The Venerable Dr W. M. (Bill) Jacob is President of The Chapels Society and former Archdeacon of Charing Cross. His detailed review of Volume 3 of Mary Hardy and her World appeared in the Society’s Newsletter no. 74 for May 2020, pp. 18–20.
“Much new light on Old and New Dissent”
Dr Jacob highlights the study’s fresh material on chapels and informal meeting houses in Mary Hardy’s period, as also the growth of religious Nonconformity and the role of women:
“Much new light is thrown on Old and New Dissent in North Norfolk by Margaret Bird in this, the third of four companion studies to her edition of the diary of Mary Hardy.
These throw much light on Mary Hardy’s economic, social, political and religious context.”
He describes how Margaret Bird’s research reveals the existence of “extensive itinerancy by Anglican evangelicals, Independents, and Calvinistic Methodists, as well as Wesleyans”.
Mileages of preachers and their followers
Bill Jacob instances the mission of one Nonconformist minister in Norfolk. John Sykes was an Independent (a sect which became the Congregationalists and later merged to become the United Reformed Church). His meeting had 65 members, of whom 38 were women, drawn from 22 parishes across an area stretching 16 miles from north to south. Additionally there were the “attenders” who were not paid-up members.
“This suggests people travelled as far to hear a preacher or attend a meeting, as to market.”
“Rural Wesleyanism was a woman’s movement”
Dr Jacob then cites some of the study’s statistics on the prominence of women and names the leading female promoters of Calvinistic and Wesleyan Methodism.
“Membership lists show the extent to which at society [congregation] level rural Wesleyanism was a woman’s movement . . . At Wells [Wells-next-the-Sea] in 1811 only 24 of the 71 members were men.”
“Bumping along rutted roads”
Mary Hardy shows us “the willingness of women to travel significant distances to meetings, bumping along rutted roads in a pony trap with her friends and maids and a driver”—and in all weathers; just such a track is shown at the banner. Round trips of 17 miles formed part of the diarist’s Sunday routine.
“Very good value for money”
The RRP of each volume is £40.00, or £135.00 the set of four. Bill Jacob ends his review with some thoughts on the set of volumes:
“Although an expensive volume, at pages per pound it, together with the other three volumes, is very good value for money.
All are beautifully produced, with many illustrations, and reflect extensive archival research and state-of-the-art scholarship in all areas with which I have any familiarity.”