Southwick historian Ted Heasman, known for his extensive local knowledge and collection of historic photographs, dies at the age of 96

A born and bred Southwick character known for his extensive knowledge of local history has died at the age of 96.

Wednesday, 22nd September 2021, 10:41 am

Ted Heasman wrote Bygones articles for the Shoreham Herald, some of which were turned into books by the Southwick Society, and gave many walks and talks to share his stories of the past.

He was born in Grange Road, Southwick, above his parents’ shop, The Candy Stores, and was the eldest of five children. He started work as a window cleaner at the age of 14, a job he continued to retirement.

During the Second World War, Ted was a radar operator in the Royal Navy. For the first six months, he was on the Isle of Man and then, at Christmas in 1943, his ship set sail for Asia, where he spent two years on several vessels – sailing along the coast of Burma, in the Bay of Bengal, and to Sri Lanka.

Ted Heasman with his book More Memories of Southwick, featuring a picture of himself on his first day of work as a window cleaner at the age of 14. Picture: Liz Pearce S11020H14

Ted married his wife Kathleen on February 12, 1949. They moved to Shoreham about 40 years ago and were married for 71 years before she died about 18 months ago.

Ted was always interested in local history and over the years, he built up a considerable knowledge of Southwick’s past, together with a large collection of historic photographs. His detailed knowledge and research of the area, buildings and local people proved invaluable.

In 2002, Ted agreed to write articles for the Shoreham Herald’s Bygones Extra column, later renamed Golden Years Extra. Over 11 years, he wrote 102 articles, despite failing eyesight.

Around 2003, he began to be affected by dry age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in older people. It meant he had to give up driving but he was able to cycle with his brother-in-law David for a while, before having to give that up, too.

Ted Heasman on his first day of work as a window cleaner, at the age of 14

Ted had an amazing memory and continued to give talks. It was thanks to his sister Janet that he was able to continue writing, as she typed up his dictated articles.

In 2009, Southwick Society chairman Mary Candy arranged 19 of the earlier articles in the book Memories of Southwick & Kingston Buci by W.A. (Ted) Heasman, which also featured photographs from Ted’s extensive collection.

It was a huge success and in 2014, More Memories of Southwick was published, featuring more of Ted’s Bygones articles.

Mary said: “Ted was a lovely man. I only knew him for the relatively short period of about 25 years but many Wickers have known him all their lives.

“His job cleaning windows brought him into contact with so many people. He had spent his life talking to locals and picking up bits of information. He was great friends with Ken Voice, who lived in King Charles Cottage, and he told me once that he used to go round to see Ken and get his father Ron to talk to him about things. He said that it was listening to Ron Voice’s memories of Southwick’s past that inspired him to set down his own memories of Southwick. He also spent a great deal of time at West Sussex Records Office pouring over documents and maps.

“It was his love of local history which brought us together and I had the pleasure of putting together two books containing some of his Bygones articles. Typical of his generosity, he did not want any money from the sale of the books, the money for both being shared between the Southwick Society, 4Sight and Blind Veterans UK.

“His talks to the Southwick Society were always packed to overflowing. He had a large collection of photo albums which he generously lent around to anyone interested in local history.

“Although his vision deteriorated and he was nearly blind Ted would be, until a few years ago, out and about regularly walking from his home in Shoreham to Southwick. It was his memory which amazed me. He would rattle off names and dates about whatever subject we were talking about.

“He will be greatly missed by so many people but Southwick is richer for the legacy he left enlightening so many people about Southwick’s past.”

Southwick Society secretary Nigel Divers had known him since he was a boy in the 1950s, when Ted cleaned the windows at his family home, and the pair became good friends.

Nigel said: “Ted was a familiar and popular figure in Southwick and knew many people through his job as a window cleaner.

“Ted was immensely proud of being a true Wicker, born in the town, and there are very few people who can say that now. He loved to tell he was born in the Georgian house that gave its name to Grange Road.

“Ted was extremely knowledgeable about Southwick and its history, gathering much information from people he knew and carrying out his own original research in the archives. He also amassed a superb collection of photographs of Southwick.

“Ted was very happy to share his knowledge, writing many detailed articles in the Shoreham Herald, and the Southwick Society was delighted to be able to publish books of his recollections and research about Southwick. His many illustrated talks to the Southwick Society were always eagerly anticipated, exceptionally well attended and enjoyably received.

“It was a privilege to have known Ted and he will be greatly missed.”

Having contacted Blind Veterans UK in 2012, Ted received help and support from the charity, including a Merlin Low Vision Magnifier that he used to view the old photos in his collection.

He enjoyed the arts and crafts workshops at its centre in Ovingdean and one year, he made 49 wooden racing cars for the charity to sell as Christmas presents.

Janet said: “They were very kind and very supportive. He loved going there.”

Ted Heasman died on September 13 at the age of 96.