Sunday, March 3, 2024

Felled the hazel & ozier

‘7 degrees below freezing point. Felled the hazel & ozier underwood in the plantation before the house, & got two small waggon loads of faggots from it.’ This is from the 18th century diary - or better described as a daily record - of John Longe, vicar for many years at Coddenham-cum-Crowfield in Suffolk. He is remembered largely for this daily record - not published until 2008 - which is said bring to bring the Georgian era for a gentleman-parson ‘vividly to life’.

Longe was born in 1765 at Spixworth, north of Norwich, where his father was the rector. He was educated at Bungay Grammar School, Norwich Grammar School, Corpus Christi College and Trinity, Cambridge. On graduating he was admitted deacon in Norwich Cathedral and licensed to serve as curate in Spixworth. After being ordained priest in 1789, he became curate at Coddenham-cum-Crowfield on 1 January 1790. That same year he married Charlotte Browne, heiress to an estate, who gave birth to three children who died in infancy as well as a daughter and four sons. 

Besides preaching and leading worship, Longe trained young curates; marshalled his parishioners under threat of Napoleon’s invasion; and fulfilled the onerous responsibilities of a magistrate, including supervision of the local House of Industry and turnpike trusts. In 1812 his wife died, and five years later he married Frances Ward of Salhouse. He, himself, died on 3 March 1834.

There is very little biographical information about Longe available on the internet other than that found in The Diary of John Longe (Boydell Press, 2008) which can sampled at Googlebooks. Boydell says that these documents left by a ‘gentleman-parson’ provide a ‘rich archive for posterity’ and bring the Georgian era ‘vividly to life’.

According to the editor, Michael Stone, Longe’s diary was not a literary or philosophical journal, but ‘a daily record of events written by hand in printed pocket-books’. He continues: ‘Apart from a few reminders of future commitments, he was summarising the past: meetings with people, actions taken and business to be remembered. The core material comprises six annual pocket-books, here described as ‘diaries’ in which Longe jotted down such matters often laconically. Selected entries published some seventy-five years ago survive too from a seventh diary, believed to be since lost, and an exact copy of these entries as published has been added.’

The gaps between years are substantial, Stone says. The first group dates from 1796, 1797 and 1798, when Longe was in his early thirties, whereas the second group (1826, 1827, 1831 and 1833) runs to within a few weeks of his death. This main gap between the groups, he adds, has to some extent been bridged by including in the volume a transcription of Longes ‘Servants Wages Book’ of 1811-23, which casts more light on his domestic life than is suggested by the title. Some other original material has also been transcribed for the book to clarify particular aspects of his life and his home. Here are several extracts from the beginning of the 1826 diary.

1 January 1826
‘I preached here, morning. Sacrament at Crowfield, 24 Communicants. Wet day. Thaw set in. Mrs Longe ill with cold & did not go out. My little spaniel bitch Frisky produced 4 puppies. She shall bring up one, a dog.’

2 January 1826
‘Fine bright day. Our tenants & families dined here; with my own family, 20 at dinner. Frost at night. Settled accounts with Thomas Diggens to Michaelmas, & received of him on account of Michaelmas last: rent - £45. The arrears of balance still due is £108 18s. 4d. which he engages to pay in a month.’

3 January 1826
‘All at home. Fine bright day. North-east wind & very cold. Wrote to my daughter Charlotte Leake now at Woodhurst, Surrey.’

4 January 1826
‘Sittings at Needham. I did not attend. Dry cold day. Mr George Turner came here to dinner on a visit. The children who sing at church had their treat here, & 6d each.

5 January 1826
‘Dry very sharp air. Mr Roberts dined here. Henry dined at Mr James’s. Wrote to Bickners for a suit of cloaths.’

6 January 1826
‘Very cold showery day. Messrs William Leeds, Crowe, & Roberts dined here.’

7 January 1826
‘Mr George Turner left us after breakfast. Received from Marshall, Cambridge, 4 soft Cottenham cheeses.’

8 January 1826
‘I preached here, afternoon. My sermon lately composed on the New Year.’

9 January 1826
‘Very sharp frost. Mr Betham came here to dinner & slept here. John went to visit his friend Mr Jolly. Received from Otto Bickner a black superfine cloth coat, a black kerseymere waistcoat & breeches.’

10 January 1826
‘Mr Betham left us after breakfast. Mrs Selvin called. North-east wind. Thermometer [with] north aspect: 5 degrees below freezing point. Paid Mrs Longe in discharge of balance of house accounts to the end of 1825: £51.198.’

11 January 1826
‘I attended a meeting of the hundred to consider of a plan for a general association for conviction of offenders of the hundred, which was agreed on. I called at Shrubland Sir Philip Broke, &c. there. Sir Charles Vere called when I was out.’

12 January 1826
‘At home. Miss M.A. Davy came here on a visit. Thermometer [with] north aspect at 9 o’clock a.m.: 7 degrees below freezing point. Felled the hazel & ozier underwood in the plantation before the house, & got two small waggon loads of faggots from it. Planted in spring of 1818.’

13 January 1826
‘Mrs Longe, I & Miss Davy went to Ipswich. I attended the Quarter Sessions. Returned to a late dinner. Sir Philip Broke called. To Mrs Longe on her private account £10. I sent a certificate of my life to Messrs Child for the Irish Tontine. Thermometer the 3 last days at 9 o’clock a.m. out of my study window at 25 degrees, i.e. 7 degrees below freezing point. North wind.’

14 January 1826
‘At home. Robert & Henry dined at Mr Martin’s. Mrs Longe & Miss Davy called at Shrubland. Sir Philip & Lady Broke, &c. there. I preached here, morning. At 11 o’clock p.m. thermometer [with] north aspect at 19 degrees fahrenheit, 13 below freezing point.’

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