A BOX of old photographs and letters once used to entertain a small child have become the source of a historical book about a woman who left the North-East more than a century ago to start a new life.

County Durham author Jane Gulliford Lowes, from Seaham, has published her first book chronicling the life of Sarah Marshall, who emigrated from the town to Australia in 1886.

Ms Lowes, a lawyer and make-up artist, spent two years researching the book after deciding to find out more about a box of letters which were left to her by a family friend.

She said: “They belonged to one of my grandmother’s friends and the reason I was given them was because when I used to go and visit she would get the box out to entertain me.

“I would sit and play with them every time I went to see her and would want to look at them.

“It was later when I discovered that the lady in question had been a maid in the farm house next to mine that I looked into it and thought the story had to be told.”

The Horsekeeper’s Daughter, which was published in November, tells the story of West Rainton-born Sarah, who later moved to Seaham to work as a maid before travelling to Australia as part of the Single Female Migrant Scheme.

Ms Lowes research took her to Queensland, where she was able to trace descendants of Ms Marshall and visit places detailed in the letters.

She added: “There are lots of stories about the struggles of working class women in the North East of England in the late 19th/early 20th centuries – however there are none which deal with the hundreds of single women who left the area and sailed to Australia to forge new lives for themselves.”

“I wanted to bring to light one of these stories, as these brave women have been largely forgotten,”

  • The book has been published by Troubador Publishing and is priced at £8.99.