Tag Archives: druggist

Directory Enquiries: The GEERINGs at Hailsham, Sussex

7 Apr

I have found five entries for the GEERING shop in Hailsham, Sussex in early county directories, however the caveat exists that the evidence provided is not entirely reliable.

1823/4 Geering M. druggist & linen draper (Pigot’s Directory of Sussex)
1828 Geering M. chemist & druggist (Pigot’s Directory of Sussex)
1832/4 Geering Mary, chymist and druggist (Pigot’s Directory of Sussex)
1840 Geering Mary, chymist and druggist (Pigot’s Directory of Sussex)
1845 Geering M. chemist & druggist (Kelly’s Directory of Sussex)

The first entry is quite interesting because it tells us that there was also linen available at the shop at one time. This, along with the description given by Thomas Geering in his book Our Sussex Parish suggests that the shop was more than just a chemist and druggist shop.

The other thing of note is that the name of Mary GEERING still appears in the entry even after her death in 1825. This might indicate the failings of the compiler, but it might also suggest that the shop still traded under the name of Mary GEERING, even after her daughter Ann had taken over the business.

The chemist shop at Horsham Museum

18 Mar

My current obsession with chemists and druggists reminded me of a display in Horsham Museum. Amongst their many wonderful exhibits and displays they have a recreation of a local chemist’s shop.

The chemist shop in Horsham Museum

I took the opportunity this week to pop into the museum and have a quick look at the ‘shop’ and try and imagine my 6x great-grandmother standing behind a similar counter in Hailsham, Sussex.

In my imagination the GEERING’s shop in Hailsham had once looked like this, neat and tidy, clean and with a highly polished counter, but I imagine it didn’t last long and over the years it became more and more neglected. I might be doing my ancestors an injustice but the situation described by Thomas Geering in his book was not one of a pristine, well maintained shop.

My genealogy to-do list for the week ahead (week 11)

14 Mar

Last week was a much better week for my genealogy, not that I really achieved a great deal in terms of adding people to my family tree (I blame Google Street View in part for that).

What happened is that I got sucked into researching the GEERING family from Hailsham, Sussex. It is proving an interesting challenge, there are several leads that I need to follow up and have been preparing for a visit to both the East Sussex Record Office and The National Archives. I have ordered three certificates (more about them in another post) and a copy of a will, which may give me further clues.

I did continue sorting out some more stuff on my hard drive, but I need to devote more time to that, I have lots of new scanned images which need naming and filing correctly.

So this week I intend to:

  • Continue working on the GEERINGs of Hailsham. In particular I want to get the information from the two wills from the West Sussex Record Office included in Family Historian.
  • Contact Hailsham library to find out what local history resources they hold. What books do they hold? Any photographs? Copies of parish registers?
  • Find out if anyone has recorded monumental inscriptions for Hailsham churchyard and Hailsham cemetery.
  • Work out how and when I can get to Hailsham to visit the library, the church, the cemetery and to try and find what remains if anything of the GEERING’s shop.
  • Continue working on a list of records in preparation for a visit to the East Sussex Record Office and The National Archives. Work out when I am going to get the chance to visit them!
  • Continue working through my digital files updating Family Historian and sorting out folders and standardising my filenames, especially the recently scanned documents.

Inside the old druggist’s shop

27 Feb

Thomas Geering provides us with a glimpse inside the shop where Mrs Gearing worked. It really makes me hope that I can prove that she is 6x great-grandfather, because it provides a glimpse into the life and workplace of an ancestor, that is rarely seen.

From the street outside, the High Street in Hailsham, Sussex we find that

The front of the house was shut off from the public road by a brick wall, and a gate had to be opened to gain admittance to the shop door.

The shop front featured a window

One small bottle of blue liquid was the only show in the window, across which, reaching about half-way up, stretched a faded green blind, which also added to the melancholy of the interior.

Entering the shop

The door creaked on its hinges, and the floor beneath the feet yielded to the weight as one entered, showing cracks and holes which led one’s thoughts to the cellar; but our dear old lady regarded none of these as blotches. She, her shop and the contents had all grown old together.

The shop had a counter

At the window end of the counter were three slots, or slits, into which dipped the three ointment and plaster knives, which knives were of varying sizes and lengths, to suit the work to be done.

It was apparently plainly decorated

If not poor, it was meagre to a degree, pots, jars, and bottles all being of the plainest pattern. There was a good array for number, but I have always supposed many to have been dummies.

Some of the bottles were labelled

POISON might be read in plain English on a few bottles and jars, to impress her visitors, we will suppose, with a dread of her power; while “Paregoric” and “Soothing Syrup” show in faded gold, to give confidence and to show all was not lost, nor hope entirely fled. The majority of the labels were covered with a mysterious combination of letters, too learned for the general public, but which served to strengthen our faith and to give reverence and confidence to the one, and the only one, person who could unravel their meaning.

But it wasn’t just bottles and jars

There was also a department for dolls and wooden horses, and the house of the cruel, weather-wise old man who would turn his wife out of her door when it rained and keep in himself, had a place on her shelves.

Now sadly the druggist’s shop has gone

Our old druggist’s shop, with the small front sitting-room which the Captain occupied, has now for the last fifteen years been turned into a bookseller’s shop, and the place altogether has undergone a complete transformation. New windows, fittings, counters, etc., have replaced the very old ones.

Is “The Old Druggist” my 6x great-grandmother (Part 2: What Thomas Geering wrote about the druggist)

26 Feb

Having previously described my knowledge of Mary GEERING the druggist of Hailsham, Sussex, who I believe to be my 6x great-grandmother, I now turn my attention to what Thomas Geering wrote about “the old druggist” in his book Our Sussex Parish.

The story mainly focuses on the famous Captain Barclay, but does include a few snippets of information about the druggist and her family, none of which conclusive, it is sadly very short on hard facts, but makes up for it with some wonderful descriptions of the people and the shop (more about that in another post).

Firstly we begin with the lodger:

CAPTAIN BARCLAY, the celebrated pedestrian, with the 23rd Foot, in which regiment he held his commission, was, about the year 1804-5, stationed, if not in our barracks, in the neighbourhood, he having apartments in the house of Mrs. Gearing, druggist.

Then we have mention of the druggist’s son:

The druggist’s son, James, who had been barrack-sergeant, in after-life delighted to gossip away an hour detailing many of the doughty Captain’s habits while in quarters here…

We then return to the druggist again and her daughter:

Let me give a parting word or two to our old-fashioned maiden druggist, Miss Nancy Gearing. I remember her mother, a little dark-eyed, precise, shrivelled-up old dame. Her fame rested chiefly upon salves and ointments, and to the daughter, Nancy, devolved the honour of continuing to our town and neighbourhood these two blessings.

Then we hear more about the druggist who like her son enjoyed gossiping about their famous lodger:

She, her shop and the contents had all grown old together. Where she drew her first breath, there in the same chamber she breathed her last, and like her creaking old door, she hung on for many a year, always attending to her business duties, and glad to the last to take a shilling over the counter. This was her great delight, and if ever gratification and satisfaction could be seen dominant in one’s features, then these were in hers when a customer had entered the shop and she had fingered the money. But the joy could be intensified by a gossip about her celebrated lodger; it was then her dark eyes sparkled as she recounted her recollections of his manly presence, and his kind, gentlemanly demeanour.

Finally Thomas Geering leaves us with a clue, the age of death of the old druggist:

Our old druggist lived on to be eighty-one, and a very short period of her long life became subject to decrepitude and mortal decay.

So pulling out the hard facts from this selection of quotes we have:

  • Mrs Gearing was a druggist, but as well as running a shop, also let  out an apartment or room, but we don’t know whether this was just a one off for the celebrated pedestrian or whether she had other paying guests.
  • Mrs Gearing had a son, James, who had been a barrack sergeant.
  • Mrs Gearing had a daughter, Nancy, who took over the shop.
  • Mrs Gearing lived to be eighty one years old.

There are some similarities between these ‘facts’ and the GEERING family I have previously described.

  • Mary GEERING was listed as a chymist and druggist in 1832-4 and 1839 in Hailsham.
  • Richard and Mary GEERING had a son named James (my 5x great-grandfather).
  • Richard and Mary GEERING probably had a daughter called Ann, who may have been Nancy in Thomas Gearing’s story.
  • According to the census Ann/Nancy appears to have run the shop after Mary’s death.

There is a discrepancy in the age of Mrs Gearing when she died, or maybe my confusion in the interpretation of the story. I think Mary GEERING was 78 when she died, and it was Ann who died aged 81 years.

Allowing for some artistic licence or failing memory on the part of Thomas Geering, these two families (the one in the book and the other revealed by census returns and parish registers) are a pretty good match. I have no doubt they are one and the same.

My challenge is to prove that this family is my family, that Mary GEERING/Mrs Gearing was my 6x great-grandmother.

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