Parish Clerks

From the Norfolk Chronicle of 15 January 1898, this struck me as being a rather intriguing snapshot of the period as what roles were valued in the community were changing. It reads:

“A correspondence asks in the ‘Church Notes’ column for information concerning the sayings and doings of the parish clerks. It is much to be regretted that the parish clerk, except in a few solitary instances, no longer represents the third estate in the parochial realm. Time was when the three great men of the parish were the squire, the parson and the clerk; and of the trio, the latter, perhaps, was the greatest. He occupied the honoured seat in the bar parlour, at the village inn; he was the visitor most welcomed at the barber’s shop; and he was the one man in the community upon whom devolved the duty of reading aloud the contents of the weekly news sheet to the assembled rustic. The school-master was altogether out of the running; there were invariably too much pedantry and patronage about him – faults which militated against his popularity; but the parish clerk, who presence was indispensable at marriages, christenings and funerals, and in the ordinary services of the church, had greatness thrust upon him in social conclaves, and he thus maintained a position of considerable importance and dignity.”

I’m not sure many parish clerks would today think that they had “greatness thrust upon them”, nor would teachers be too pleased to hear of their reputation……