Henry Raven (1777–1825), apprentice brewer

Henry Raven was Mary Hardy’s nephew. He lived in the Hardys’ household at Letheringsett Hall for eight years 1792–1800 and was their brewery apprentice for five of those years from July 1794.

As part of his training he was taught by his cousin William Hardy junior to keep a farming and brewing diary which opens on 10 October 1793. Henry maintained the entries daily until 25 October 1797.

Recording the unrecorded

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

He undertook the tasks of the workforce, and began by spending a gruelling year on the malting floor with a much older man to guide him: John Ramm was then in his sixties. Henry understood the hardships of the farm servants and labourers, for he worked alongside them.

During the Coltishall years in the 1770s Mary Hardy had herself recorded the tasks of the workforce. She was more patchy in her later coverage. For four years, given in full in Diary 3, Henry noted all that the men did. Shortly after the start of the diary he began also to include their Sunday tasks. His record helps to repair the omissions of his aunt.

The two diaries are a memorial to all those individuals. They also stand for the lives of others who have gone unchronicled.

Cross-checking: the two diaries tally closely

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

In the page seen below the innkeeper Robert Staff journeyed 25 miles cross-country from Stalham with his beer order on Sunday 13 April 1794. The farm servant and drayman Robert Bye loaded the cart with beer barrels and set off that Sunday night at 10 pm. He and the horse or horses had an eight-hour trudge ahead of them overnight.

Mary Hardy tells us in her manuscript that Staff stayed for dinner and supper with the Hardys. She does not record him staying overnight, as he sometimes did. Bye may have needed the innkeeper to guide him in the dark.

Henry Raven's diary April 1794

Henry Raven’s neatest writing, for April 1794. He could not keep it up for long. This was the year he worked as a floor maltster, as in the refrain “John Ramm, H. Raven in malthouse”. William Hardy junior [“WH”] was brewing porter on the Monday. Henry was released on the Saturday at 6 pm to have a day and a night away at Whissonsett, returning on the Sunday evening with his eldest brother Robert. The Whissonsett link meant everything to Henry  [Cozens-Hardy Collection]

The Whissonsett family

Henry Raven, like his aunt and fellow diarist, came from the central Norfolk village of Whissonsett, fifteen miles from Letheringsett. He was brought up on a substantial farm at Whissonsett Hall.

Henry 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. Thomas, the baby, died a few months later.

Both diarists were from a line of small farmers and shopkeepers. Henry’s great-grandfather—also Henry Raven (1663–1723), and a worsted weaver—was the first of the family to live in the house pictured at the banner. The Ravens’ large grocery stood in front of this house on the lane east of the church.

In his will Henry makes it clear that the shop was his wife’s domain. Rose (d.1744), their youngest son Nathaniel and two further generations of Ravens followed in the trade.

A new opportunity at fourteen

The Hardys took Henry to live with them in 1792, and trained him at their brewery. They had at first offered the brewery apprenticeship to his older brother William, but William lasted only three months.

The brothers were the only two to be granted Letheringsett apprenticeships. This suggests the offer was made to relieve the widowed Ann Raven of some at least of her many responsibilities.

After a two-year trial period Henry was formally bound apprentice in July 1794, entering into a five-year engagement. It seems to have been a harmonious relationship. The two brewers, father and son, took the training of Henry very seriously.

As a result he was given the opportunity of earning his living in a calling not open to him in Whissonsett or its immediate neighbourhood.

In 1819 Henry became the brother-in-law of William Hardy junior when Henry’s youngest sister Mary (1780–1846) married their cousin. In a second generation a William Hardy had married a Mary Raven of Whissonsett.

The painful breach, and nomadic women

The same indomitability which characterised the shopkeeper Rose Raven in her widowhood, to judge from her long will, was shared by the younger Henry Raven’s mother in her widowhood. But by 1805 Ann Raven could no longer carry on at the Hall.

Her parting with a much-loved property, one seemingly iconic to Mary Hardy, precipitated a painful breach between the families. It was healed only by Mary Hardy’s death.

There are signs the rest of the diarist’s immediate family did not agree with her embittered response to her sister-in-law’s decision to sell up. On his wife’s death in 1809 William Hardy appointed Ann Raven housekeeper at Letheringsett Hall.

In so doing he gave Ann and her daughter Mary some respite from the nomadic life all too often the fate of widowed and unmarried women with no home of their own.

On Ann Raven’s death in 1811 her daughter Mary became housekeeper, and in 1819 mistress, of Letheringsett Hall.

The breach probably explains why we hear nothing of Henry from his aunt after the autumn of 1805. The years 1805–09 would have difficult for Henry, with divided loyalties. He was then establishing himself as a brewer in St Albans, Hertfordshire, and starting a family.

Henry in St Albans and London

Henry Raven was already working in St Albans at his marriage in London to Mary Elizabeth West in 1805. They had five children between 1806 and 1812, who were all christened at St Peter’s.

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

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 Henry, 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 pages for Mary Hardy and her World.