Henry Raven (1777–1825), apprentice brewer

Whissonsett Hall, the moat and barn

Whissonsett Hall, Henry Raven’s childhood home, has a mediaeval moat and a barn of 1773 built by Mary Hardy’s father Robert Raven

Henry Raven was brought up at the manor house in central Norfolk where his grandfather and father, both named Robert Raven, spent their last years. Robert Raven senior had long been a grocer and maltster before taking up farming at Whissonsett Hall; his younger son took over the farm on the older man’s death in 1778. By then Henry’s father had been struck down by mental illness and had only five years to live.

A thorough training

Henry’s uncle and cousin William at Letheringsett trained him in malting and brewing, as described on the Diary website The Diary of Mary Hardy. His diary, kept from the age of 16, is of great significance, for he worked alongside the men whose tasks he was recording. At times he also extends his coverage to social matters, and we can see that on most occasions he was excluded from the Letheringsett family’s socialising until, aged 18, he struck out on his own with new friendships.

He left the Hardys in 1800, married Mary Elizabeth West in 1805 and moved first to St Albans in Hertfordshire and then to Shoreditch just outside the City of London. The couple had six children between 1806 and 1815.

Two London breweries

Henry’s small brewing book of 1824 has survived. He notes he was then head brewer at the Pelican Brewery, Wapping Wall (in the East End by the Thames), and that he had previously been head brewer at Smith’s, the Plough Brewery, Lambeth. His brewing records are kept as methodically as when he was a lad at Letheringsett.

Lambeth churchyard

The historic churchyard at Lambeth, where Henry Raven lies buried with Ann Boleyn’s mother and (foreground) the navigator Captain William Bligh, RN. The knot garden was designed by the Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury in 1980

His writing becomes shaky towards the end of 1824; the last entry is 22 December. He died very soon afterwards and was buried on 27 March 1825 in the churchyard of St Mary-at-Lambeth, opposite the Houses of Parliament and adjoining Lambeth Palace.

We learn from snatches of correspondence in the Cozens-Hardy papers that his widow died in great poverty 24 years later, and that their daughter Susan Garland was also enduring hardship; Susan was the only one of their children then alive. Mary Elizabeth Raven joined her husband Henry in the churchyard in April 1849.

Henry Raven’s life of striving is crowned by that one extraordinary ledger handed down through generations of Cozens-Hardys: his teenage diary. It is published in full as the third volume of the Diary set, intercut with his aunt’s record written in the same household.