Public archives

James Stark's Mouth of the Yare, engraved by W. Miller (1828)

Great Yarmouth and Gorleston. Mary Hardy refers to difficulties over shipping malt and other produce, and frequently records shipwrecks. War, blockade and the press gang added to the seamen’s problems

The National Archives: Public Record Office

The Public Record Office, now part of the National Archives at Kew (TNA: PRO), holds some key records fleshing out Mary Hardy’s entries. Britain was at war for 24 of the 36 years of the diary.

The American war, which soon became for the British a world war, forms the backdrop to the early years in Diary 1; the diarist mentions the press gang operating in her village 32 miles upriver from Great Yarmouth. The conflict with France, again escalating into a world war, re-opened in 1793 and, with one brief intermission, was still raging when she died.

One of the appendices in Diary 4  consists of extracts from recommendations by an Engineer officer in 1803 over defending the invasion coast.

Many branches of the public service and Armed Forces reflected these struggles. Home defence measures taken included raising numbers in the Militia and Volunteers, and the protection of civilians. The Customs frequently reported problems with maintaining sea lanes for trade. Additional loads were placed on already hard-pressed excise officers. On their shoulders fell the responsibility of levying many of the duties for the war effort.

The TNA: PRO catalogue is at

William Palgrave jnr in 1798

The mercantile Palgraves were the Hardys’ neighbours at Coltishall. William Palgrave jnr, later head of Customs at Great Yarmouth, was a  Yeomanry officer in the Volunteers

The Norfolk Record Office

The county repository the Norfolk Record Office has been the principal public source consulted for this project. It is housed in a magnificent modern building in Norwich with highly experienced and helpful staff.

It holds those military records which fell under the responsibility not of central government but of the Lord Lieutenant of the county.

The Volunteers are well covered at the resumption of war in 1803. The Hardys were not a military or naval family, and Mary Hardy’s son William served as an officer in the Holt Volunteers for only a few weeks in 1803. His business came first—the business which through the taxes levied on it probably sustained the war effort more effectively than William could have managed in the field.

The record office’s online catalogue NROCAT is at

Other local record offices, and institutions offering public access by arrangement, are also cited in the volumes.

You can see a related page at Mary Hardy and her World.