Written by Sharon Maxwell, Archivist (Cataloguing & Projects)
One of our recently catalogued collections is a set of 41 farm diaries belonging to the Beale Family of River Hall Farm, Biddenden, Kent. The diaries document the daily lives of Richard Beale Snr and Richard Beale Jnr during the years 1791 until 1834. Richard Beale Snr was born in 1744, he never married and when he died in 1814, he left his estate to his nephew Richard Beale, the son of his brother Seaman Cooke Beale, of London. Richard Beale Jnr was born in 1771 and by his death in 1836 he had a large family, some of whose descendants continued to live in Biddenden until the 1960s.
The diaries are small pocket notebooks bound in all different colours of leather mainly red but also brown and blue, they have a metal latch or ribbon tie to keep them closed due to the fact that many of them have pockets in the covers which had contained notes, correspondence and all manner of bits and pieces. To preserve these extra items contained in the diaries they have been flattened and placed in archival envelopes to ensure their survival.
The diaries contain pre-printed information including lists of the fairs in Kent and Sussex and the monthly market days for that year. The diaries describe day to day tasks like harvesting and ploughing, tending to the animals including sheep shearing and the auction of livestock, and other work around the farm such as fixing fencing and managing the woodland. The Beales comment about the weather and loans of both animals and money to various individuals. The diaries also hold insights into the personal lives of the family including notes about visits and meetings and also items of correspondence from family members. The diaries are also account
books; daily totals are meticulously recorded and many of the loose papers include itemised bills and receipts from suppliers and customers. There are some tantalising clues as to the identity of some of the farm workers with their names and pay recorded in both diary entries and on the loose items. Some of the more unexpected items found in the diaries include a couple of home remedies to cure animal diseases, verses of an untitled poem, a piece of felt with a line of sewing on it, a small sample of black material and a brown leaf folded amongst a set of accounts.
The catalogue of these farm diaries will soon be available to view on our online catalogue under the reference FR DX2147.