Tag Archives: lewes

Making the News: The four Hemsley brothers from Framfield, Sussex

15 May

Probably the most unusual article I discovered on my recent trawl of the British Newspaper Archive concerned four probable relatives from Framfield, Sussex.


To the Editor of the Sussex Advertiser and Surrey Gazette.

MR EDITOR,- Will you favor me with an odd corner in your paper for the following:-

  Four brothers, named Hemsley, living at Framfield, gave a challenge to shoot with any four brothers in the county, out and home. I accepted the challenge on behalf of four brothers, in Lewes, named Baker, and tossed with the Hemsleys’ backer for the choice of the first match, which I won; and it was arranged between us to come off in Lewes.

  Strange to say, the boasting challengers have shewn a white feather, and decline the trial of skill!

  Now, Sir, will you allow me space to say, that on behalf of the Bakers, I publicly challenge the Hemsleys to shoot a match (out and home) at six birds each man; or to make a match (out and home) with a larger number of men on each side if they prefer it.

  If they decline this, I recommend them to boast less for the future, and not give a challenge they do not intend to fulfil if accepted.


Southover, Lewes,
7th March, 1851.

This letter was published in the Sussex Advertiser on the 11th March 1851. Unfortunately I couldn’t find out whether any match did take place or who the boasting Hemsley brothers actually were. It is quite likely that they were relatives, most of the Hemsleys in Framfield seem to have been related to me in one way or another.

Without any more information I am not going to be able to do much more with this article, but it is a lovely glimpse into life 160 years ago nonetheless, which admittedly doesn’t paint the Hemsleys in a very good light.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Use It or Lose It – A visit to East Sussex Record Office

19 Mar

It’s that time of year again. My holiday year runs out at the end of the month and if I don’t I use my last couple of days holiday then I will lose them. What better excuse than that to indulge in some family history research.

It was a beautiful day today, if a little chilly to start with, and I wondered whether I should have been walking rather than shutting myself away in East Sussex Record Office. The journey down to Lewes, East Sussex gave some splendid views of the South Downs. The short grass and low sun highlighting the curves and texture of hill-side, if I had been wearing my walking boots instead of my shoes then the day would have been completely different.

East Sussex Record Office

I can’t remember the last time I visited the East Sussex Record Office or any other archive for that matter, although I am sure looking back through my blog posts would tell me. Looking at my to-do list it was obvious that I hadn’t been to an archive for a long time.

There were a couple of high priority items for this visit concerning Finding Minnie, checking the marriage entry for Kate Allison and Patrick Vaughan and checking the baptism register for High Hurstwood.

After that the plan was to collect as much other data as possible and clearing as many items from my to-do list along the way.

One thing that became obvious whilst I was preparing for this visit was that my to-do list is not really up to the job, something that I am going to have to take another look at in the near future. At least I have a better idea of what is needed now.

I was quite pleased with myself when I used my Family Historian software on my netbook to quickly create an ad hoc to-do list for Brighton marriages to check. It would be very easy to do this with many other facts, but things could easily get out of hand. The question is not so much what don’t I know, but what do I want to find out.

All in all it was a good day, the record office was quiet (a shortage of staff and users) and I have come away with several pages of baptisms, marriages and burials for High Hurstwood, Framfield and Brighton that need processing and one important piece of evidence about Patrick Vaughan that will enable me to move my research forward.

Copyright © 2012 John Gasson.
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Open Day at East Sussex Record Office

31 Oct

I have to admit I was in two minds about whether to make my way down to Lewes, East Sussex on Sunday for the Family History Open Day at the East Sussex Record Office. Being a Sunday public transport was an issue and the weather wasn’t particularly brilliant either, but in the end I was glad I went.

I was a little disappointed to find it so busy, I know that is good for them, but it did make things a little awkward in the cramped surroundings of the record office and meant that I didn’t get chance to take one of the behind the scenes tour, which were booked up until well into the afternoon.

The search room itself was a buzz of activity compared to its usual quiet atmosphere. There were two local family history society stalls here, representatives of the local library service, a display on the new record office “The Keep” and a selection of documents on display.

Most visitors however seemed to be taking the opportunity to explore the shelves around the outside of the search room, where various books, catalogues and transcriptions are held. Not wishing to be left out I took the opportunity to take a look at some Brighton Directories to see if I could find some mention of Frank TROWER’s brother, but to no avail.

For me though the most fascinating and instructive experience of my visit was watching the conservator at work, demonstrating how to clean a map and discussing other aspects of document preservation and conservation, and how to use a nutmeg grater when cleaning a map!

It was a really good day, with the cramped environment of the record office being the only drawback on the whole event. This just highlights the need for a new record office and fortunately work has recently begun on the new building, although it will be a couple of years before it opens for business.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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Family History Open Day at East Sussex Record Office – Sunday 30th October 2011

24 Oct

East Sussex Record Office will be hosting a Family History Open Day on Sunday 30th October 2011 between 10am and 4pm.

According to their website there will be a range of activites available throughtout the day, with some specially designed for children and families. Download the pdf from their website for more details.

I have spent many hours in the ESRO (not as many as I would like), but this will be a great opportunity to have a good look around and see what goes on behind the scenes, as well as being able to “ask the experts” about some of my more problematic relatives.

Hopefully the weather will stay fine and I can not only explore inside the record office but perhaps I will have the chance to explore more of the town of Lewes at the same time, or perhaps even escape to the surrounding hills for a little stroll.

Ancestral Profile: Ellen NICHOLLS (c1847-1897)

8 Mar

Ellen NICHOLLS was my 3x great-grandmother and she is one of the most troublesome individuals in my family tree. It is not that her life was that different from any of my other ancestors, just that find the records has not been quite so straight-forward as it should have been.

Her birth and childhood have been particularly tricky to trace and whilst I have a pretty good idea in my head about where Ellen came from, I don’t have the evidence yet to prove it. It shouldn’t be tricky to prove it if I am correct (it just means spending a bit of time and money).

What I do know about Ellen’s birth comes from various census returns. They all give her place of birth as Chiddingstone, Kent and a date around 1846-1847. I only know that her maiden name was NICHOLLS from the birth certificate of her first son William (my 2x great-grandfather).

I have not been able to find a marriage certificate for Ellen NICHOLLS and William GEERING (although I have only searched the GRO Indexes, not the locally kept indexes) so I don’t know for certain the name of Ellen’s father.

William GEERING and Ellen certainly lived as husband and wife, even if they weren’t officially so. The first record I have of them together is the birth registration of their son William in 1868, however he isn’t baptised until 1875 at the same time as two of his younger sisters. This apparent disregard for baptisms and the church may explain why there is no marriage record.

It appears that the couple had seven children in all, all born and baptised (eventually) in Lewes, Sussex apart from the last two for whom I have not found baptism records yet:

  1. William GEERING (born Q3 1868, baptised 5 January 1875)
  2. Ellen GEERING (born Q4 1869, baptised 5 January 1875)
  3. Emily GEERING (born Q4 1872, baptised 5 January 1875)
  4. Clara Gertrude GEERING (born Q1 1875, baptised 7 October 1877)
  5. Edith GEERING (born Q3 1877, baptised 7 October 1877)
  6. Richard Thomas GEERING (born Q3 1879)
  7. Arthur GEERING (born Q2 1884)

The family lived at a variety of addresses in Lewes, in 1868 when William was born they were living in Sun Street. In 1871 they were living in Priory Street and in subsequent census returns they were living at 11 St. Nicholas Lane.

Ellen’s death was registered in Q1 1897. I don’t have a copy of her death certificate so I don’t know what the cause was, but she was aged 49 years at the time. She was buried on the 16th March 1897 at All Saints Church, Lewes, Sussex.


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