In 2004 Harry Goring, owner of the Wiston estate in West Sussex, came upon a wooden Estate box that had lain unopened for many years. It turned out to be completely full of Victorian letters, tied in small bundles and carefully conserved by his father and uncle, John and Francis Goring. Harry passed the box over to his sister Jane, who found that the letters had mostly been written between the years 1743 and 1905 by their great-great-grandfather Charles Goring, his family and their many descendants.
The letters, written on the thinnest of writing paper and frequently overwritten when the writer ran out of space, were a challenge to decipher. Jane invited three friends to help - Jill Turner, Wiston Estate Secretary for many years, and Joyce Sleight and Janet Pennington, both qualified historians with skills in palaeography. As the pile of transcripts mounted it became apparent that here there was a unique story emerging. A fifth member, Janine Harvey, then joined the group and with her expert IT skills a prototype of the eventual book began to take shape.
The letters are a rich mix of Victorian domestic life in country houses, rectories and a Bishop’s palace in Malta. There are letters from schoolboys and students to their parents, descriptions of Mediterranean voyages, wild boar hunting in Morocco, railway journeys in Scotland, celebrations, courtships, marriages, births of children, ailments, tragedies and romance.
As well as handing over the box of letters, Harry Goring also kindly gave access to paintings, photographs and sketchbooks made by the characters themselves, many of which are included in colour throughout the book.
An immense amount of work and research by everyone has resulted in this fascinating book.