George Mockford (1826-1899): Home and Family – Writing Lives

George Mockford (1826-1899): Home and Family


The eldest surviving member of twelve children, George Mockford was born in Southerham, Lewes, Sussex on 27 Dec 1826 to Isaac Mockford, a poor shepherd and Elizabeth Payne. George Mockford married Anslie Elizabeth Harris and together they have two daughters and four sons, and lived at Ebenezer Cottage, next door to the Chapel where George was minister.

George Mockford and Ansile Harris

When reminiscing on his childhood, Mockford does not look back with much fondness, but expresses considerable resentment towards his parents. Writing of the chores he had to endure, it is clear that the young boy did not get to enjoy a carefree childhood as he quickly took on much responsibility as the eldest child. Domestic chores were clearly viewed by his parents as more important than schoolwork. Young George was often prevented from going to school in order to keep to tidy the home and look after his siblings: “as soon as I was old enough, to be mother’s help, to nurse the baby, clean the house, and do sewing like a girl, so that I was not only prevented from playing with other boys, but also from going to school.” Unlike most other autobiographies of the working class during this time period, Mockford’s gender did not effect his working role in his family household, as his parents did not allow him to conform to the roles of a ‘man’s job’ or a ‘woman’s job’ but still made him sew and look after his younger siblings. However, work outside the home differed as it was clear when Mockford was withdrawn from school at the early age of 10 that he was required to take on the role of “shepherd boy” and ultimately follow in his father’s footsteps due to the family’s poverty. With the money he made being taken off him by his father, Rockford recalls the basic meals that he and his siblings ate throughout their childhood: “the food for us young ones consisting of little else than potatoes with little bacon fat on them.”

Describing his parents as “church people”, Mockford relates their strong distaste for dissenters. It is fair to argue that Mockford’s parents allowed their children to grow up fearing in God, as Mockford recalls conversations he overheard as his parents spoke of the devil, hell, and judgement day as these old fashioned individuals allowed their children to live in fear and guilt. It was not until Mockford had a conversation with strangers that his knowledge of religion began to grow, and therefore allowed his spiritual awakening.

One George Mockford’s children, Isaac who was a grocer and draper, he and his wife, Annie, went on to have two children: William Mockford, born in 1881, and Esther Mockford, born in 1883. The 1891 census records that they lived at Broadoak Cottage, under the same roof, it would appear, as a family called Richardson and also John Mockford and his family. John was a younger brother of Isaac, who also married before he was of full age. In 1891 he was working as a grocer and draper, presumably assisting Isaac. Mockford started selling his own postcards of Broad Oak and Heathfield in about 1905. Some of the cards were real photographics, but others were halftone copies of photographic prints. The cards were usually signed “I. Mockford” or “Isaac Mockford, Heathfield” on the front, though some were anonymous. In about 1910 Mockford started selling some more professional looking sepia-tinted real photographic cards with neat handwritten titles. Although he probably took the photographs, an anonymous firm, widely believed to have been Bender and Co. of Croydon, carried out the printing of the cards. This firm supplied cards with titles written with the same distinctive handwriting to shopkeepers all over Sussex and in many other counties. Mockford, himself, sold cards of this type of not just Heathfield but also Burwash. By 1915 Mockford had begun issuing a second series of sepia-tinted real photographics of Broad Oak with machine-printed titles in tiny capitals.

One of Isaac Mockford’s postcards


Work Cited

Mockford, G. (1901) Wilderness Journeyings and Gracious Deliverances: The Autobiography of George Mockford, : J.C. Pembrey.

Images Cited

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