Tag Archives: hailsham

Picture Postcard Parade: Hailsham Church

28 Mar

With my current obsession with the GEERING family of Hailsham, Sussex it was inevitable that my postcard collecting interests would extend to the town of Hailsham before too long.

Hailsham Church

When I saw this wonderful postcard I just had to have it. It was published by Edgar Smith of The Library, Hailsham. It is unused and probably dates from around 1910-20.

Lots of lovely headstones to be seen, I wonder if any of my GEERINGs had a headstone, I know there were at least four buried in the churchyard at St Mary’s, Hailsham.

It reminds me of the description of the town in Pigot’s Sussex Directory of 1828 which singles out the church as the only thing of interest in the town,

The only object deserving of notice in this place is the church, which has a fine square tower, similar to that of East Grinstead; although extreme age may have shorn some of its beauties, still it bears the mark of having been, formerly, a handsome building, and presents an interesting object for the antiquarian.

I have promised myself not to go crazy buying postcards, so I will only be looking for postcards that will help illustrate the story of my ancestors. I would really like to be able to find a postcard of the High Street showing their shop, of course it will be many years after my ancestors had moved on, but it would at least take me back a bit closer to their time.

Sometimes everything works!

27 Mar

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?

  1. Two slightly different newspaper reports of the Coroners inquest into the death of Jane GEERING, from Eastbourne Library.
  2. 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.
  3. Visited Hailsham church and took some photos. There are not many legible headstones still standing and the ground was very wet.
  4. 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.
  5. Found all the missing baptism entries for my GEERINGs from a set of transcriptions and indexes at Hailsham Library.
  6. Visited and photographed the row of houses (Cobden Place) where Jane GEERING was living before she died.
  7. Walked the route from Cobden Place to Common Pond, a short journey (less than two minutes walk).
  8. 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.

Building a community around the GEERINGs of Hailsham

26 Mar

I am building up a supporting cast of individuals who were in some way connected to my GEERING ancestors. Some may actually be related in one way or another, but it by no means obvious at first glance.

The list seems to grow with every new piece of evidence that comes to light. Some are more closely connected than others, most will only need brief investigation to identify the relationship, but other will need some deeper research.

The list of individuals has come from many sources:

Thomas Geering (the author of the book Our Sussex Parish) is almost certainly related to my GEERING family, but no link has emerged yet and he doesn’t mention a link in his book.

Francis Howlett (resident of Hailsham) after whom one of my GEERING relations appears to have been named.

William Allen (mentioned in the will of Richard GEERING) was apparently an occupier of land or buildings owned by Richard GEERING.

Ann Shelley (witness to the will of Richard GEERING) could be a friend, relation or neighbour, or of course a complete stranger.

John Sinnock (witness to the will of Richard GEERING) may be a friend or relation, but could also also be a solicitor, as there was a firm of solicitors in Hailsham by that name.

I Evans (witness to the will of Richard GEERING) could be a friend, relation or neighbour. No idea what the letter I stands for?

Samuel Sinnock (witness to the will of Mary GEERING) may be a friend or relation, but could also also be a solicitor, as there was a firm of solicitors in Hailsham by that name.

Sophia Sinnock (witness to the will of Mary GEERING) may be a friend or relation, but could also be related to the firm of solicitors in Hailsham by that name.

James Martin (registered the death of James GEERING) who was the man who was present at the death of James GEERING?

Sophia Roberts (registered the death of Ann GEERING) who was the woman who was present at the death of Ann GEERING?

It looks like I have plenty of work to get on with. I am sure there must be one or two relations amongst that lot, but either way the process of investigating them will no doubt reveal more about the lives of my ancestors.

Death certificate of Jane GEERING (at last something interesting)

25 Mar

This is the third of this month’s certificate order, actually it is for Jane GEARING, but hopefully that is close enough for me to have the right person, probably the daughter of James GEERING my 5x great-grandfather.

This is by far the most interesting of the three certificates, but like the other two it doesn’t provide the evidence that I was hoping for. Jane died on the 15th September 1874 aged 76 years. Her occupation is given as singlewoman, which matches her census entries.

The place of death is the most interesting I have seen, usually it only gives a village or town, sometimes a workhouse or hospital if I am lucky. Jane’s certificate gives a very precise place of death, Common Pond, Hailsham.

The cause of death gives more clarification, “Found drowned in the Common Pond”. Not surprisingly the informant was the Coroner for East Sussex, after an inquest held on the 16th September 1874. The death was actually registered on the 21st September 1874.

This of course opens up more avenues of research, the official coroners report (if it survived) and any newspaper reports her death and the inquest. Also it poses so many questions. Was it suicide? Was it a tragic accident? How was she found? Had she gone missing?

Perhaps I shall never find the answers to these questions, but she has provided yet another interesting story, and of course more research to add to the growing to-do list.

The good news is that Common Pond, Hailsham still exists, although the common itself has all but disappeared.

Death certificate of Ann GEERING

24 Mar

The next of the three death certificates ordered this month is for Ann GEERING who I believe to be the sister of my 5x great-grandfather James GEERING.

Ann GEERING died in Hailsham, Sussex on the 2nd March 1864 aged 81 years. Her occupation is given as chemist, which is consistent with her census entries in 1841, 1851 and 1861. Her cause of death is given as enteritis (24 hours). Her death was registered on the 5th March 1864 by Sophia Roberts, who was present at the death.

I don’t know who Sophia Roberts is, whether she is related to the GEERING family or not, so I need to add her to my list of people in Hailsham to research.

There is a Sophia Roberts living in Hailsham in 1861, with her husband Charles and eight children. In the 1851 census Charles and Sophia Roberts are in Hailsham and his occupation is given as orange and nut dealer.

So another possible lead. Is there any significance in the name of informant on this (or James’) death certificate. Only time (and more research) will tell.

Death certificate of James GEERING

23 Mar

The earliest of the three death certificates I ordered this month was for James GEERING, who I believe to be my 5x great-grandfather.

James died on the 15th January 1850 in Hailsham, Sussex aged 73. His occupation was given as chemist, which agrees with the occupation given in the 1841 census. His cause of death was Chronic Bronchitis (3 years) and Influenza (3 days). His death was registered on the 19th January 1850 by James Martin of Hailsham who was present at the death.

I was hoping that the name of the informant would give me some evidence of a connection with the GEERING family in Lewes, Sussex. Unfortunately I have no James Martin in my family tree yet, but there are a couple of Martins living in Lewes with some of my relations in 1861, one of whom is identified as a grand-daughter.

The 1851 census shows 30 year old James Martin and his wife Martha living in Hailsham. He is shown as a master shoemaker and was born in Hailsham, and Martha was from Bermondsey, Surrey.

It is clear that I need to add this Martin family to my research as well now, another step towards building a community history rather than just my personal family history.

Francis HOWLETT and Francis Howlett GEERING, were they related?

22 Mar

Last week I wrote a post about another piece of the GEERING jigsaw slotting into place. This concerned Francis Howlett GEERING, a grandson of my 5x great-grandfather James GEERING of Hailsham, Sussex.

This evidence seemed to suggest that James’ wife was Ann HOWLETT, although I did suggest that this might just be a coincidence, but worth looking into further.

Last night I discovered another piece of evidence which caused me to question the link. Looking at Our Sussex Parish by Thomas Geering I discovered that there was a Francis HOWLETT living in Hailsham.

Francis Howlett, comedian, schoolmaster, postmaster, tax-collector, vestry clerk, printer, travelling librarian, musician, and general referee, became a trusted and honoured man in our parish, and living to be over eighty, departed leaving no enemy behind him.

This of course raises concerns about whether Ann’s maiden name was HOWLETT. It seems almost inconceivable that Francis Howlett GEERING wasn’t named after this well-known and respected local figure.

The obvious question is why?

I am hoping it is because there is a family connection (through James’ wife Ann) but that might not be the case. Ann and Francis HOWLETT are probably from the same generation, so if they are related they may be siblings.

Now I am not sure if I need to take that piece of the jigsaw out, or whether I can actually fit in another piece. One thing is certain, this research project is certainly expanding way beyond my direct ancestors and is starting to gather connections across a wider range of individuals. It is transitioning from family history to community history.

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