30 Apr. 2014: More on country life, waterways and roads

Aylsham lay at the heart of many exciting developments in the late 18th century. Trade expanded with the opening of the navigation in 1779. The roads improved after the completion of the Norwich–Aylsham turnpike in 1797.

A diarist writing nearby

Mary Hardy (1733–1809) tells of these changes. She was almost on the spot, writing daily at Coltishall in the 1770s and then near Holt from 1781 until her death. Her house ran down to the river at the very point where the Aylsham navigation joined the River Bure downstream of Horstead Watermill.

Albion at St Benet's Level Mill

The helmsman’s view from the wherry Albion. The Hardys had their own wherry, which they used for transporting their malt and bringing coal up from Yarmouth

On the opening day of the navigation her husband William Hardy, a farmer, maltster and brewer, sailed in a little flotilla of wherries through Coltishall Lock and all the way up to Aylsham. One of them overturned at Lamas, seen on the banner at the top of the page, but he got through.

The Hardys loved being on the river, and would go out on the water for pleasure after a long working day. Mary Hardy’s Yorkshire-based mother-in-law sailed down to Gt Yarmouth to catch her ship to Hull after spending a year at Coltishall with the family.

A talk at Aylsham Library

Margaret Bird, who brought out a new edition of Mary Hardy’s diary in 2013, will be giving an illustrated talk on these themes at Aylsham Branch Library on Wednesday 30 April 2014 at 10.30 am. The talk is entitled ‘Mary Hardy and her diary: Life in the Norfolk countryside in the 18th century’. There will be time for questions, and as usual refreshments will be served. Everyone is welcome, a small charge of £2 covering expenses.

The library is at 7 Hungate Street, Aylsham NR11 6AA. There is parking in the nearby town centre car parks, including the Market Place and Burgh Road.

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Margaret Bird

Margaret Bird in 2016

The editor and author of the Mary Hardy volumes

You can read about the historian Margaret Bird on the link above

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