Jan. 2023: Major items from Cozens-Hardy private archive lodged at Norfolk Record Office

An extensive and highly significant body of manuscripts from the Cozens-Hardy Collection was lodged in the Norfolk Record Office (NRO) by one of Mary Hardy’s descendants in October 2022. Some are unique survivals for the 18th century. In January 2023 the deposits were given the holding reference ACC 2022/106.

Many of the items were used by historian Margaret Bird throughout the whole of her 32-year project to bring the full text of the diaries of Mary Hardy and Henry Raven to the public. The deposited papers, shining a spotlight on working and family life in the 18th and 19th centuries, became her valued companions.

For the first time in more than 200 years these archives are now available to the public thanks to the decision of Caroline Holland, the granddaughter of Basil Cozens-Hardy, to lodge them in the county record office. It was Basil, an eminent Norfolk lawyer, historian and public figure, who first published extracts from Mary Hardy’s diary in 1957 and 1968.

Just a small selection of the items from the family’s collection now in the NRO is summarised here.

Henry Raven’s diary 1793–97: a unique brewery apprenticeship record

This is a unique manuscript: the sole daily diary of a brewery apprentice to survive from the 18th century. Henry Raven (1777–1825), the nephew of Mary Hardy, came to live with the Hardys at Letheringsett, near Holt, in 1792 and started working in their maltings and brewery. Two years later he entered into a six-year apprenticeship which ended when he moved to work as a brewer first at St Albans, Herts, and later in London.

An extract from the teenager’s 73,000-word account is shown at the banner. Here he records a bread riot at a nearby village in December 1795 and travels to see “the mob” after work. There was a good deal of social restiveness during this period of high wheat prices, the readiness to revolt extending to one of the Hardys’ usually loyal workforce. As seen at the banner, Henry notes that Robert Bye is “drunk all day”.

From Henry’s faithful recording we can calculate that at this time the farm and brewery workforce laboured an astonishing 3617 hours a year. For comparison, OECD figures show average working hours in the UK in recent years to be 1677. As was then near universal, the Hardys’ men had no annual holiday other than one or two days at a fair, often worked well over a twelve-hour day, and were even on duty on Sundays.

Henry Raven’s life of striving

Henry’s sad life of struggle and loss is recounted in Mary Hardy and her World, volumes 1 and 2. Like his father Robert Raven he died young. He is buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s, Lambeth, the Garden History church beside Lambeth Palace and the Thames. Henry’s widow Mary Elizabeth, née West, died in extreme poverty in 1849 and is buried in the same churchyard.

Henry’s diary forms his imposing memorial. Margaret Bird’s transcription was published in full, with a comprehensive index, by Burnham Press in 2013; the text is interwoven with the diary of his aunt in the third of the volumes for The Diary of Mary Hardy.

A full set of photocopies of Henry’s diary was lodged in the NRO in 2013, with the catalogue reference FX 376/6.

Raven Hardy’s precedent book 1783–86: training to be an attorney’s clerk

Raven, the studious and talented elder son of Mary and William Hardy, was destined for a legal career. But he died from tuberculosis in 1787 aged nineteen while training to be an attorney. His mother’s account of his sufferings in his last months is by far the hardest part to read in her diary.

We meet Raven from the age of five through the pages of his devoted mother’s record; indeed, he contributes 12,250 words in her 500,000-word text. In October 1783 he moved to North Walsham to train under his new master. Here he started his “precedent book”, a set of legal templates which would guide him throughout his life’s work as a lawyer. As his illness developed he had to break off halfway through his clerkship and return home to his parents.

Insight into the finances of a small business

With characteristic lack of sentimentality his father and brother filled the blank pages of Raven’s ledger with their financial accounts as farmers, maltsters and brewers for the years 1796–1804. Other pages track William Hardy junior’s rise to prosperity: he was lord of the manor and a wealthy estate owner with 2000 acres when the jottings in the precedent book end in 1838.

The volume is thus a double rarity, giving vital insight both into the training of a young attorney and into the finances of a village brewery. It is from this source that we learn the strong-beer production figures for the Letheringsett brewery: 2000 barrels in 1796 and 2100 barrels in 1797.

Volume 2 and Volume 3 of Mary Hardy and her World draw heavily on this source.

Edmund Bartell jnr’s comments on controversial Letheringsett Hall 1809

William Hardy junior had a close childhood friend: Edmund Bartell junior (d.1855 aged 85), the son of the Holt surgeon who tended Raven Hardy during the young man’s protracted fight for life. Edmund followed his father’s profession at Brooke, Cromer and Swannington, but also became a noted artist and author.

On 12 June 1809 William Hardy junior and Edmund Bartell junior set off on a tour of the Lakes. Edmund kept an immaculately presented record of their holiday which he gave to his friend. For readers of Mary Hardy’s diary the opening pages are a revelation, for here Edmund airs his views on the radical Greek Doric portico chosen for William’s remodelling of the south front of Letheringsett Hall. Mary Hardy had died in this house only in March 1809, yet by June the columns were in place.

Edmund makes it plain that the bold choice of style caused a sensation. It was way ahead of its time and put the tiny village of Letheringsett at the forefront of the Greek Revival. William Hardy junior’s decision, writes Edmund, “was at first a constant theme of conversation and criticism”.


Letheringsett Hall, 21 July 1880: William Hardy jnr’s Greek Doric portico of 1809 was designed by William Mindham and has long caused controversy

A continuing architectural controversy

That contentious choice fascinated the distinguished architectural historians Nikolaus Pevsner (in the Buildings of England series in 1962) and David Watkin (in Country Life 1967). Pevsner was appalled by the “five giant Doric columns. Five and not four or six is a blatant solecism.” Both specialists battled it out with Basil Cozens-Hardy, but none of the protagonists then knew the actual date of construction.

Edmund’s manuscript recounting the Lakeland tour is the sole source giving us the date: late spring and early summer 1809. This was many years before Greek Doric became comparatively widespread. The full story is told in volume 1 of Mary Hardy and her World, chapter 7.

William Hardy jnr’s record of rebuilding Letheringsett Hall 1832–34

That chapter also charts William’s rebuilding of the east front of the Hall from 1832, for which he continued to use his architect of thirty years William Mindham (1771–1843). William’s own record of the work, with costings, is now in the NRO for the first time. The stained and painted glass in this front is almost certainly by Edmund Bartell junior, an expert on mediaeval glass.

Mary Ann Hardy’s arithmetic, gardening and recipe book, 1780s onwards

William and Mary Hardy were exemplary parents who treated their three children as valued companions from their earliest years. Both strove to train them for adult life and put in many hours as home tutors.

This little calf-bound volume began life as an arithmetic book, written in William Hardy’s elegant hand. It poses various knotty problems and shows how to solve them. The brewer then extended the book’s usefulness by adding a gardening calendar. This would guide his daughter Mary Ann (1773–1864) through all the tasks that had to be completed month by month if she were to ensure constant supplies for her household once Mary Hardy could no longer serve as an active housekeeper and once Mary Ann was married.


Mary Ann Hardy at the time she was being home-tutored by her parents. She attended boarding school at Fakenham only in the summer months.

The little volume comes into its own as Mary Ann’s book of 122 recipes, the earliest of which dates from 1784. Once again it is her father who transcribes the majority of the recipes, handing the task over to Mary Ann in the years leading to her marriage to the farmer Jeremiah Cozens in 1805. Twenty-seven of the recipes are published in Mary Hardy and her World, in an appendix to Volume 1, which also notes the donor of the recipe ranging from innkeepers to family and friends.

Some of the recipes featured in a celebration of the diarists’ lives at Whissonsett in 2013. They are available for download as a four-page pdf as Mary Ann Hardy’s teatime recipes.

Cozens-Hardy photograph album, Letheringsett 1880 and 1890

This album contains large, first-class images of the Cozens-Hardy family and Letheringsett taken by the professional photographers A.E. Coe of Norwich in July 1880 and 1890: the Golden Wedding and Diamond Wedding of Mary Hardy’s grandson William Hardy Cozens-Hardy and his wife Sarah, née Theobald. The young couple had made Letheringsett Hall their home on the death of William Hardy junior in June 1842.

They had nine children and large numbers of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Mary Ann and Jeremiah Cozens had only the one child, William Hardy Cozens (1806–95), who took the name Cozens-Hardy on inheriting his uncle’s estate and business. Mary Ann thus became the conduit for the Hardy wealth and founded a dynasty. As so often, it was the female line which secured the family’s continuance.


The Golden Wedding of Mary Hardy’s grandson William Hardy Cozens-Hardy (1806-95) and his wife Sarah (1808-91), seen seated in the centre, with some of their children and grandchildren, 21 July 1880 [photo A.E. Coe of Norwich 1880]

It was a distinguished family. In this image we see the Norwich MP and mustard manufacturer Jeremiah James Colman (seated left), who had married the Cozens-Hardys’ eldest daughter Caroline (on her father’s right). Standing behind the left-hand pillar is the judge Herbert Hardy Cozens-Hardy, Caroline’s brother, who became the MP for North Norfolk in 1885 and rose to be Master of the Rolls and 1st Lord Cozens-Hardy.

Standing in the centre behind his grandmother Sarah Cozens-Hardy is Russell James Colman, who became Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk and with his father J.J. Colman gave the family’s magnificent set of Norwich School paintings to Norwich Castle Museum. Standing fourth from the left is Sydney Cozens-Hardy, who founded the Norwich law firm Cozens-Hardy & Jewson and served as Sheriff of Norwich. He and his son Basil shared a passion for family and local history which contributed to the founding of many institutions still treasured today—including the Norfolk Record Office itself.

Another family group, taken by A.E. Coe in 1890, is seen on the Archive Sources web page.

Photographs taken for the record

Basil Cozens-Hardy was a keen photographer from the age of fifteen or earlier. His collection of magic lantern slides showing local views in the mid-20th century was also deposited by his granddaughter Caroline Holland in the NRO in 2022. These include invaluable photographs of the Letheringsett brewery immediately after the disastrous fire of April 1936 which destroyed the brewhouse. The steep, malthouse, malt-kilns and tun room survived.

Most of these magic lantern slides are reproduced, with full captions, in the Mary Hardy volumes published by Burnham Press.

Further collections of papers

This list has only touched the surface. The voluminous deposits include the diaries and ledgers of William Hardy Cozens-Hardy 1833–95, some of his business correspondence (including stiff letters to the innkeepers of his tied houses), other documents charting the development of the family’s brewery, and many items relating to the Raven and Theobald families.

These holdings will be of great interest to researchers engaged in a wide variety of projects, whether domestic, genealogical, topographical or business-related. Among other locations they cover Cley, Holt, Whissonsett and Norwich.

Historians and researchers owe a great debt to the Cozens-Hardy family for having carefully preserved the collection for centuries and now for making the contents available to the public.

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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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