Branscombe Project © 2009-2012
William Braddick Ford (1769-1797) lived and farmed at Gay's Farm in Branscombe in East Devon. He began to keep a diary in January 1789, when he was nearly 20, gave up in February, started again in April 1790 and continued to the end of 1791. His jottings over these two years are a valuable source for understanding farming practices at this period, and tell us much about his family life
and also about a major village feud between two local notables, 'Squire' Stuckey and William Leigh. They also contain information about the early days of the Ford family's lime-burning business, which William's brother John expanded in the neighbouring village of Beer. It is unfortunate that the gap in the diary in early 1790 coincided with the dramatic landslip at Hooken cliff, which had a big effect on the landscape and subsequent economy of the area, but is not mentioned. William died young, unmarried, having, according to the Rev. Thomas Puddicombe, vicar of Branscombe, 'destroy'd his Health by intemperance.’
Towards the back end of the diary 36 pages were used to keep accounts of the lime business. These have not been scanned for the website.
The diary itself now belongs to a family member in Australia, but it was transcribed in 1917 by the Branscombe historian Elijah Chick. His manuscript transcript is in the Devon Record Office, and the Record Office and the Ford family have kindly permitted this photographic copy to appear on the website.
Click here to view Chick’s sketch map of the area of East Devon in the diary
‘William Ford's Branscombe’ by John Torrance uses contemporary sources to fill out the diary's context, and discusses the light it throws on various aspects of village life. (See Publications)