The diary of a Lancashire lad

editorial image

Over the years Todmorden Antiquarian Society has had a number of talks about the diaries and journals of people of the past. These give a tantalising glimpse into lives and times and Kathy Fishwick’s recent talk on ‘The Diary of a Lancashire Lad ’ did just that..

The diary was a small pocket book completed by Henry Hargreaves of Newchurch-in-Pendle, aged 18, for a one-year period in 1760, recording his growing responsibility in the family’s financial and legal affairs, writes Catherine Emberson.

Entries for the year typically consisted of one-line comments. These were often quite cryptic and the speaker had devoted much time and enthusiasm in trying to unravel some of their mysteries.

Henry Hargreaves was born into a wealthy family. His grandfather had benefited from the dis-forestation laws passed in 1507 governing royal forests and allowing settlement on forest lands.

Henry’s father, John, had thereby inherited land in Newchurch, where the village had grown up around the new church built in 1511. He was connected with church administration and whilst the main industry was hand spinning and weaving, John Hargreaves was looking to the future by moving into small scale lead mining.

Henry tells us about his day-to-day activities in his diary, such as visiting the lead mine with his father, playing cards and buying mourning clothes on the death of King Edward II in October that year.

Importantly it records that he received 1d from his father for writing a will and catalogues his increasing levels of responsibility for dealing with community legal matters. This was thanks to his education at Newchurch, and later, Burnley Grammar Schools.

He eventually went on to become a well-respected solicitor, much lamented by friends on his death in 1829. There is a memorial plaque to him in the church at Newchurch, but it is thanks to the survival of Henry’s diary that we can glean much about his life and society, and thereby our own past history.

The next meeting at Todmorden Town Hall will be held on January 13, 2015, at 7.30pm when Robert Priestley will speak on “Friendly Societies: Heaven helps those who help themselves.”