Henry Raven (1777–1825), apprentice brewer

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

His life of striving is crowned by an extraordinary 73,000-word ledger handed down through generations of Cozens-Hardys: his teenage diary. It is almost certainly unique for its period as the record of a young man’s life as a trainee brewer.

The origins of his diary

As part of his training he was taught by his cousin William Hardy junior to keep the farming and brewing diary which opens on 10 October 1793. Henry maintained the entries daily until 25 October 1797. If a second volume was kept it has not survived in the family archives; he may have taken it with him on leaving the Hardys.

Henry’s diary, transcribed in full, is intercut with Mary Hardy’s abridged diary in Diary 3.

Henry and his aunt were thus writing daily entries in the same household, but from different viewpoints. Like his aunt Henry allows social and other events to creep into his record, as when noting the soldiers passing through Letheringsett to quell a bread riot.

Henry Raven’s upbringing

Henry was brought up at Whissonsett Hall, the moated manor house in central Norfolk where his grandfather and father, both named Robert Raven, spent their last years. The banner shows a wheatfield on the Whissonsett–Tittleshall border close to the Hall.

Whissonsett Hall moat and barn

The approach to Whissonsett Hall, Henry Raven’s birthplace. The house is surrounded on three sides by a mediaeval moat. The large barn was built in 1773 by Mary Hardy’s father Robert Raven, Henry’s grandfather

Robert Raven senior had long been a grocer and maltster before taking up farming at Whissonsett Hall as copyholder; his younger son took over the farm on the older farmer’s death in 1778.

By then Henry’s father had been struck down by illness and had only five years to live. At the time of Henry’s birth on 31 August 1777 his father was living in Norwich as a resident patient under the care of John Beevor, a physician specialising in mental illness.

Like his aunt and fellow diarist Henry was deeply attached to his Whissonsett family. His old home no longer stands, being replaced by today’s hall on the same site in the mid-nineteenth century.

A thorough training

Henry’s uncle and cousin William at Letheringsett trained him in malting and brewing, as described on the Diary pages. His diary, kept from the age of sixteen, is of great significance, for he worked alongside the men whose tasks he was recording.

From his coverage of social matters we can see that on most occasions he was excluded from the Letheringsett family’s socialising until, aged eighteen, he struck out on his own and forged new friendships.

Henry was subjected to grindingly hard work during his training, including nine months on the malting floor performing backbreaking tasks. He nevertheless comes across as a conscientious, willing, cheerful and sociable young man.

In January 1797, exactly halfway through his apprenticeship, he brewed without William’s supervision for the first time. Henry could now take over as head brewer. He thus released William, who was about to take over the whole vertically integrated family business from his father that autumn.

Henry’s marriage and children

Henry left the Hardys in 1800 and married Mary Elizabeth West in 1805 in her parish of St Dunstan’s, Stepney; he brought his bride to meet the Letheringsett family on their wedding tour.

He was already a brewer at St Albans in Hertfordshire, later moving to Shoreditch just outside the City of London. The couple had six children between 1806 and 1815. The first five were baptised in St Albans: Mary Ann, Henry Skrimshire, Jane, Susanna (Susan) and Julia; Rose was baptised in Shoreditch.

The names have echoes of Henry’s Norfolk connections. Mary Ann was his former master’s daughter. Skrimshire was the married name of his beloved sister Rose, after whom he named his last child. Julia, a very unusual name in Hardy circles, was bridesmaid at Rose’s marriage to Thomas Skrimshire in 1797. Jane was one of the Skrimshires’ daughters.

Two London breweries

Henry’s small brewing book of 1824 has survived. He notes he was then head brewer at the Pelican Brewery, Wapping Wall (in the East End by the Thames), and that he had previously been head brewer at Smith’s, the Plough Brewery, Lambeth. His brewing records are kept as methodically as when he was an apprentice at Letheringsett.

His writing became shaky towards the end of 1824; the last entry is dated 22 December. He died soon afterwards and was buried on 27 March 1825 in the churchyard of St Mary-at-Lambeth, opposite the Houses of Parliament and adjoining Lambeth Palace.

Lambeth churchyard 2015

The historic churchyard at Lambeth in 2015. Here Henry Raven was buried on 27 March 1825. He lies in the same burial ground as Ann Boleyn’s mother and (foreground) the navigator Captain William Bligh, RN – complete with breadfruit atop his urn. The knot garden was designed by the Dowager Marchioness of Salisbury in 1980. Henry’s widow was buried here in 1849 with dignity, thanks to a hasty cash gift from Letheringsett

We learn from snatches of correspondence in the Cozens-Hardy papers that his widow died in great poverty 24 years later, and that their daughter Susan Garland was also enduring hardship; Susan was the only one of their children then alive.

Mary Elizabeth Raven joined her husband Henry in the churchyard in April 1849. Henry’s cousin William Hardy Cozens-Hardy, Mary Ann’s son, urgently sent money from Letheringsett Hall to meet the modest funeral expenses and secure “a comfortable dry grave”.

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Pre-publication article

Rowan Mantell highlights some intriguing features of Mary Hardy’s record:  250-year-old diary