2. Beer supply, water power and a death

Diary 2  ·  1781–1793  ·  This volume covers the early years at Letheringsett, near the small port of Blakeney. The diarist’s husband William was now his own man: a freeholder, if only of 56 acres, and owner of the long-established maltings and brewery in the centre of the village.

For about fifteen months he had to maintain beer supply to the Coltishall houses from his new base. No manager had yet been found to replace him. One of the heroic draymen, William Lamb, and his horses, journeyed 555 miles a month with the barrels—in addition to their many other tasks.

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Mechanisation through water power

In an act of great boldness and imagination William Hardy decided to convert the manufacturing side of his business to water power. He harnessed the force of the River Glaven running past their malthouse and home.

He added milling to his trades, setting up a water-powered cornmill alongside his malt-mill and precipitating a bitter dispute over water levels with the miller just upstream at Letheringsett Watermill.

Letheringsett malt-kilns

The Hardys’ early-19th-century malt-kilns at Letheringsett before restoration of the cowls. The cascade, also seen at the banner, shows the drop to the brewery waterwheel (in the bypass channel in the tunnel to the right) installed by William Hardy in 1784

Business expansion

Early hopes were realised. The Hardys’ elder son Raven, a studious boy of great promise, became articled to a lawyer. Their entrepreneurial younger son William left school at the age of thirteen; he had attended only very erratically for the past four years.

William was launching himself with great energy into helping his father. Head brewer by the age of seventeen, he expanded the variety of brews they offered and turned to porter brewing. Great casks were installed in their vat house or tun room, still dominating the village and main road today.

Father and son secured markets for their produce in Yorkshire, Lancashire and Tyneside.

William Hardy junior aged 56

Mary Hardy’s son William (1770-1842), c.1826. While trained carefully from childhood in time management by his parents they had not kept him to his books and at school. His creative, mercurial temperament was given free rein and he early became expert in malting and brewing  [Cozens-Hardy Collection]

The local playhouse at Holt proved an attraction for all the family. But Mary Hardy and her daughter were soon to turn their backs on it, adopting Methodism and a more puritanical lifestyle. Cards and dancing were also shunned from about 1792.

The death of Raven Hardy

A great weight of sorrow fell on the family when Raven contracted tuberculosis while articled to a North Walsham attorney.

After months of home-nursing by his anguished mother he died on 12 February 1787 aged nineteen. He had made a good number of entries in his mother’s diary from the age of six, and showed great interest in his parents’ business affairs.

He was a studious child, copying long entries into the diary from the newspapers on politics, the American war, and criminal trials.

Raven Hardy's entries 27-29 Nov. 1782

Drama recorded in his mother’s diary by Raven Hardy, aged 15. He describes the loss of HMS Royal George, with hundreds drowned. The Hardys’ drayman Robert Lound breaks his thigh on a beer delivery on 28 November 1782. It is likely he was disabled for life. The Hardy children all made entries from an early age  [Cozens-Hardy Collection]

A lack of squeamishness

Sensational court cases were written up fully in the papers. The Hardys were not a squeamish family, and as responsible parents would take their children to watch public hangings. The diarist and her husband went out of their way to view the body of a poisoner gibbeted near the scene of his crime.

Went to see William Anthony that is hung in chains on Kettlestone Common  (Mary Hardy, 1792)