George Heath

George Heath "The Moorland Poet" 1844-1869.

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George Heath The Moorland Poet was born at Gratton to the west of Leek in the parish of Horton, on the 9th of March 1844. He was the eldest son of a large family, with "lowly parents" James Heath (a labourer) and Eliza Heath nee Sims. His baptism entry of 23rd March gives his parents' address as "On The Hill near Gratton", father's occupation labourer. The fact that the baptism was "private" suggests that there were fears the baby would not live.

He attended the local National School at Horton, became a farm worker, and then was apprenticed to a Samuel Heath, a joiner and builder.

When he was about 20 his life was changed forever. He first felt the urge to write poetry in about 1863. But two calamities occurred: having fallen passionately in love with a young woman who inspired his poetry, he was cruelly deserted by her; and soon after he caught a severe cold while working on repairs to Horton Church, just before the end of his apprenticeship in 1864. The effects of his illness never left him, as he then developed consumption, from which he never recovered. He was laid aside from manual work and started to study, under the supervision of the Reverend James Badnall, the vicar of Endon.

He endured a further five years of "invalid" life, which permeates most of his poetry. His main themes are love lost, the scorn of others, his wasted talent, and the approach of death. Other poems are inspired by his Moorland environment. Two of his better-known poems were "Rudyard at Sunset" and "The Pauper Child". Some of his poems were published during his lifetime and he had many supporters.

He died on Wednesday 5th of May 1869, aged 25, and was buried at Horton churchyard on the 8th. A memorial stands in the churchyard designed by his artist friend HW Foster.

A collection of documents, manuscript, notebooks and other items, which had been kept by his family until they were passed to a local man Mr J Levitt who was researching Heath's life and works in the 1960s. They were donated to the Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive Service in 2008 with the permission of the remaining members of the Heath family in Leek. The collection is held at Staffordshire Record Office and its collection reference is 6857.