The Weald of Kent, Surrey and Sussex

Richard Realf, Poet, Orator, Journalist, Workman
by Sheila Smith
published in 2001
This document have been reproduced with the permission of Sheila Smith and the Uckfield District Preservation Society where it was originally published in their magazine "Hindsight"


Richard Realf, Poet, Orator, Journalist, Workman.

According to his biographer, Col. Richard Hinton, Richard Realf, the poet, was born in Framfield, Sussex on 14th June 1834. Other sources give his birth as 14th June, 1832 but no birth certificate for either Framfield or Uckfield, where the family lived later, has been traced. Certainly, we know that Richard died at the Windsor Hotel, Oakland, California, USA on October 28th 1878, by his own hand. In the intervening forty four or forty six years, Richard had an unusual and eventful life.

Richard was the son of Richard Realf, a policeman in Uckfield, and Martha (née Highlands) both born in Framfield, who married in 1826. Richard is said to have been their fifth child. His childhood was uneventful but he did attend a local Dame School where he learned to read and write. This may have been at the expense of family friends, the Whaphams, who lived in Uckfield and whose son, John, later married Richard's youngest sister, Sarah.

At the age of nine, Richard was already working as a gardener's boy. Again, this may well have been for Charles Whapham who owned a market garden. At about seventeen he joined his sisters, Mary-Ann and Ellen, who were in service in Brighton. At first he was hired as a footman but soon came to the notice of Mr Stafford, a physician for whom his sister Ellen worked, and was employed by his wife as a secretary. 1 This new employment brought him into contact with many of the literati in Brighton at that time, including Lady Noel Byron, Lord Byron's widow, who took a great interest in Richard. He was already writing poetry.

[1] Richard confirms this in the "Little Classic" sketch mentioned by Hinton in his Memoir.

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