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Volume XXVI: John Carrington, farmer of Bramfield, his diary, 1798-1810, part I, 1798-1804

John Carrington, farmer, overseer, tax collector and local constable of Bramfield, Hertfordshire, was born in 1726. Following in his father's footsteps, at the age of 20 he became gardener to Lady Cathcart at Tewin Water House. By the 1750s he was employed by Richard Warren of Marden Hill, Tewin, and in 1760 became his master's tenant of Bacons Farm, Bramfield. Although a man of apparently no formal education, in his writings he nevertheless exhibits a shrewd intelligence and a financial soundness in his business dealings. The high prices gained for all farm produce, as a direct result of the Napoleonic Wars, gave John financial security and allowed him to purchase property and to make financial investments. For most of his life he served his local community as a member of the Bramfield vestry for which he acted as Surveyor of the Highways and Overseer of the Poor as well as being one of four Chief Constables of the Liberty of St Albans and Hundred of Cashio. With a wide circle of friends and acquaintances he appears to have had a long reputation for honest dealing.

His earliest jottings, dating from 1738, are added to a book containing instructions 'to Add several sums into one Total summe'. However, it was not until shortly after the death of his wife in 1798, when John was 72, that he began to keep a diary. He continued it until twelve days before his own death in 1810. John wrote for his own amusement, and perhaps to interest his own family. He used any sheets of paper that came to hand: sale particulars, accounts, bills, official printed instructions for various public offices, assize calendars, and navy lists, all of which were later roughly bound together into thirteen volumes. These collections form an almost daily record of local and national occurrences during the last twelve years of his life, years which saw great change and often hardship for local communities and for the country as a whole caught up in the far reaching effects of the Napoleonic wars. In December 1800 Carrington wrote: 'Thus ends the most extraordaney year 1800. When things of all kinds was never known so dear, wheat £5 pr load'. Now long out of print, in 1973 extracts from these diaries were published as 'Memorandums For …' The Carrington Diary by W Branch Johnson. This new edition will, for the first time, contain the whole text of John's diary and writings, 1738‐1810 (in two volumes) and the diary of John's son Jack who continued his father's diary until 1812. With an historical introduction, appendices that include biographies of local persons, a glossary and full indexes of names, places and subjects, this illustrated publication will make John's writings on local and national life fully accessible to all.

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