2. Barley, beer and the working year

A Shire horse takes a break

The same horse had to plough, pull the harvest carts and wagons, and trudge well over 100 miles a week to deliver the beer

Volume 2  is about work. It goes to the heart of the industry in which the Hardys were engaged: farming, malting, brewing, sales, and the neglected subject of distribution. While very small, theirs was a perfect example of a vertically integrated business. All the stages of production were carried out within the one enterprise.

As a result we learn about a very wide range of farming and manufacturing processes. These included arable and sheep farming; porter brewing (at the capital-intensive end of manufacturing, as the dark brew takes time to mature); and the management of the outlets—both tied to the brewery and supplied without tie.

All this is depicted in a village setting. Letheringsett, where the Hardys lived from 1781, had a population in 1801 of only 236.

Above all we see laid before us the lives of the Hardys’ exceptionally hard-working men, the annually hired farm servants. The diarists Mary Hardy and her nephew Henry Raven, the family’s apprentice, paint a detailed canvas of rural working life, including a series of industrial accidents—often involving horses. It is one hard to equal for this period.

Wind-tossed barley

Barley: the core of the business. The Hardys’ men sowed and harvested the barley, roasted it to turn it into malt, brewed the malt, and delivered the beer to the Hardys’ network of public houses

The 11 chapters

Book I.  Improving the land

  • A versatile workforce
  • Small farms
  • Enclosure
  • Climate and crops

Book II.  Rural manufacturers

  • Industry structure
  • Malting
  • Brewing and milling
  • Rival brewers

Book III.  Beer and the Excise

  • The public houses
  • Supplying the beer
  • Debt and taxes

There is also a directory of 35 breweries, a gazetteer of the Hardys’ 101 outlets, and an appendix on the Excise. You can learn more at Appendices.

Thomas Baldwin to Burnham, wagon wheel went over his leg and broke it coming home

Henry Raven, 1796