I had hoped that I would be able to find a newspaper report of the inquest into the death of Jane GEERING. Usually they provide more information than the inquest itself, and quite often they are the only record of the inquest.
I had checked several of the county newspapers for a report but had drawn a blank, so I moved down a level, and tried to locate the local paper that would cover Hailsham around that time. It wasn’t clear, but it seemed likely that Eastbourne would be the place and there were two newspapers that were published around the right time, the Eastbourne Chronicle and the Eastbourne Gazette.
Eastbourne Library has copies on microfilm of both newspapers and sure enough they did cover Hailsham, and they both had reports of the inquest into Jane’s death. They are both almost identical, the version below is from the Eastbourne Chronicle dated Saturday 19th September 1874.
DEATH BY DROWNING. – An inquest was held on Wednesday at the Terminus Hotel, before L. G. Fullagar, Esq., coroner, touching the death of Jane Gearing, single woman, aged about 76. – James Foster stated that he and deceased lived at Cobden-place, Hailsham. Witness last saw her alive on Monday night about half-past nine o’clock when she was going to bed. He noticed nothing particular about her. Witness did not see deceased again until he found her in the common pond dead. She was drawn to the shore by a rake being tied on the end of a pole. Deceased had got so that her landlady (Mrs. Carey) could not bear it any longer, and so asked her to look out for fresh apartments. – Mrs. Elizabeth Carey gave evidence much to the same effect. – Mr. James Pymar Billing, surgeon, stated that about half-past nine on Tuesday morning he went to the common pond and saw deceased being taken on a stretcher to a shed close by. Witness directed her to be taken to the Home, where he thoroughly examined her. She had apparently been dead about an hour. There were no external marks upon the body, but she was covered with fleas and vermin, and was in a filthy state. Witness stated that he had not the least doubt that she died from drowning. – Edwin Isaac Baker said he was a bookseller and stationer, and had known deceased all his life. Witness allowed her an annuity of £20, as her brother left him property on that condition. She was a very peculiar woman, and suffered intense pain with her head, and had very weak nerves. Witness saw her on Monday, and she seemed very comfortable. – The jury returned a verdict of “Found drowned,” but there was no evidence to show how she came into the water.
There are so many details in the report that it almost demands a sentence by sentence analysis, to provide explanation, further information and it’s importance to my research.
Today was one of my best family history days for a long time. Almost everything seemed to work as it should, buses and trains ran on time, libraries were open and it didn’t rain until I got home.
I had decided that I needed to get out and visit Hailsham, Sussex. I had looked on Google Street View, but decided it would still be a good idea to visit and see the town for myself, to get a feel for the place and see what resources were available.
Getting to Hailsham involved passing through the seaside town of Eastbourne, which meant the opportunity to stop in at Eastbourne Library and view some microfilms and other resources in their local studies room.
Then it was on to Hailsham to spend some time wandering around the town, getting a better idea of the layout and taking some photos, whilst following up a couple of leads and visiting the library
So what did I achieve that made it so worthwhile?
- Two slightly different newspaper reports of the Coroners inquest into the death of Jane GEERING, from Eastbourne Library.
- Copies of four maps of Hailsham High Street, including the all important tithe map of 1842, which confirms the location of the GEERING’s shop.
- Visited Hailsham church and took some photos. There are not many legible headstones still standing and the ground was very wet.
- Went inside the shop which now stands on the site of the GEERING’s shop. Quite how much of it is original is not clear.
- Found all the missing baptism entries for my GEERINGs from a set of transcriptions and indexes at Hailsham Library.
- Visited and photographed the row of houses (Cobden Place) where Jane GEERING was living before she died.
- Walked the route from Cobden Place to Common Pond, a short journey (less than two minutes walk).
- Got some photographs of Common Pond and of the pub where the inquest was held (The Terminus Hotel) assuming it hasn’t changed it’s name.
I didn’t get chance to visit the cemetery where I believe Jane GEERING was probably buried, but that can wait until another visit. I will need to visit later in the year anyway when the Hailsham Heritage Centre is open.
I still can’t believe how much information just keeps turning up about my GEERINGs. I still haven’t conclusively proved to my satisfaction that these are my ancestors, but all the evidence so far is pointing to that conclusion.
I couldn’t have achieved so much without the help of two particularly helpful librarians, one at Eastbourne and one at Hailsham. Who cheerfully answered my questions and dug out material for me. Thank you.
I have come across another mention of the GEERING family of Hailsham, Sussex in a book about Captain Barclay, entitled The Celebrated Captain Barclay – Sport, Money and Fame in Regency Britain by Peter Radford (Headline Book Publishing, 2001).
This biography of the ‘celebrated pedestrian’ contains one paragraph about “Mrs Gearing’s Drug Shop”. Unfortunately it is mainly based on the work of Thomas Geering, which I am of course already aware of. There are however a couple of fresh clues in that one paragraph, which add to the GEERING story.
The paragraph begins, “Robert was always fussy about his accommodation. On Monday 1 October  he packed his deal trunk and moved into new lodgings suggested to him by his barrack-sergeant, James Gearing – the small front room of his mother’s drug shop at Hailsham.”
So it appears that Captain Barclay moved to Hailsham on the 1st October 1804. I can’t see where this date comes from, but perhaps I can work it out (or ask the author).
Furthermore it appears that Captain Barclay had previously been barracked in Eastbourne, Sussex, so presumably this is where James Gearing (or James GEERING my 5x great-grandfather) had been barrack-sergeant and not at Hailsham barracks.
Useful clues, and hopefully I can use this date (1st October 1804) and location (Eastbourne barracks) to pin down some details for James GEERING in the form of a service record.
The theme for the latest Festival of Postcards hosted by Evelyn at A Canadian Family blog is white.
Given the time of year and the fact that there are rumours going around that we might have a White Christmas in Sussex this year (I very much doubt it!), there was only really one choice of card from my collection.
This is rather different to the usual seaside view of Eastbourne, Sussex showing the promenade and pier. There are a few figures on the beach, but no tourists enjoying ice cream in the sunshine. Although judging by the number of footprints it does look like there had been plenty of people out strolling along the promenade.
The “great blizzard” was on the 28th December 1908 and of course the heavy snowfall wasn’t confined to just Eastbourne or Sussex, but much of Britain appears to have been affected.
According to The Sussex Weather Book (Froglets Publications and Frosted Earth, 1991) in Eastbourne, “so fierce was the blizzard on the sea front that the snow and mist rendered the sea invisible”.
The Brighton Herald newspaper (quoted in The Sussex Weather Book) described the scene:
“There is nothing that so utterly transforms a town as such a fall of snow as that of this week. It brings with it a rare witchery of beauty, yet a rare sense of desolation. The beauty is in the encrusting of the trees, the silvering of the bushes and the mantling of lawns in purest white. The effect of desolation was heightened by the profound hush. Indeed the strange effect of deep snow to the townsman is the silence that it brings”.
Ironically the ice skating rink at Brighton had to be closed because “snow was percolating through the roof and covering the floor”.
I have been rather distracted this evening by the BBC Archive website, they have some great material on there. Unfortunately if you live outside the UK you won’t be able to watch the videos, but there are still other documents you can read, but that is not quite the same is it!
What lead me there were the documents relating to George Orwell, but I soon got distracted by the Steam Trains Collection. Being a lover of steam trains I was in heaven. The children’s newsreel “A Dog’s Day Out” is quite charming, a short silent film about a dog taking a day trip to Eastbourne, Sussex by train. Michael Palin’s “Confessions of a Train Spotter” is another excellent programme (which I do have on video somewhere).
I just wish you all could watch them as well. I can see I will be spending a lot more time here in the near future.