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.

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