Tag Archives: book

Treasures from the attic: My grandparent’s birthday book

21 Oct

To be honest I had forgotten I had this little treasure stored away in my parent’s attic until a few weeks ago. I guess when I was initially given it I wasn’t so passionate about family history, now I realise what a wonderful resource it is.

Birthday book

The book is tiny, about 1¾" x 2¼" and about ½" thick. It was published, if that is the right word, by Eyre and Spottiswoode (Bible Warehouse) Ltd., London, and is rather grandly entitled The Royal Bijou Birthday Book.

Each page is divided into two and each half is headed with a month and day (e.g. October 21), a bit like a diary but without the year. The left-hand page has quote for each day, "A Selection from the Poetical Works of SHAKSPEARE, WORDSWORTH, HOOD, TENNYSON, MOORE, BURNS, COWPER, SCOTT, GOLDSMITH, HEMANS, BYRON, MILTON".

The right-hand page is more like a diary, with a space for writing down the relevant birthdays for that day.

The entries are in two different hands, that of my grandmother (Dorothy Annie GASSON née TROWER), who presumably started the book, and after her death in 1964 it was continued by my grandfather (Charles Percy GASSON). I don’t know for certain whether the book was started before their marriage in 1936 or not, I suspect it was probably after their marriage and analysis of some of the entries might confirm this.

I need to go through this book, transcribe all the entries and identify all the names and their relationship to my grandparents. A lot of the names are known to me and the majority are still living (because they are my cousins, aunts and uncles) so I won’t be publishing the details. Some of the people were probably neighbours and friends.

There is one other interesting addition to the book which is a bit of a mystery. Slipped in towards the back of the book was the passport photo shown below. I have no idea whether it belongs in there or who he is, he doesn’t look like any of my relations, but I could be wrong, perhaps one of my relations will be able to put a name to the face.

Unidentified photo

From my (virtual) bookshelf: A General view of the agriculture of the county of Sussex

4 Oct

For anyone with ancestors who were farmers or agricultural labourers in Sussex this book makes fascinating reading, and provides a valuable insight into almost every aspect of farm life at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth century.

A General view of the agriculture of the county of Sussex is available on Google Books, but I have also seen a relatively recent reprint in second-hand bookshops. It was published in 1808 and written by the Rev. Arthur Young for The Board of Agriculture and Internal Improvement.

The book occasionally mentions individual farms or farmers and it is not really a how-to book, but more a general survey of virtually all aspects of farming. An idea of the topics covered can be seen from the list of chapters.

  1. Geographical state and circumstances
  2. State of property
  3. Buildings
  4. Mode of occupation
  5. Implements
  6. Enclosing, fences, gates
  7. Arable land
  8. Grass lands
  9. Orchards
  10. Woods and plantations
  11. Wastes
  12. Improvements
  13. Live stock
  14. Rural economy
  15. Political economy
  16. Obstacles to improvement
  17. Miscellaneous observations

It is fascinating to just dig into sections at random and get an insight into farming life, and there are many unexpected and unusual descriptions such as the section below on opium, which comes under the heading of crops not commonly cultivated:

The largest quantity of this invaluable drug that was ever cured in this country, was raised in 1797 from the Earl of Egremont’s garden at Petworth; and the fact now indeed thoroughly ascertained, that all the foreign opium is highly adulterated, renders it an object of immense consequence to encourage the domestic growth. Mr. Andre is convinced, that in all his practice, he never made use of any of this drug that could be compared with this. The operation of collecting the produce, is effected by a gentle incision on the heads, as they grow, with a knife or other sharp instrument, which is frequently repeated; and the juices which exude from the wound, are scraped into an earthern vessel, dried by the sun, and preserved for use.

I know that farmers are have been encouraged to diversify, but I suspect this might be frowned upon slightly these days. Less controversial, but nonetheless interesting is the description of how lime was obtained for use ‘manuring’ the fields in the eastern part of the county:

As the chalk-hills extend no further than Eastbourne, in order therefore to supply the rest of the county, the chalk is shipped in sloops from Holywell pits at Beachy-head, from whence it is carried to the Bexhill, Hastings, and Rye kilns: here it is burnt into lime, where the farmers come with their teams and take it away at 6d. per bushel. In this trade 16 sloops are considerably employed from April to the month of November. Nine of these belong to Hastings, and seven to the port of Rye. The total quantity consumed at these kilns, for one year, amounts nearly to 633 sloop-loads of chalk, each containing 550 bushels, or about 350,000 bushels.

These are just two examples of the contents of this book, there is quite a large number of tables of figures, and a few illustrations, although many appear to have folded out and they have not been reproduced in the Google Books version, still it is well worth reading if you have an interest in the history of agriculture.

Victorian Pharmacy: a look back

13 Aug

Last night saw the final episode of the BBC television series Victorian Pharmacy. Over the last four weeks (actually five because they missed a week) I have found the series both enjoyable and informative. The only difficulty has been trying to relate it to the lives of my "chemist and druggist" ancestors.

It has provided a good general overview of an interesting period of development. I would have liked to have seen a bit more depth, perhaps doubling the number of episodes, but having ancestors "in the trade" would make me say that wouldn’t it.

I must admit I was rather sad to see them leaving the shop and driving off in a horse and cart, I hope we see more of the Victorian Pharmacy in the future, perhaps a Christmas special like the one they did for Victorian Farm last year.

Another good thing about the series is that it has lead to more information on the subject becoming available. For example, there is a book accompanying the series, which has some great pictures and recipes (which are clearly marked so you don’t end up trying something harmful).

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain has a new page about the series including a link to a pdf of articles about the series from their journal Pharmacy Professional.

The other good news is that there does appear to be a DVD of the series in the pipeline, according to the BBC Shop the release date is the 11th October, so plenty of time for it to be added to my Christmas list.

It seems like there never has been a better time for someone interested in the life and work of chemists and druggists!

From my bookshelves: Map Addict

14 Jul

Map Addict book cover I have just finished reading the book Map Addict by Mike Parker (published by HarperCollins in 2009) and I must say it is probably the best book I have read this year. I heard the author earlier in the year presenting a series on BBC Radio 4 entitled On the Map, which was enjoyable but disappointingly short. Much of the material from the radio series is also featured in the book, or probably in truth it was the other way round.

I have a strong interest in maps but would not really consider myself to be a map addict (and certainly not to the same extreme as the author), so the subject matter obviously appealed to me, but the book is so wide ranging that you don’t really need to have an obsession with maps and mapping to enjoy it. The style of writing is passionate and engaging, and in some places very personal and funny.

The book covers the origins of the Ordnance Survey, through to the impact of the satnav and internet mapping and many points in between, including how Greenwich became home to the Prime Meridian and the Summer Solstice alignments in the heart of Milton Keynes. The book also describes the many and varied reasons for the creation of maps over the centuries.

It has been a long time since I have found a non-fiction (or fiction) book impossible to put down, but it really was the case with this book. It has made me laugh out loud, as well as making me question my own relationship with maps.

Success at West Sussex Record Office

7 Mar

Yesterday I went down to the West Sussex Record Office, with a handful of records to look-up. It was a successful visit and things went better than I could have hoped, even with the disruption on the trains (more engineering work).

I made some useful progress on proving that my 6x great-grandmother was “the old druggist” (more about that in a later post).

I found the exact burial place of my great-grandmother Dorothy May TROWER, something which has eluded me for years (more about that in a later post).

I have located the school admission record of Walter Henry BOXALL, part of what seems to be evolving into a project to document his life and death.

I also picked up several baptism records that I needed, not really critical for my research, just distant relations not ancestors.

It is a little worrying that a lot of the records on my to-do list are parish registers, which have still not been deposited by the parish church at the record office. I am starting to build up quite a list of registers that I check every visit to see if they have arrived yet. Soon I will have to start bothering local vicars for access to the registers.

Whilst out in Chichester at lunchtime I picked up a second hand copy of a book called Goodwood Country in Old Photographs, which includes a photo of one of my 3x great-grandmothers as well as at least two other relations, but probably more. I must say thank you to my (distant) cousin Lisa who told me about this book.

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