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Preacher Pratt by Malcolm Payne published 1996Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

As I have a considerable archive of local history, which includes a copy of Richard Pratt's account books and journal (kindly given by Mr Peter Pratt of Cherry Gardens), I believe I have the best account of this family's influence on the growth of Crowborough. The accounts are clearly written, and also include receipts, and journal.

On April 14th 1841, Richard Pratt married Hannah Callow; both were 24 at the time. Richard's father, James, was a farmer at Stonehouse Farm, where he had moved in 1820. Richard had been born in Maynard's Gate in Jervis (sic) Brook on October 8th, 1816, as the entry in Rotherfield church register shows.

From 1828 to 1829 Richard attended a dame school run by the Misses Saunders at Eridge Forstall. This was the only formal teaching he had. Like many youngsters of his time, his parents could not afford to send him to school for longer. At such a school it would have cost an average of one penny a week to send each child. As Richard's fathers income was likely to have been no more than 50p to 80p a week, the family could ill-afford even this small amount.

Being the man he was, Richard was able to educate himself once he had the rudiments of reading and writing; working with figures appears to have come quite naturally to him. Even while attending school he would have worked on his parents' farm, as all children did in those days. He may even have worked on neighbouring farms to help subsidise the family income.

By the time he was 21, Richard had moved from his family's 4 acre holding, probably because it did not generate enough income to support him. He took a live-in job as a loader at Withyham mill, and this seems to be where he picked up the basics of the trade that was to occupy most of his later life.

On 11th October 1838 he began work as a grinder at his grandmother's mill at Rotherfield. Again he lived-in, and found time in the evenings to keep the accounts of a nearby farmer, who paid him 12 shillings (60p) a week. By this time he was courting Hannah, and needed the extra cash to help his savings grow. They married in April 1841, and in October of that same year Richard was anxious to be off to London because he felt he could make more money for his family there. They stayed in London for just two months. What Richard did for a living is unknown; we have only the fact that they attended the local Baptist chapel.

Richard had become convinced in early life the Baptist faith was for him. Having been brought up as an Anglican he turned towards the more Calvinistic Strict Baptist beliefs, these being more sufficient to his soul. The tone throughout his journal is one of suffering for the Lord.