Maria and Fanny Peskett


View of Barns Green

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Grocers and sub-postmistresses at Barns Green, near Itchingfield. John Peskett was born at Barns Green in about 1830, and ran a grocery shop in the village for many years. He also worked as a courier. His wife, Maria, was born at Slinfold in about 1835. The couple had at least nine children, of which Fanny (born 1859) was the eldest. Two sons became carpenters, and another an agricultural labourer.

John died in 1889, and Maria took over the running of the shop with the assistance of Fanny and some of the younger children after they left school. When the 1901 census was held, Maria was 66 years old but still in charge of the shop, which now doubled as the village post office. In addition to Fanny, Maria was employing Percy Peskett (born 1873, who also worked as clerk to the School Board and as an attendance officer), Edith Maria Peskett (born 1876) and Albert Peskett (born 1878). When Maria died in 1907, Fanny Peskett took over the running of the shop and the post office, retaining the shop's existing name, "M. Peskett", perhaps in order to keep the goodwill of her mother's customers.

In the years before the First World War, the Peskett shop sold sepia-tinted real photographic cards of Barns Green with a "trefoil" decoration on the back and machine printed captions superimposed on the photographs using transparent slips. A 1911 postmark has been seen. The cards were almost certainly supplied by A. H. Homewood. It was his normal practice to put his name and address on the back of his cards, but he accepted special commissions, and, as the Barns Green cards are labelled on the back "M. Peskett, Post Office, Barns Green", it is possible that a member of the Peskett family (possibly Fanny or even Maria, just before her death) took the photographs and that Fanny arranged for Homewood to carry out the printing. Another possibility is that Fanny commissioned Edward F. London, who lived locally, to take the photographs on her behalf.

Soon after the war, the R. A. Publishing Co. of East London started issuing printed cards of Barns Green and Itchingfield in their Vulcan Series, which were labelled "M. Peskett, the Post Office Stores, Barns Green, Horsham". A 1921 postmark has been seen. By this date Fanny Peskett had been in charge of the grocery and post office for over ten years, and it is perhaps curious that she was still trading using her mother's name instead of her own.

Greatly superior in quality to the Vulcan cards, and correspondingly more collectable, are some black and white real photographic cards of Barns Green and Itchingfield, which have white borders and are labelled "M. Peskett, P.O. Barns Green" in the bottom corner of the pictures. Some cards have 4 digit serial numbers prefixed by a P such as "P. 1639". No contemporary postmarks have been seen, but the cards were almost certainly issued between the wars. Some are labelled on the back "Printed by E. A. Sweetman & Son Ltd., Tunbridge Wells". Presumably Fanny or some other local person took the photographs and then commissioned Sweetman & Son to make up batches of the cards to special order.

By 1938, "P. and Albert Peskett" had taken over the running of the grocery shop and post office, while still trading under the name "M. Peskett". Albert was Maria's youngest child (born in 1878) and had married Gertrude Bailey in 1916. P. Peskett was presumably his elder brother, Percy Peskett. By this date it is possible that the family had abandoned publishing postcards.

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