Progress with the companion volumes to The Diary of Mary Hardy

The three images, all of Letheringsett Church in the 19th century, may be clicked on to see at a larger size.

BAHS members may be cheered to hear that work is going well on the four companion volumes Mary Hardy and her World 1773-1809. The complete text of the diary of the brewer’s wife came out in 2013. These new volumes are the commentary, containing 39 chapters depicting the whole panorama of north Norfolk life – and beyond – in that period.

The forthcoming study shows clearly the outward-looking nature of local society, and like the diary reflects the tensions and disputes of the time. The effects of the French Revolution, of the almost ceaseless wars and of new religious movements are charted, all against the backdrop of domestic and business life in this very active farming and brewing family at Letheringsett Hall.

I have almost completed the text and have cut in many hundreds of illustrations. Some are from the invaluable private archive amassed largely by Basil Cozens-Hardy (1885-1976), the diarist’s descendant, who lived in Norwich and Letheringsett. I am extremely grateful to the present-day descendants for permission to work on the manuscripts in their possession and to publish images from their private Cozens-Hardy Collection. Work will soon begin on indexing the four very long volumes.

These three views of Letheringsett Church date from the 19th century. The restoration work of William Butterfield in the 1880s is clearly visible: the south porch was entirely rebuilt. The images suggest that the fabric was well maintained, even in the pre-Victorian period.

Mary Hardy brings this building to life, giving us a vivid depiction of patterns of worship in her family and their circle. A keen sermon taster, she was by no means wedded to the Church of England and often chose to worship separately from others in her family in churches and meeting houses within a five-mile radius. She was double-minded in her later years, attending Nonconformist meetings at the same time as remaining an Anglican, and she emphasises the vitality of spiritual life in a period often cast, like the neglected churches, as dormant. Norwich was far from being the ‘Dead See’, as is so often alleged.

She died in 1809 aged 75 and is buried in the family vault in Letheringsett churchyard, in the south-east corner near the Hall. The Hardys and Cozens-Hardys have a long series of mural tablets in the south aisle. She is the only adult woman commemorated there, alongside her great-granddaughter, Laura Elizabeth Cozens (1834-38).

Bulletins on my progress appear at intervals on the website www.maryhardysworld.co.uk. In the coming weeks the site may not always be available for, as happened with the very successful BAHS website revamp just recently, I am about to remodel it. I hope my efforts will go as smoothly.

As always, many thanks to all the BAHS team who produce the magnificent Glaven Historian and who keep me up-to-date in Surrey with all that is happening in the society.

With best wishes to you all,
Margaret Bird, Kingston upon Thames, 23 November 2018

Leave A Reply