Mary Hardy project
This undertaking has so far taken nearly 30 years of continuous research and writing by Margaret Bird. In 1988 she asked Mary Hardy’s descendants, none of whom she knew, if she might work on their ancestor’s diary with a view to publication of the whole manuscript. She was convinced there was material in the yellowing pages worth bringing to a wide audience.
Those expectations have been fully realised. No one knew at the time how long the diary was, and how strenuous the work would prove. Adding to the load, in 1992 Jeremy Cozens-Hardy showed her the diary of the apprentice Henry Raven, which until then had lain undiscovered.
Some of the research process is described in the pages under Sources. There is more to do, for while the 39 chapters of Mary Hardy and her World have already been written they still have to be prepared for publication.
Only when the transcription and editing of the diary texts had been finished did it become evident that at 573,000 words the manuscripts of Mary Hardy and Henry Raven total, in number of words, something approaching the length of the Old Testament of the Bible (which, in the King James version, has 609,000 words).
Frolics, divining rods and real ale
While much of the research took place in libraries and record offices, a large part was undertaken in the field and on the water.
The 101 public houses, both licensed and some now unlicensed (listed in Volume 2’s Gazetteer), were visited and where possible sampled—many times. The walking tours, expeditions and working parties of specialist groups were of equal importance.
Doing as well as thinking is required in the pursuit of the past. Taking part with others helped to forge a link with Mary Hardy’s experiences:
- a Parson Woodforde Society frolic
- working at a water-powered sawmill of 1823 run by the Norfolk Industrial Archaeology Society
- talks on church architecture given in dimly lit rural churches
- members’ cruises on the preserved trading wherry Albion, whose sail and cabin are glimpsed at the top of these website pages
Some of the most exhilarating moments of the project took place in unlikely settings:
- the morning in the Public Record Office when realisation dawned that William Hardy had served for years in the Excise (something erased from the family memory)
- the sense of awe when the divining rods spun forcefully in both hands while tracing underground watercourses in the Letheringsett brewery yard
- the sound of the release of the rush of water from the leat onto the waterwheel at Gunton Park Sawmill
- watching the yeast head working strongly in the fermenting tun in real-ale craft breweries
- the powerful pull from tiller and sheet as Albion heeled in the gale
The contribution of others
Much of the writing owes its richness to the musings and discoveries of others, such as the volunteers in the societies listed under Links. It has been a team effort. Profound gratitude is paid here, and in the books, to countless enthusiasts eager to pass on their knowledge of their patch.
Particular acknowledgment is made to Mary Hardy’s descendants, the members of the extended Cozens-Hardy family. They have long been the custodians of the family papers, as described under Private archives. Before the Diary volumes were published in 2013 they had to endure 25 years of wondering when some evident results would be produced after all the consultations and borrowings.
Many who helped did not live to see publication. They especially are remembered.