VIDEO: Changing of Billingshurst’s social class charted in new history book

The ‘changing of the old guard’ in Billingshurst’s social scene at the turn of the 19th century is one of the many topics that make up a new book on the village’s history.

Geoffrey Lawes, 83, who lives in East Street and is a former headteacher of The Weald School and also served as both a district and county councillor, has completed volume two of his history of Billingshurst.

JPCT 131213 Geoffrey Lawes written new book on Billingshurst. Photo by Derek Martin

JPCT 131213 Geoffrey Lawes written new book on Billingshurst. Photo by Derek Martin

While his first book, published in January, focused on the village’s geographical evolution, ‘Billingshurst’s Heritage Number Two: An Historical Miscellany of a West Sussex Village’ looks at the more modern social aspect of the village and the surrounding hamlets including Adversane, Five Oaks, and Parbrook.

He said: “It’s got a few surprises for people who think they know about people from Billingshurst.

“What I found interesting personally where what I would regard as the old guard who lasted until about the end of the 19th century how they disappeared as leaders of the community and gave way to the economic toffs who came from brewers and developers when the railways came.”

According to the book when the traditional yeoman farmers sold off their land, they were replaced with a new breed of community leaders, the industrialists, who enjoyed their new countryside retreats.

The book has more than 120 photographs, sketches and illustrations, and charts the history of businesses, pubs, social clubs, football and cricket teams, bellringers, lions, and the dramatic, choral and horticultural societies.

Mr Lawes, who has also published works on beekeeping and the history of the Weald School, added: “I absolutely enjoyed it. I have done it for my own pleasure and it’s also a service.”

He hoped the book would be a good reference point for those new to Billingshurst and thanked both John Hurd and Wendy Lines for their original research.

He added: “What I have really done is aggregate the work of other people, the living and the dead. That’s how I view myself as an author.”

Copies of the book are available at Park & Brown Optometrists in Billingshurst High Street at £12 each. Both volume one and two can be purchased for £20.