Tag Archives: thomas geering

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.

Is “The Old Druggist” my 6x great-grandmother (Part 1: What I know about the old druggist)

25 Feb

In his book Our Sussex Parish, Thomas Geering has a story entitled “The Old Druggist: Her Shop And Her Lodger”. In the story he describes Mrs Gearing (who was the druggist) and Captain Barclay (who was the lodger).

I had never heard of Captain Barclay before, but I have since discovered (through the story and online research) that he was a celebrated pedestrian, who carried out various walking feats, mostly it seems for money, such as walking a 1000 miles in a 1000 hours for a wager of 1000 guineas.

Of course the real interest for me is whether Mrs Gearing the druggist, is my 6x great-grandmother. My gut instinct is that she is, but there is just not enough evidence yet for me to be 100% certain.

My own research has taken my GEERING ancestors back to Hailsham, Sussex. My 4x great-grandfather Richard GEERING was born in Hailsham in 1805 and appears to be the son of James and Ann GEERING. This is really as far back as I can confidently go so far.

I haven’t found a marriage for James and Ann, but it looks like James was the son of Richard and Mary GEERING, baptised in Hailsham on the 26th December 1776. Richard GEERING and Mary JARVIS were married in Hailsham on the 29th August 1776.

The 1841 census shows a household in Hailsham, which appears to relate to my ancestors, but the relationship is a bit confusing, because they are not included in the 1841 census. The first person in the household is Ann GEERING (aged 55), then we have John GEERING (aged 60) and Jane GEERING (aged 35).

Normally if John and Ann were married I would expect John to be listed first, so these are probably not husband and wife (maybe brother and sister). Both Ann and John GEERING have given their occupation as druggist.

John died before the 1851 census, but Ann and Jane are still living together in Hailsham. Ann (aged 67) is shown as unmarried, with the occupation of chemist and druggist. Jane (aged 53) has no occupation and her relationship to Ann is given as niece. My guess is that Jane was the daughter of James, and James was the brother of Ann.

Pigot’s Directory of Sussex for both 1832-4 and 1839 list a Mary GEERING as a “chymist and druggist” in Hailsham. This information may be out of date because I suspect that Mary actually died in 1825.

My hypothesis is that both Ann and James were the children of Richard and Mary GEERING, my 6x great-grandparents, and that the druggist business passed down from Richard and Mary, to just Mary, then to Ann and James, and then just Ann (probably assisted by Jane).

My problem is going to be finding the evidence to support this. The only child that I can find for Richard and Mary GEERING is James, no sign of Ann. I have found three children for James and Ann GEERING, but no sign of Jane.

As you will see in my next post, Thomas Geering’s story about the old druggist does provide a few clues which may fill in some details on the family.

Who was Thomas Geering?

24 Feb

Thomas Geering was the author of the book Our Sussex Parish and appears to have spent most (if not all) of his life in Hailsham, Sussex. Having spent some time looking into his background I have been unable to find an obvious connection with my GEERING ancestors from Hailsham.

Thomas Geering Thomas (pictured left) was born on the 6th September 1813 and baptised on the 31st October 1813 at Ebenezer Chapel, Alfriston, Sussex. His parents were Thomas GEERING and Elizabeth HOLMAN, who had married in Alfriston parish church on the 30th November 1812. It looks like Thomas and Elizabeth may have had another two or three children.

Thomas followed his father’s footsteps into a career as shoemaker and currier, based in Hailsham. By the 1851 census Thomas’ father has died and he is running the business with his mother. In the 1871 census Thomas is employing seven men and two boys in his business, however by 1881 he is only employing five men.

In Q2 1854 Thomas married Frances HOLMAN in Hailsham Registration District. The couple only had one child, Emma, whose birth was registered in Hailsham Registration District in Q1 1858. Thomas died in 1889 and was buried at Hailsham parish church on the 3rd May 1889 aged 75 years. Frances appears to have carried on the business for a while after Thomas’ death. Frances herself died in 1903.

So where does this leave me, well I can’t make a connection to my family yet, in fact I can’t confidently go back beyond Thomas’ father. I have a similar problem with my own GEERING ancestors, things start to get confusing once I get back around 1800.

Only time (and more research) will tell if there is a connection between the two sets of GEERINGs. There is however one story in the book that seems to relate to my ancestors, the story of “The Old Druggist: Her Shop And Her Lodger”, more about that later.

Our Sussex Parish by Thomas Geering

23 Feb

I mentioned the book Our Sussex Parish by Thomas Geering in my weekly to-do list. It is interesting to me because the parish in the title is Hailsham, Sussex and I have traced my GEERING ancestors back to Hailsham.

The book itself has quite an interesting history, it was first published in 1884 as Our Parish: A Medley. It didn’t achieve any real recognition until it was re-discovered by the well-known Sussex writer Arthur Beckett, who was instrumental in getting the volume re-published in 1925 by Methuen.

The 1925 edition included a foreword by Beckett, and Beckett also grouped the chapters together into three categories: “Our Sussex Parish And Its Institutions”, “Some Personalities In Our Parish” and “Sketches And Tales Of Our Parish”. He also removed some of the longer stories from the book.

In 2001 the book was re-published by Piccadilly Rare Books of Ticehurst, Sussex. This was limited to only 100 copies, and appears to have been a straight re-print of the 1925 edition.

The book was re-published again in 2003 by Country Books, in essentially the same format, but with an extra chapter which featured a story entitled “The Old Sussex Bookseller”, and a new introduction by Richard Knowles.

Copies of the first edition are as rare as hen’s teeth, but the more recent editions can be found in second-hand shops or websites, as well as in libraries.

Thomas Geering’s writing is so evocative of a time gone by, take for example his notes on inns and public houses:

Man, being gregarious, must have a common meeting-place, be he poor or be he rich – the public-house for the toiler, the club-house for the independent man, where any matter may be talked over, if not finally settled, where refreshments may be had, and the thirsty soul gratified, if not satisfied.

Or his description of the blacksmith:

…. a round-eyed, fierce, wild-looking man, rarely seen out of his ragged leathern apron, but withal, as gentle as a lamb; he who made his own songs, and sang them to his own tunes, to the stroke of his hammer as the sparks flew out of his shop window ….

I can see why Arthur Beckett was so enamoured of Geering’s work, but I still need to work out if Thomas Geering was a relation of mine and do his stories mention any of my relations.

My genealogy to-do list for the week ahead (week 8)

21 Feb

More of the same I am afraid this week. I am still struggling to find real focus in my research, and I think that is the way it will stay whilst I am sorting through my folders.

The only exception seems to be the GEERING family and the book by Thomas GEERING. His book seems to mention my ancestors, even if a connection with Thomas himself can’t be found, but I need to find more evidence to prove this.

My visit to the Pub History Society Conference has encouraged me to get more actively involved in pub history research again. I am not quite sure how this will manifest itself, I have at least one unfinished project on my shelf, and I had several ideas that I never developed, as well as several family connections.

  • Continue working through my digital files updating Family Historian and sorting out folders and standardising my filenames.
  • Create a research plan for the GEERINGs of Hailsham, and see what options I have for further research.
  • Make my final preparations for Who Do You Think You Are? Live next weekend.
  • Brainstorm some ideas on doing some more pub history research and getting it published (another blog?)
  • I must make a final effort to get myself interested in researching the BATEMAN family from Gloucestershire, so far they just haven’t hooked me. I think I need to take a step back and not blame the BATEMANs for not being interesting, but rather work out what is putting me off.

My genealogy to-do list for the week ahead (week 7)

14 Feb

There doesn’t really seem to be much focus in my research at the moment, I seem to be darting all over the place at the moment as I tidy up lose ends and sort through my files.

Occasionally I will settle on one particular family or individual and dig a bit deeper, filling in more details and deciding in which direction I want to take my research.

This week I expect more of the same, with one exception. I have learnt about a book by Thomas GEERING entitled Our Sussex Parish which was first published in 1884. The parish in question is Hailsham, Sussex. My GEERING ancestors have been traced back to Hailsham, so there is a good chance that Thomas GEERING was a relation. This needs investigating, and may provide some clues to my own ancestry.

  • Continue working through my digital files updating Family Historian and sorting out folders and standardising my filenames.
  • Make another attempt to find something about the BATEMAN family from Gloucestershire that is going to get me hooked on researching this family.
  • Find out who Thomas GEERING was, and investigate the GEERINGs in Hailsham to see if I can make a connection and progress my research on that branch of my tree.
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