4. Shipwreck and meeting house
Mary Hardy’s last years are remarkable for the excitement and fulfilment she experienced. With her son in charge of the business she does however lose the sense of close contact with the workforce and innkeepers which is so apparent earlier.
A loving and dutiful daughter
In 1805 her only daughter, 32-year-old Mary Ann, marries the Nonconformist farmer Jeremiah Cozens, and goes to live outside Norwich at Sprowston. Jeremiah’s wife had died earlier that year, leaving him with two very young children.
Mary Hardy at first feels bereft over losing her daughter’s companionship and housekeeping skills. But the diary reveals how closely the newly married couple stay in contact with the Letheringsett family 22 miles away, compensating for this loss. Other female relatives come to help the diarist in this mutally supportive family: keeping house threw huge demands on women in busy households. A year after the marriage the grandchild arrives who was to carry on the family name. The diarist’s last months are a golden time.
Mary Hardy has the excitement of hearing the touring Anglican Evangelicals, following them around her area.
Just before her death she founds a meeting house in her village. It forms part of the Wesleyan Methodists’ Walsingham Circuit, and the services are held in the cottage of her washerwoman Elizabeth Bullock. The diary is especially valuable in charting religious affiliation and the leadership displayed by women.
There is also pain and sorrow. The small sea-going sloop of her son William, which the Royal Navy had retaken in 1799 after the ship’s capture by a Dutch privateer, is wrecked in 1804 within sight of home. The crew were local men. No one survives.