The daily life of a Victorian rail worker

The diaries of a 19th century Balcombe resident have been made into a book - by a descendant of the original diarist.

Thomas Ireland, of Diamond Cottage, Balcombe, is described as a railway signalman in the census records.

However, his diary indicates that he spent much of his time working at another job, cutting wood and making barrel hoops.

John Ireland has based ‘Hoops and Signals, the story

of a Sussex Great-Grandfather’ on his ancestor’s diaries.

It will be published by Country Books on January 11, price £6.99. Any profits will go to the Woodland Trust.

An excerpt from the book: ‘As Thomas awoke and rolled out of bed in one move he could just make out the clock hands in the half dawn. Five o’clock. Time to light the lamp, make up the fire and put the kettle on the hob for breakfast for his still sleeping wife and children before he dressed in his railway uniform.

‘He wound his watch and checked the waistcoat pockets. Yes, his pocket New Testament was there, and so was his diary with its inscription on the cover: ‘Thomas Ireland. Diary for 1876’. You never knew; there just might be time between trains to get up to date with his reading and writing. In twenty minutes he had dressed, packed his sandwich box and, as Ellen had now risen, said good bye to her. Then he set off on the path through the woods that led down to the north end of Balcombe tunnel.’