4. Under sail and under arms

Volume 4  ranges far beyond the village and market town environment of the other volumes. It is unusual to read in a woman’s diary allusions to such subjects as building a navigation (a canalised river), and to trade on the rivers and at sea.

Sack of whole hops

Whole hops, ready to be used for brewing at Woodforde’s Norfolk Ales. The Hardys had their Kentish hops brought round by sea to the Norfolk ports

The Hardys at first relied on others’ sailing vessels, both the gaff-rigged wherry and the Norfolk square-rigged keel, to carry their freight on the rivers of the Norfolk Broads. These barges were not seagoing.

In March 1776 William Hardy resolved to have a wherry of his own. Named William and Mary, this small vessel was launched at Coltishall in August that year, with a small party laid on.

The black sail and red cabin top of the wherry Albion  (built in 1898) is shown as this website’s banner picture. She is sailing past the ruined gatehouse of St Benet’s Abbey, just as William and Mary  used to do when carrying hops, rum, sand, manure, bricks, malt, barley, wheat, flour and coal—and even an oven brought down to Great Yarmouth from Yorkshire for Mary Hardy’s kitchen.

Mary Hardy’s record of these sailings enables us to compile a wherry log, the only one surviving from the eighteenth century. You can read more about the waterways on the Diary website.

Road transport improved for both long- and short-distance travel. Far more journeys were undertaken in a light one-horse gig by the end of the diary period than had been the case at the start, greatly opening up opportunities for women to get about. Mary Hardy was no horsewoman, and she only very rarely refers to women on horseback.

Similarly, although women did not have the vote, Mary Hardy shows her absorption in the electoral process. Where possible she journeyed to Norwich, where the polling took place, and commented on the riots and triumphal processions associated with these long-drawn-out affairs.

The backdrop to the story is war. Invasion by the French was a real fear, the Hardys living very near the coast. This part of the story is also told on the Diary website under Public archives.

A black-sailed trader

The Norfolk trading wherry Albion under sail. The Hardys built a wherry in 1776 to carry malt downriver and coal back up

The 8 chapters

Book I.  Wide horizons

  • The roads
  • The new navigation
  • Riverside staithes
  • Keels and wherries
  • The sea

Book II.  Human conflict

  • Politics
  • Civilians at war
  • Deliverance

Epilogue – The enduring record

There is also a glossary of terms and measures. You can learn more at Appendices.

The best plan to remove the inhabitants to a place of safety in case of invasion

Mary Hardy, 1803