1. Public house and waterway

Diary 1, pp. 350-351, October 1779

Diary 1, pp. 350-351. The Aylsham navigation has opened; a 14-year farm lease is renewed; a new outlet is supplied with beer. ‘M H’ is the Hardys’ malthouse

Diary 1  1773–1781. This volume covers the years in the village of Coltishall, seven miles north-east of Norwich. It is a story of hopes and ambitions coming to fruition.

The diarist’s husband is a tenant farmer with 60 acres and is also manager of a small maltings and brewery owned by John Wells, a Norwich merchant. William Hardy is determined to expand and find new markets, and in 1776 he builds a sailing barge (a wherry) to carry coal upriver and his produce down to the port of Great Yarmouth. Some of his malt is then taken by sea to London.

The new navigation upstream to Aylsham opens, an extension of the canalised River Bure which damaged Coltishall’s pre-eminence as an inland port. This website’s banner picture (top) shows sunrise on the River Waveney, which forms the border between Norfolk and Suffolk and which had an early navigation. Trade on the rivers is explained further on the commentary website.

The pleasure wherry Hathor

Misty dawn, at anchor. This wherry was built in 1905 for Mary Hardy’s descendants Ethel and Helen Colman to take passengers, not cargo

William Hardy’s hardworking wife, with three young children, copes with all the problems that come their way. She nurses the younger two through a difficult smallpox inoculation administered by a woman in the village.

When one of the Hardys’ public houses is without a tenant her husband installs their farm servant Zeb Rouse as temporary innkeeper. Mary Hardy helps out during the interregnum, working there without her husband and taking her children with her.

In 1779 her elder son Raven starts as a weekly boarder at the grammar school at North Walsham, the town where at 15 he was to be articled to an attorney. Young William, left behind at the village school, falls out with his schoolmaster. Aged nine, he never resumes regular daily schooling.

The eccentric curate and some drink-prone and indebted innkeepers add to the diarist’s load. Meanwhile the Hardys’ search for a farm, maltings and brewery of their own continues.

Went to the new river to see the lock, carried the men two bottles of gin

Mary Hardy, 1774