Sarah's life - a view of 18th century Engand

SARAH Hurst was born in Horsham in 1736 and died there in 1808 at the end of a largely-unremarkable life.

However, more than two centuries later, she holds an important place as a fascinating window through we can view 18th century West Sussex.

Sarah's father was a tailor and as a young woman she worked in his shop and kept his accounts. She read widely and wrote poetry while waiting for the man she loved to return from the Seven Years' War.

As she waited, so she wrote – writing also of a different kind, keeping diaries which now offer a vivid picture of life in a small country town.

In her diaries are revealing portraits of the people in her social circle, including John Shelley, great uncle of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Her diaries also tell a moving story of a love which endured despite disapproval and separation.

Sarah didn't spend all her time in Horsham. She visited friends in Arundel, Eastbourne and elsewhere in Sussex, and went to London at least once a year where she ordered stock for the family business and enjoyed going to the theatre and other places of entertainment.

Hers was a life of middle-class aspirations – and these too are captured in the diaries which have now been published by Amberley Publishing under the title The Diaries Of Sarah Hurst.

They record the day-to-day life of a young Sussex woman between 1759 and 1762.

Editor Susan C Djabri said: "The diaries of Sarah Hurst are among the most important documents in the archives of Horsham Museum. They were given to the museum by the late Miss Barbara Hurst, whose transcript of them is the basis of the book.

"Few 18th century diaries, written by women, appear to have survived, and it is even more rare to find a diary written by a tradesman's daughter, rather than a gentlewoman with time on her hands.

"The diaries are one of the most significant sources of information on the town in the mid-18th century. They throw a clear light on the society in which Sarah lived and help us understand what life in Horsham was really like at that time.

"Sarah gives a telling portrait of many of the leading townspeople of the day: her band-tempered father, the cynical Sir Charles Eversfield, the peevish Edward Tredcroft and the domineering John Shelley are all brought vividly to life.

"The diaries are a real treasure trove for the local historian as the only other surviving documents of this period are mainly dry and dusty tax records or legal papers.

"Sarah's diaries are perhaps even more fascinating for anyone interested in the social history of women, since they contain the most intimate thoughts and feelings of a young girl living 250 years ago."

More details on www.amberleybooks.com; price 15.99.