6 June 2015: National award for research based on Mary Hardy’s diary

A study of distribution by road has been announced as the overall winner, in the ‘long articles’ category, at the annual awards ceremony of the British Association for Local History (BALH).

Margaret Bird with Mary Hardy's diary

Margaret Bird, the overall winner of the 2015 BALH research and publication award (long-articles category), with the 18th-century diary on which much of her work was based

‘Supplying the beer’

Margaret Bird’s 15,000-word article was published in 2014 in The Glaven Historian, the journal of the Blakeney Area Historical Society (no. 14, pp. 2–29). Entitled ‘Supplying the beer: life on the road in late-18th-century Norfolk’, it examined an aspect of 18th-century social and economic life which is often neglected—largely as the surviving sources do not yield a great deal of detail.

Paying tribute to the study, Dr Alan Crosby of the BALH considered the diaries of Mary Hardy (the wife of a Norfolk maltster and brewer) and her nephew Henry Raven (the brewery apprentice) to be a hugely valuable source. They charted the workforce’s tasks in immense detail, enabling us to visualise the problems the team had to surmount and even to calculate how many hours the draymen spent on the road.

The text of Alan Crosby’s synopsis of the article is transcribed in full at the end of this news item.

The awards ceremony 2015

The journals of all participating local history societies from across the British Isles are scrutinised by a BALH editorial team, who draw up a ‘long list’ of potential award-winners in the area of research and publication. From these the eventual winners are chosen in the long-article and short-article categories.

The ceremony formed part of the BALH’s annual Local History Day, held on 6 June 2015 in Birmingham at The Priory Rooms, Quaker Meeting House, 40 Bull Street. More than a hundred people attended from a large number of local history societies and groups. Details can be found on the BALH website. The awards were presented by the society’s President, Professor David Hey.

You can read more about the BALH award under Mary Hardy’s World. As well contributing an article, Margaret Bird had given a talk to the Blakeney Area Historical Society in April 2014 on ‘Supplying the beer‘.

Synopsis of the ‘deeply rewarding’ article

Margaret Bird’s article has been published, in an abridged form and without most of its 28 illustrations, in the October 2015 issue of the BALH quarterly, The Local Historian (vol. 45, no. 4, pp. 295–311).

The editor Alan Crosby summarises the article on that website:

“This fascinating article is a shortened version of the one which won the BALH ‘Long Article Publications Award 2015’. In it Margaret Bird, who has spent many years transcribing, analysing and contextualising the remarkable diaries of Mary Hardy (1733-1809) and her nephew Henry Raven (1777-?1825), makes a major contribution to the published history of the brewing trade and public houses in the Georgian period.

She begins by providing a summary of the family history of these brewers from North Norfolk, before taking a series of themes which emerge from the diaries: the state of the roads, the lie of the land, and itinerancy in daily life; the public houses and the breweries; the geography of supply; vertical integration within the industry, the labour force, and the livestock; work-related road accidents; the farm servants and the brewery staff, their wages and working conditions; labour discipline; and memorialising the workforce.

The article draws upon the diaries to illustrate the complexities and intricacies of managing a (by contemporary standards) large-scale enterprise in the pre-railway age, and in doing so it reveals numerous unexpected and stimulating dimensions to local historical analysis. While most local historians will not have ready access to such exceptionally rich primary sources, this article will provide many valuable insights and ideas for further research in other localities.

It is also deeply rewarding in its own right.”