Family historians

Family historians will find this work invaluable.

This edition of the diary contains more than 460 pages of index, reflecting the Hardys’ extremely wide acquaintance. Readers may be lucky enough to find names they have been searching for, as has already happened with researchers in England, Canada and South Australia who have become aware of the project over the years.

Henry Raven's diary, Dec. 1795

Henry Raven, aged 18, records the men’s daily tasks; Sunday working was common

Filling the gaps

So often those researching their family history have to be content with discovering little more than the dates and place of baptism, marriage and burial of their relatives. The Mary Hardy volumes open our eyes to the lives of the servant class, who left few records, as well as to those of their masters and mistresses.

When parish burial registers record the occupation of the deceased, as they increasingly do after about 1800, the entry may read, ‘Servant’. This often means not a personal servant such as a manservant or maid, but a farm servant.

These were skilled men, hired annually, and were distinct from labourers hired by the week or the day. They had greater security, but worked very long hours. Their daily lives are presented with astonishing clarity. We can visualise what working life was like for a large section of the rural labouring poor.

Labourers’ lives

Few eighteenth-century diaries log the activities of working people with the precision found here. In the early years of her diary, in the 1770s, Mary Hardy took care to record the tasks of each member of the workforce in the fields, in the maltings and brewery, and on the road as they delivered the beer.

Similarly her diarist nephew Henry Raven (1777–1825) also logged the men’s tasks. He lived with the family for eight years 1792–1800 as the Hardys’ brewery apprentice. His diary, which survives 1793–1797, may well be the only such record preserved by a brewing pupil in that century. It is transcribed in its entirety alongside his aunt’s in Diary 3.