One of the Society's objectives is to further the study of James Woodforde's world and the setting in which he lived. These pages invite you to share this exploration —
Firstly  by looking at Woodforde's world in a dozen objects, and
Secondly  through highlighting parts of the country with which he was familiar.

I . Woodforde's world in a dozen objects JW's longcase clock full webWoodforde's clock from his 'happy, thatched dwelling' [Parson Woodforde Society Collection]

We celebrate the diarist's life through a selection of artefacts. They range from the seventeenth-century oriel window at his birthplace and the marble memorial to his parents in Ansford Church to his longcase clock and the family pew of his great friends at Weston, the Custances. The majority of these items are on public view.

Each link in the list takes you to a separate page with a photograph and description of the object.


1 . James Woodforde's longcase clock, made at Reepham, Norfolk
2 . Nancy Woodforde's portrait aged 22, painted on a box lid
3 . The cream jug of Mr Du Quesne, Woodforde's clerical friend

Ansford, Somerset

4 . The Old Parsonage • the diarist's birthplace
5 . The parish church • the mural tablet to Woodforde's parents


6 . New College cloisters • the mural tablet to Woodforde erected by the Society

Weston Longville, Norfolk

7 . The parish church • James Woodforde's portrait
8 . The parish church • the Royal Arms of King George III
9 . The parish church • the Custance family pew
10 . The parish church • James Woodforde's mural tablet
11 . The former public house • the Old Hart

Introducing Woodforde to the public

12 . Beresford's five-volume Diary • vol. 1 first edition (1924)


II . Exploring Woodforde country

Woodland path 2016A woodland path a few miles from Norwich [photo Margaret Bird 2016]


The two places most closely associated with Woodforde are his birthplace Ansford and the neighbouring town of Castle Cary; he served curacies in both. He retained close family connections with the area throughout his life.


Map of Weston in Woodforde's timeMap of Weston in Woodforde's time [from Bryant's Map of Norfolk 1826: Larks Press edition 1998, detail]WESTON • Woodforde lived from 1776 until his death in 1803 at Weston Longville (then generally known as Weston). It lies ten or 12 miles north-west of Norwich, depending on the route taken. We learn a great deal about the village and neighbouring places from his diary.

A map of Weston and the surrounding area as it appeared a few years after Woodforde's death can be downloaded and printed as an A4 sheet using this link. The pdf is annotated with numerous places which feature in the diary, and has a key and scale.

The A4 map covers an area reached within about an hour's walk of the village centre dominated by the church and the Hart public house at (1) and (2) on the annotated map. The diarist's parsonage house (3), shown in its little park, lies a short distance south-west of the church in what is today Rectory Road, by the turning to Hungate Common. The house was demolished less than 20 years after the map was surveyed 1824–26.

The main Norwich–Fakenham road (turnpiked in 1823 and now the A1067) runs north-west close to the Custances' Weston House (4), incorrectly named as Weston Hall. The road crosses the River Wensum (7) at Lenwade Bridge (6). The lane leading to Weston from the main road is just after the eight-mile milestone close to the White Horse at Morton (labelled incorrectly as the White House).

Another route to Weston leads south-west from Lenwade Bridge past the Old Hall of the Rokewoods (5), the Custances' predecessors as squires. By 1826 the Old Hall was a farmhouse, with barely any grounds. Woodforde's village, set amongst a dense network of lanes, could be reached by numerous other byways, tracks and bridleways.

This density was about to be lost, making journeys in the area rather longer. Weston parish underwent parliamentary enclosure under Hambleton Custance in an Act of 1822. Following the subsequent enclosure award, as was common, roads would be suppressed or diverted to suit landowners' desire both for privacy and for larger and more compact holdings.

We can see from Bryant's map that James Woodforde had a number of lanes running close to his rectory (3) which on modern maps are marked now only as footpaths. He could reach the church by heading east-northeast along the road opposite his drive leading to Dark Lane just south of the church (1). From Green Gates, very near his home, he had a direct route to Dairy House Farm beside the back entrance to Weston House (4). Both these roads are now paths.

The road leading behind the Hart (2) directly to the Custances' park from Dark Lane was closed. Not even a footpath exists there today.

What we learn from Bryant's map is that James Woodforde and his nephew and niece were much less isolated at their parsonage home than is suggested by Weston's road layout in the 21st century.

NORWICH • In 2008 the Society marked its fortieth anniversary by publishing Phyllis Stanley's Walks Around James Woodforde's Norwich, a 48-page booklet describing the city which Woodforde knew. Illustrated with maps and drawings, it is still available from the Society, by post.

Norwich map 1779Norwich in 1779, in a wealth of detail. The walled city was very familiar to Woodforde on his numerous visits. He often stayed at the King's Head in the Market Place, west of the Castle in the centre [drawn by M.J. Armstrong for Mayor Roger Kerrison; engraving by J. Thompson: Cozens-Hardy Collection]The booklet has been used to good effect by a historian and blogger for his website Colonel Unthank's Norwich – History, Decorative Arts, Buildings. Here he draws on Phyllis Stanley's text to create a well-illustrated portrait of the city known to James Woodforde: Parson Woodforde goes to market.

In a second study taking as its inspiration the Society's booklet we learn about Parson Woodforde and the Learned Pig.