3. Spiritual and social forces

Volume 3  is a study of town and village at prayer, work and play. It surveys religion, rural crime, flour riots, parish government, the workhouse, markets and shopping, craft occupations, medicine and the Law, leisure pursuits and fairs.

Coltishall Church, interior

William Hardy was churchwarden at Coltishall. In the 1770s his family worshipped here regularly. 20 years later the pattern of worship was different, the parish church often being rejected for other churches and for meeting houses

It has some unusual angles. The itinerancy is charted not just of the pastor but of the faithful—congregations who shunned their home parish church to seek spiritual fulfilment elsewhere.

The crucial importance of local leadership by JPs is highlighted. The ‘hidden’ market of the corn sample market was a driver of the local economy. The village shop too was still much in evidence.

Travelling players with extraordinarily wide repertoires would lay on performances in barns. Freemasonry, music clubs, book clubs, purse clubs, tenpins, academic lectures, puppet shows: all were on offer at the village public house.

The different classes mixed at fairs. It is very evident from Mary Hardy’s diary that fairs were cherished as family reunions and holiday breaks.

Swaffham's market cross

The market cross at Swaffham. This town, with King’s Lynn, Holt and Walsingham, had the important role of hosting the county quarter sessions by adjournment

The 10 chapters

Book I.  Flames of fire

  • The parish clergy
  • The Sunday schools
  • Roving preachers
  • The wandering flock

Book II.  Town and village

  • Local society
  • Upholding the peace
  • The market town
  • Trades and professions
  • Indoor pursuits
  • Outdoor recreations

In religion the divide between Calvinism and Arminianism was very apparent on the ground. An appendix explains ecclesiastical terms.

The soldiers marched through our town to Sharrington and set a guard over the flour

Mary Hardy, 1795