In 424 pages, illustrated and fully indexed, Dr Poole uses original sources throughout to explore in detail the families and individuals who lived and worked in this West Sussex parish over 300 years. Over nine chapters he puts Fittleworth in its ecological and administrative context, and covers local industry, especially farming, and the coming of turnpikes and waterways. On family life, from courtship to burial, he exposes the incidence of illegitimacy and bridal pregnancy and traces family build-up, child mortality, duration of marriage and life expectancy, as well as life’s traumas and criminal activity.
Subsequent chapters cover local gentry and the three key families which spanned the whole period, and go on to deal with the yeoman and husbandman families of the parish and their contribution to a society which cared for its least privileged. He moves on to the craftsmen of the parish, including blacksmiths, carpenters, and bricklayers, and the retailers like cloth-workers, shoemakers, millers, innkeepers and grocers. He closes by considering labourers and the poor, the provisions made for them and the hardships they faced, and covers the Swing riots, the Poor House and the Petworth emigration to Canada. Family pedigrees feature throughout, and stories of murder, gambling and spying enliven the text.