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Poor Cottages and Proud Palaces

Poor Cottages and Proud Palaces

Poor Cottages and Proud Palaces

Ref: HPL-BK07

Supplied by Hastings Press.

The Life and work of the Reverend Thomas Sockett of Petworth.

Sockett's newspaper obituary suggested that the life of a country clergyman necessarily offered little of interest. This was not true of Thomas Sockett.

Born in East London the son of a Nonconformist, impoverished bookseller, Tom's youthful skill with the fashionable electrical shock machine opened up his intellectual and geographical horizons introducing him to the poet, William Cowper, in Buckinghamshire, and the writer, William Hayley, who took him to Sussex.

Aged seventeen, Tom was then sent to Sheffield Park to live with the servants but to help Lord Sheffield produce Edward Gibbon’s Memoirs.

Two years later, with Hayley’s recommendation, Tom moved into Petworth House as tutor to the sons of the third Earl of Egremont and Elizabeth Ilive.

His journal, written between 1805 and 1807 - included here in full - tells of his life in the Friendly Palace;
teaching the Wyndham boys;
playing tennis and hunting with aristocratic French emigres;
dining at neighbouring big houses;
serving in the Petworth yeomanry,
and finishes as he goes to Oxford sponsored by the third Earl, who presented him with the rectories of North Scarle in Lincolnshire, Duncton and Petworth in Sussex.

Sockett could then get married. His family history, and demanding work as an Anglican Rector and aide to the Wyndham family, is revealed in the multitude of his letters and business papers in the Petworth House Archives.

Responsible for despatching two thousand emigrants to Canada Sockett fought the stringencies of the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act and Hawley, the Assistant Poor Law Commissioner, on behalf of his poor parishioners and appeared before three Parliamentary Committees.

George Sockett, his eldest child, emigrated to Canada and it is there that Sockett's descendants have proliferated and flourished.

His great-great-great grandson, Gary Wilson has contributed a final chapter on the history of George and Ruth and their children in Ontario.

By Sheila Haines and Leigh Lawson.