Today (28th March 2009) I had the pleasure of attending the Sussex Family History Group 2009 conference at Haywards Heath, West Sussex. It was held at the Clair Hall in Haywards Heath, a small multi-purpose venue which I am familiar with because of the monthly postcard fair held there.
It was well attended, I would estimate around 250-300 people, which is probably about as much as the hall could cope with. There were three guest speakers (Michael Gandy, Annabelle Hughes and Ian Gledhill) and a handful of stalls selling various books and CDs.
Michael Gandy‘s talk was entitled “Country Poor, Town Poor” and rather than dwell on the differences between the two, the talk challenged some of our widely held views on the poor and discussed how very little has actually changed over the past couple of centuries.
Annabelle Hughes is an expert on many (if not all) aspects of Sussex buildings and their records, and we were lead through an example of her research into one Sussex farm, from the Domesday book to the present day. Her talk mentioned many sources for property records, that would be of interest to the family historian, which pre-date parish registers and are easily available (in printed form, not on the internet) to researchers.
Ian Gledhill gave an illustrated talk entitled “Oh, We Do Like to be Beside the Seaside”, which took us from the earliest days when bathing started to become popular up to the present day. The talk covered the major resorts on the Sussex coast and a few beyond, with details of the development of piers and theatres etc. that our ancestors may once have enjoyed.
At lunchtime whilst the majority of attendees enjoyed their lunch, I left Clair Hall and boarded a bus for the Princess Royal Hospital on the other side of Haywards Heath and walked a short way down the road to pay a visit to what had once been the East Sussex County Asylum, and home to my 2x great grandfather George Thomas GASSON for five years (before he was moved to the new asylum at Hellingly).
The building is quite impressive, and mostly converted to flats and appartments now, I did get some photographs but conditions weren’t ideal, there is still building work going on (at least it appears to be), I will have to return when I have more time and better weather conditions.
I walked back to Clair Hall for the afternoon session through the town, which is not particularly interesting, a few old buildings remain, but the town centre is quite modern (although perhaps a little dated now).
It was a good day, the talks were varied and well presented, the conference was well organised, and I managed to pick up a couple of bargain books from the Sussex Record Society stall (they were having a clearance sale). The fact that I got to do a bit of walking was an added bonus!