Report on Diss U3A May meeting

Mark Mitchels made a welcome return as guest speaker at May’s meeting where he gave an entertaining talk on “Parson Woodforde’s Diary”.

The next meeting of Diss U3A will take place on 6th June at Diss United Reformed Church commencing at 10.30am.

For further information on Diss U3A please visit our website or telephone 01379 642674.

James Woodforde, born in 1740, took up the post of Rector of Weston Longville on the outskirts of Norwich in 1776 where he lived the life of a country gentleman. Not an ambitious man, Woodforde saw the church as more of a career move than a calling, enabling him to live well on the generous income he received in tythes and rents from land owned by the church. Woodforde’s life was largely uneventful and would have been forgotten had it not been for the fact that he kept a diary and for 45 years recorded the everyday events of his life, opening a unique window on village life in 18th century England. Although he never married it appears from entries in the diary that he did on occasion stray from the path of righteousness. He also enjoyed a taste for gin and brandy made even more palatable if it was supplied by local smugglers and had avoided the attention of the revenue men. Despite this Woodforde was a generous caring man always concerned for the welfare of his parishioners, giving money and food to those in need and especially to the old and poor battling to survive the devastating cold of a Norfolk winter. As well as recording the daily events in the lives of himself and those in his employ, Woodforde recorded what was happening far beyond Norfolk; The American War of Independence, The French Revolution and Nelson’s victory at the battle of the Nile are all mentioned. In these private diaries Woodforde has bequeathed us more than many professional historians by leaving us a portrait of village life as it was, as it happened.

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