Separating myth and reality in new village history book

A fascinating history of Billingshurst is on sale by one of the village’s best-known figures, a former councillor and headteacher.

Geoffrey Lawes, 82, who lives in East Street, served as headmaster of The Weald School, served as both a county and district councillor, and has authored many books on the topic of beekeeping.

The book is available to buy from him directly at Mill Barn in East Street, or at Park and Brown Optometrists in Billingshurst High Street for £12.

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Mr Lawes said: “It’s effectively collating sources. An interesting aspect was trying to distinguish between myth from reality.

“Every village is supposed to have an underground tunnel in the church for smugglers.

“The anecdotal information you take with a pinch of salt but I very much enjoyed doing it, compiling 150 photographs and sketches and graphs to make the book more like a textbook.”

The project to put together ‘Billingshurst Heritage - a Short History of a West Sussex Village’ started when Mr Lawes was looking at the history of his neighbour’s house in East Street.

That led him to look at the earliest records of East Street, as many of the village’s old major buildings were located on the road; the catholic church, the old school, and workhouse.

“It started with one place and moved outwards and then to East Street, and then the whole village.”

He said he was indebted to the original research of Wendy Lines, Paul Smith, and John Hurd.