8 Feb 2008

The Guestling Murderess

Well I promised you the reputed story of my ancestors so here goes then...

Mary Ann Plumb was born the eldest of five children in 1800 and lived in the parish of Westfield. She was a housekeeper in her own home while her parents worked in the fields.

At eighteen she went into service and met Richard Geering. Discovering she was pregnant they eventually married at Westfield Parish Church and three months later the child was born.

Richard and Mary lived in a cottage near Guestling, where Richard worked as a labourer. Although it wasn’t a particularly happy marriage they had several children.

It was during this time that they moved to Guestling Green and Richard secured employment. For thirty years they lived in a tiny cottage. He earned a living for them while she devotedly raised the children.

In 1846 Richard Geering was left the sum of £20 which he deposited in the Hastings Savings Bank and the deposit book was given to his sister for safe keeping.

About this time, Mary’s eldest son William lost his wife to consumption, and he and his three children went to live with his parents at the cottage.

During September 1848 things took a violent change. Richard Geering was taken ill with a sickness and five days later died. The diagnosis was given as heart disease.

Four months later twenty one year old George became ill with violent bouts of sickness and raging thirst. Although nursed by his mother during the day and brother James by night he finally died.

Six weeks after George’s funeral James aged 26 was taken ill with the same symptoms and died on 6th March in the same year. About three weeks later on Easter Sunday, Benjamin Geering eighteen years old was taken ill, and after two or three days of sickness he was attended by two doctors who removed him from his mothers care. Benjamin recovered which threw suspicion on his mother. The doctors finally came to the obvious conclusion that he had been poisoned. The coroner under Police supervision exhumed all the bodies in the family and Mary Ann Geering was arrested on suspicion of poisoning her husband and two sons. She was sent to Hastings Gaol and the three youngest children were sent to the poor house.

At the inquest evidence showed that she had purchased arsenic from a chemist in Hastings, of which traces were found in the bodies of Richard and James and mercury in George.

Dressed all in black and wearing a black shawl with a multicoloured border, bare headed, she finally admitted to the murders.

Mary Ann Geering known as the Guestling Murderess or Murdering mother was found guilty of murder at Lewis Assizes and sentenced to hang. She died aged forty nine years old.


In 1996 I visited the Stag Inn at Hastings for a short break. This is a sixteen century Inn where I had spent my childhood. My young son and I stayed for several days.

One evening having retired to our room in the converted attic area, he visited the bathroom and then called out to me to come in which surprised me. (Any bathroom business was always considered very private as far as he was concerned).

As I walked in there was an eerie cold feeling that I hadn’t noticed before but obviously he was aware of it. It was much larger than the average bathroom and I sat in a comfy chair in the corner. Suddenly he told me not to turn round but to just listen. In a completely calm voice he stated that on the whitewashed wall behind me he could see a woman in a black dress and shawl with coloured edges, pouring a drink from an old pot, which she handed to a man in old clothes. After drinking the man clutched at his throat and rolled to the floor writhing in agony. He then laid still.

Startled I naturally turned to view what he was seeing and needless to say I could see nothing. He told me that the wall was now as it was before which was plain whitewash.

He was a bit shaken and we returned to the bedroom. After he went to sleep I began to ponder on what he had seen and questioned the publican. He explained that the Inn was haunted and it might be worth while doing a bit of research.

I met up with my cousin and he confirmed that the information I had given him was indeed concerning our ancestor. This had only been recorded in two books........The Sussex Murders and Gaolers Diary of Historic Hastings.

My son was far too young to have read either of these books and I had no idea of any of these related facts.

...........Spooky eh?


R.R.Jones said...

Very spooky.
Very spooky indeed, in fact.

Struggling Authors said...

I love this, although I'm not sure I'd like to accept that invitation to dinner anymore Tee...


marc said...

hello, my name is marc david geering and i am quite certain you will find my on your family tree, from richard and mary, it goes richards brother james to his son named john then again his son named john then his son arthur then arthurs son kenith then kenith son david then davids son which is me!

marc said...

o i forgot to say you can email me on minofish@hotmail.co.uk or im also on facebook xxx

Claire said...

I just found out Mary Ann Geering is a distant relative of mine, so I guess that means we're related in some way.