2. Beer supply, water power and a death

Letheringsett malt-kilns

The Hardys’ early-19th-century malt-kilns at Letheringsett before restoration of the cowls. The cascade shows the drop for the brewery waterwheel (in the tunnel, right) installed by William Hardy in 1784

Diary 2  1781–1793. This volume covers the early years at Letheringsett, near the small port of Blakeney. The diarist’s husband William is now his own man: a freeholder, if only of 50 acres, and owner of the long-established maltings and brewery in the centre of the village.

For about 15 months he has to maintain beer supply to the Coltishall houses from his new base, for no manager is found to replace him. One of the heroic draymen, and his horses, journey 555 miles a month with the barrels—on top of their many other tasks.

Business expansion

In an act of great boldness and imagination William Hardy decides to convert the manufacturing side of his business to water power, harnessing the force of the river running past their malthouse and home. He adds milling to his trades, setting up a water-powered cornmill alongside his malt-mill and precipitating a bitter dispute with the miller just upstream at Letheringsett Watermill.

Early hopes are realised. The Hardys’ elder son Raven, a studious boy of great promise, is articled to a lawyer. Their entrepreneurial younger son William at the age of 13 leaves school, which he had attended only erratically for the past four years, to launch himself with great energy into helping his father.

William Hardy junior aged 56

Mary Hardy’s son William in about 1826

William, as head brewer, expands the variety of brews they offer. Aged 17, he turns to porter brewing. Great casks are installed in their vat house or tun room, still dominating the village street today. Father and son secure markets for their produce in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Tyneside.

The local playhouse proves an attraction for all the family. Mary Hardy and her daughter were soon to turn their backs on it on adopting Methodism and a more puritanical lifestyle.

A great weight of sorrow falls on the family when Raven contracts tuberculosis. After months of home-nursing by his anguished mother he dies in 1787 aged 19.

Went to see William Anthony that is hung in chains on Kettlestone Common

Mary Hardy, 1792