately. So when I get the emails about your new posts, I have to glance at them with one eye and quickly delete them if they are FF related, lest they spoil some important future plot point for me! I really do hope to catch up some day soon.

      • crimsonprose says:

        You’re right in that FF has been edited, re-edited, and edited again, but not years ago. All of my fiction has had at least one edit before upload.Before I ever started the blog , being ignorant of how it all works, I’d thought to upload the entire script (of however many words) and click the publish-button and be done. But I soon discovered that’s not the best way to work with a blog. However I do provide a ‘chapter list’ for all my fiction, so anyone coming new to it can start at the beginning and simply read through as you would with a book. So as long as I keep the blog going, a new reader might access work I published, say, 5 yrs before. Neve was the first one: time-slip format twixt contemporary and (mostly) 1086. It introduces the Asars who feature in all my fiction except for Roots of Rookeri which is an off-world Shakespearean comedy of errors.
        And you’re right to delete off the FF links, if you’re intending to read from the start. Though I’m not sure the plot is fully revealed in them. There are a plethora of twists, and quite a lot of humour. I hope you’ll enjoy it; that and others, when you get round to it. I know, not enough hours in the day.

      • Joy Pixley says:

        Have you ever looked into publishing it as an e-book? It would get it out to even more people, and it deserves to be seen by more people!

      • crimsonprose says:

        That had been my thought before ever I posted it to blog. And I do have a background in marketing (if only as a theatre manager), and experience of DTP but . . . always the but. When I left the theatre I made a bad choice. Read STRESS big-time. Particularly IT stress.Which, bundled with other factors, resulted in CFS (ME). I was, for 8 yrs, housebound. I was terrified of IT beyond using the familiar programmes. All of which stamped a big No-Go on the idea of self-publishing. So, I’ve been clear of CFS for a year now. I’m back to the annoyingly bouncy me. And in the interim I’ve sorted my finances to such a degree. . . I’m happy with things how they are. I don’t want to open my life to a new bundle of stress. I’m not even sure I’d say yes to an equal partnership where the other person does the publishing and marketing and we share the receipts. See, I remain the poodle instead of the bull. Because it’s what feels right and good that counts. But I do thank you for your thoughts. I’d like to see your name in the bookshops, not mine.

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