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A fitting tribute

A small party of George Sturt enthusiasts gathered recently at Green Lane cemetery to pay tribute to the restoration of the graves of George Sturt and his sisters Susan and Mary.

Over the years, Farnham craft town has been home to many creative people among them, George Sturt who was born in Farnham in 1863 and lived here until he died in 1927. He is buried alongside his sisters Mary and Susan.

To mark the 150th anniversary of Sturt’s birth, the Bourne Conservation Group approached Farnham Town Council to see whether the graves of Sturt and his sisters could be restored.

Councillor Carole Cockburn, Lead Member for Cemeteries says: “After we were contacted by the Bourne Conservation Group we approached a number of local funeral directors and were delighted when H C Patrick of Farnham, which is part of Dignity Funeral Services, agreed to sponsor a new memorial stone for Sturt’s grave. To complete the restoration we have also added new chippings and cleaned the stone edges of the graves.”

Commenting on Sturt’s life in Farnham, Richard Sandars, Secretary of the Bourne Conservation Group says: “As an educated man, interested in culture and the arts, with his roots firmly in contemporary middle class society, Sturt had an unusual respect and empathy for the villagers of the Bourne, among whom he lived, and the craftsmen with whom he worked at the family wheelwright’s shop in East Street, where Swain and Jones is now located.

“Largely overshadowed by William Cobbett, his reputation as a writer and keen observer of daily life and social interactions in a small community struggling to come to terms with profound social upheaval extended well beyond Farnham. Of The Wheelwright’s Shop (1923) The New Statesman correctly predicted this could well become a classic, while the Times Literary Supplement remarked it ‘shows the author’s combination of the gifts of the handicraftsman with the powers of a writer in a way not common in English literature’.”

Explaining why H C Patrick agreed to sponsor the memorial stone, Maksims Cmihovs, Funeral Manager from Dignity says: “H C Patrick of Farnham is proud to have served many generations of local families. We were established by the Patrick family in 1860, which is just three years before George Sturt was born. I find it fascinating to think about how we may well have provided funeral services for some of the people Sturt wrote about in his journals. I am very pleased that we have been able to help preserve the memory of George Sturt by providing a memorial stone to commemorate his life.”

In the early days of his writing career, George Sturt wrote under the pen name George Bourne. As well as his journals, Sturt wrote ten books including The Bettesworth Book, The Wheelwright’s Shop and Memoirs of a Surrey Labourer. His final work was published in 1927. The book was called A Small Boy in the Sixties and was a record of Sturt’s early life as a boy growing up in Victorian Farnham.

George Sturt’s book The Wheelwright’s Shop was the inspiration for an exhibition at The Tilford Rural Life Centre. Visitors can see a replica wheelwright’s shop as well some of the tools which once belonged to Sidney Wheeler who was an apprentice of George Sturt. Tales about George Sturt can also be found at the Museum of Farnham in West Street.

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