Rooted in her love of the Norfolk countryside, Mary Hardy offers local historians a wealth of material on the north, north-east and central areas of the county, including their market towns.
The Norfolk backdrop
Mary Hardy had a strong topographical sense as well as an awareness of clock time. Her mindset was that of a time-and-motion consultant. Movement by family and workforce was logged, with its duration. Spending too long at the fair by a farm servant or maidservant was frowned upon.
As a result we learn about a very large number of surrounding towns and villages within roughly a 15–20 mile radius of her bases at Coltishall and Letheringsett. In marked contrast with Parson Woodforde’s diary, compiled at the same time little more than 17 or 18 miles away, there is no sense of rural isolation.
The value of her coverage has already been appreciated by local historians and by academics, who have drawn on brief highlights from her diary compiled by her descendant Basil Cozens-Hardy. The highlights were published under the title The History of Letheringsett (1957) and, in the Norfolk Record Society series, as Mary Hardy’s Diary (1968).
Those extracts give an introduction to her life and circle. They are however so selective as to discourage the creation of a rigorously sustained narrative and argument. Only by exposure to the great bulk of her text, in a transcription faithfully reflecting her written style, can we absorb the full power of her unique database.