Henry Raven (1777–1825), apprentice brewer

Henry Raven had a difficult life. His father Robert, Mary Hardy’s brother, was mentally ill at the time of Henry’s birth, and confined in the home of a Norwich physician. Robert Raven died in 1783 aged 44, leaving his wife Ann with eight children aged under thirteen. The Hardys took Henry to live with them in 1792, and trained him at their Letheringsett brewery. He stayed with them for eight years.

The Ravens' farmhouse was fronted by the shop

Whissonsett: the farmhouse of Henry Raven’s great-grandfather. The family grocery stood in front on the lane

Henry Raven, like his aunt and fellow diarist Mary Hardy, née Raven, came from the central Norfolk village of Whissonsett. He was brought up on a farm at Whissonsett Hall.

Both diarists were from a line of small farmers and shopkeepers. Henry’s great-grandfather—also Henry Raven—was succeeded at the family’s village grocery on another Whissonsett farm (pictured) by his widow and three generations of Ravens.

Recording the unrecorded

Henry’s is thought to be the only surviving diary of an eighteenth-century brewery apprentice.

He undertook the tasks of the workforce, and spent a gruelling year on the malting floor with a much older man to guide him. He understood the hardships of the farm servants and labourers, for he worked alongside them.

During the Coltishall years in the 1770s Mary Hardy recorded the tasks of the workforce. She was more patchy in her later coverage. For the four years 1793–97 Henry unfailingly noted all that the men did, and the women who joined them at haymaking and harvest. The two diaries are a memorial to those many individuals. They also stand for others who went unchronicled.

Henry’s diary acts as a cross-check on his aunt’s accuracy. On the whole the manuscripts tally closely.

St Peter's Church, St Albans

St Albans, Herts: The historic parish church of St Peter, where five children born to Henry and Mary Elizabeth Raven were christened

Henry in St Albans and London

Henry Raven married Mary Elizabeth West in 1805 and moved to Hertfordshire and then London. While working at St Albans, presumably at one of the major breweries there, he had five children between 1806 and 1812: Mary Ann, Henry Shrimshire, Jane, Susanna and Julia, who were all christened at St Peter’s.

After their move to Shoreditch, just north-east of the City of London, the couple had a sixth child, Rose, in 1815.

There is no known portrait of him, but a later record of his survives: his brewing book of 1824.

That part of his story, together with his death in Lambeth in March 1825, continues on the commentary website Mary Hardy and her World.