Diary extracts as a Norfolk rector

The series of Diary extracts falls into five groups on separate pages, reflecting Woodforde's career: Oxford undergraduate; Somerset curate; College fellow; Norfolk rector; Tourist.

In each extract the first part is a faithful transcription of the original manuscript, as published in the Parson Woodforde Society's edition in seventeen volumes. The diarist's line-breaks in his manuscript are retained. The second part is a transcription in modern English, with revised punctuation and spelling and set as continuous prose.

In these glimpses into Woodforde's daily life we see him as a bachelor parish priest in rural East Anglia twelve miles north-west of Norwich. For most of his years there 1776–1803 his niece Anna Maria Woodforde (known in the family as Nancy) was his companion at the Weston parsonage house. She had replaced her brother William, who found the isolation of the countryside too dull for an active young man to bear.


He suffers appalling dental treatment, 4 June 1776

An English dental key, mid-18th centuryDental key, English, 1725-1780, width 150 mm [Science Museum Collection no. A656897: Sir Henry Wellcome's Collection: © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum]

My tooth pained me all night, got up a little after 5. this
morning and sent for one Reeves a man who draws
Teeth in this Parish and about 7. he came and drew
my Tooth but shockingly bad indeed, he broke away a
great Piece of my Gum & broke one of the Fangs of the
Tooth it gave me exquisite Pain all the Day after and
my Face was swelled prodigiously in the Evening & much Pain.
Very bad in much Pain the whole Day long -
Gave the old Man that drew it however - 0 : 2 : 6
He is too old I think to draw teeth, can't see very well -

My tooth pained me all night. [I] got up a little after 5 this morning and sent for one Reeves, a man who draws teeth in this parish, and about 7 he came and drew my tooth but shockingly bad indeed: he broke away a great piece of my gum and broke one of the fangs of the tooth.

It gave me exquisite pain all the day after and my face was swelled prodigiously in the evening and much pain. Very bad, in much pain the whole day long. Gave the old man that drew it however  £0 2s 6d. He is too old I think to draw teeth, can't see very well.


Information on the iron dental key (illustrated)
'Dental keys or tooth keys were introduced in the early 1700s and became the instrument of choice for tooth pulling from the 1770s onwards. They remained in common use until the beginning of the twentieth century.

This early example looks like a door key from the same period. The claw was placed over the top of the tooth and the bolster, the long metal rod to which the claw is attached, was placed against the root of the tooth. The key was then turned as if the user were opening a lock and the tooth would hopefully be removed – although dental keys were notorious for causing injury. Undoubtedly this operation was extremely painful for the patient, who probably had to be restrained.

Tooth pulling was carried out by a range of people including barber-surgeons and travelling practitioners and was the most common remedy for diseased teeth. Dentistry did not become a regulated and licensed profession until the late 1800s.'
(Courtesy of the Science Museum: London)


He meets Hannah Snell and goes pike-fishing, 21 May 1778

Hannah Snell (1723–92), whom Woodforde encountered in 1778 (by Daniel Williamson)Hannah Snell (1723–92), by Daniel Williamson (detail) [Royal Marines Museum, accession no 51/88: through Art UK]

We all breakfasted, dined and slept again at Weston -
I walked up to the White Hart with Mr. Lewis and Bill,
to see a famous Woman in Men's Cloaths, by name
Hannah Snell, who was 21 years as a Common Soldier
in the Army, and not discovered by any as a Woman -
Cousin Lewis has mounted guard with her abroad -
She went in the Army by the name of John Gray -
She has a pension from the Crown now of 18 - 5 - 0
per Annum and the liberty of wearing Men's Cloaths
and also a Cockade in her Hat, which she still wears -
She has laid in a room with 70 Soldiers and not
discovered by any of them - The forefinger of her right
hand was cut of by a Sword at the taking of Pondicherry -
She is now about 60 yrs of age and talks very sensible
and well, and travels the country with a Basket at her
back, selling Buttons, Garters, laces &c. -
I took 4 Pk of 4d Buttons and gave her - 0 - 2 - 6.
At 10 o'clock we all went down to the River with
our Nets a-fishing . . .
At Lenwade Bridge we caught a prodigious fine
Pike which weighed 8 Pound and a half and
it had in its Belly another Pike, of above a Pound -
We caught also there the finest Trout I ever saw
which weighed 3 Pound and two Ounces -
Good Pike and Trout we also caught besides -

We all breakfasted, dined and slept again at Weston. I walked up to the White Hart with Mr Lewis and Bill, to see a famous woman in men's clothes, by name Hannah Snell, who was 21 years as a common soldier in the Army, and not discovered by any as a woman. Cousin Lewis has mounted guard with her abroad. She went in the Army by the name of John Gray.

She has a pension from the Crown now of £18 5s 0d per annum and the liberty of wearing men's clothes and also a cockade in her hat, which she still wears. She has laid in a room with 70 soldiers and not discovered by any of them. The forefinger of her right hand was cut off by a sword at the taking of Pondicherry. She is now about 60 years of age and talks very sensible and well, and travels the country with a basket at her back, selling buttons, garters, laces etc. I took 4 packs of 4d buttons and gave her £0 2s 6d.

At 10 o'clock we all went down to the river with our nets a-fishing . . . At Lenwade Bridge we caught a prodigious fine pike which weighed 8 pounds and a half and it had in its belly another pike, of above a pound. We caught also there the finest trout I ever saw which weighed 3 pounds and two ounces; good pike and trout we also caught besides.


Lenwade Bridge on the Wensum, where Woodforde, his nephew and friend caught a pike in 1778 (by F. Stone 1830)Lenwade Bridge over the River Wensum, carrying the Norwich to Fakenham road. Here Woodforde, his nephew and friend caught 'a prodigious fine pike' in 1778 [drawing by F. Stone 1830; lithograph by D. Hodgson]

Sympathy for a reluctant bridegroom, 25 January 1787

Rode to Ringland this Morning and married
one Robert Astick and Elizabeth Howlett by
Licence, Mr. Carter being from home, and the
Man being in Custody, the Woman being with
Child by him - The Man was a long time before
he could be prevailed on to marry her when
in the Church Yard; and at the Altar behaved
very unbecoming - It is a cruel thing that any
Person should be compelled by Law to marry -
I recd. of the Officers for marrying them - 0 - 10 - 6.
It is very disagreeable to me to marry such Persons.

The Rt Revd Dr Charles Manners Sutton (1755–1828), Bishop of Norwich in the last decade of Woodforde's life (attributed to John Hoppner)The Rt Revd Dr Charles Manners Sutton (1755–1828), Bishop of Norwich from 1792 until becoming Archbishop of Canterbury in 1805. Despite frequent absences he gave leadership to the Norfolk clergy during successive invasion crises, advising them on the ways they could rally their parishioners [attributed to John Hoppner; courtesy the collection of Lambeth Palace, accession no. 16]Rode to Ringland this morning and married one Robert Astick and Elizabeth Howlett by licence, Mr Carter being from home and the man being in custody, the woman being with child by him. The man was a long time before he could be prevailed on to marry her when in the churchyard, and at the altar [he] behaved very unbecoming. It is a cruel thing that any person should be compelled by law to marry. I received of the officers for marrying them  £0 10s 6d. It is very disagreeable to me to marry such persons.

Clergy's preparations for French invasion, 6 August 1801

Had a large Parcel of Papers brought to me
this Evening by a Stranger
containing directions in case of an Invasion
with a Letter from the Bishop requesting
the Clergy to be attentive and active in the same
It hurried and affected me a great deal indeed
It contained directions what is to be done in
case of a real Invasion - An Account of all
Stock to be taken & to be removed &c. &c.

[I] had a large parcel of papers brought to me this evening by a stranger containing directions in case of an invasion, with a letter from the Bishop requesting the clergy to be attentive and active in the same. It hurried and affected me a great deal indeed. It contained directions [on] what is to be done in case of a real invasion: an account of all stock [livestock] to be taken and [the stock] to be removed etc etc.

The final entry: almost too weak to dress and move, 17 October 1802

We breakfasted, dined,
Very weak this Morning, scarce able to put on my Cloaths
and with great difficulty, get down Stairs with help -
Mr. Dade read Prayers & Preached this Morning at
Weston Church - Nancy at Church -
Mr. and Mrs. Custance & Lady Bacon at Church -
Dinner today Rost Beef &c.

A sight familiar to Woodforde: the mediaeval corbel head by the priest's door at Weston Church A sight familiar to Woodforde: the mediaeval corbel head by the priest's door at Weston Church [photo Margaret Bird 2011]We breakfasted, dined. Very weak this morning, scarce able to put on my clothes and, with great difficulty, get downstairs with help. Mr Dade read Prayers and preached this morning at Weston Church. Nancy at church, Mr and Mrs Custance and Lady Bacon at church. Dinner today roast beef etc.