Exploring the Beale Family Farm Diaries

Written by Sharon Maxwell, Archivist (Cataloguing & Projects)

Beale Family Farm Diaries
Beale Family Farm Diaries

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.

Verses of an untitled poem found in one of the diaries.
Verses of an untitled poem found in one of the diaries.

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

A display of items found in the diary
A display of items found in the diary

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.

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8 thoughts on “Exploring the Beale Family Farm Diaries”

  1. My husband is Malcolm Beale and I am researching the Beale family history.
    Richard Beale Senior (1744-1814) is my husband’s 4XG Uncle and Richard Beale Junior (1771-1836) is his 3XG Grandfather. We are so pleased that these diaries are so valued and have their place in history.

    1. My family name is also Beale. My father is Richard Larry Beale, my name is Clayton Richard Beale and my son is Everett Richard Beale. We have kept the name Richard in our family without even knowing it was a common name in the Beale family.

  2. Thanks for this excellent summary of the Beale story and description of the diaries.
    I am so glad they are being appreciated.
    Prue from Biddenden

  3. I loved looking at Richard Beale Jr’s doodles! The dog! The hare! The triangle with lighthouse! I felt I had met this 13-year-old.
    I am really old myself, and realize how important it is to record my memories of my grandmother, who was born in 1874 in Lancashire.
    Your family diaries are an inspiration indeed.

  4. what a wonderful find – many thanks for sharing – I am a direct descendant of both of these Richards from Biddenden.

  5. Wow how really interesting. Was only visiting River Hall last October as I found out my 83 year old mothers grandma Laura Beale (1857-1964) lived there and Richard Beale (1771- 1836) would have been her great grandfather. What a really interesting family. I know most of the Beale history now through family trees and my mother and I are really intrigued with the diaries of my ancestors. Great work that you do.

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