The search for the lost diary
A worldwide search is taking place to find a lost notebook, a vital section of the well-known diaries of the Revd James Woodforde.
In 1924, a selection of extracts from the diaries was published by Oxford University Press. The book sold well, and the popularity of Revd James Woodforde's Diary of a Country Parson has never waned. A further five volumes of extracts were published during the 1920s followed by many compilations and reprints.
The diaries provide a detailed record of his life from 1759, when Parson James was only
nineteen, until his death in 1802. There is an entry for nearly every day of
those 42 years contained in 74 notebooks and various loose papers.
However, one of the notebooks is missing. It covers the period 6 March 1790 to 21 March 1791. If we find it, this important record of life in eighteenth-century England will be complete for the first time.
James Woodforde had no direct descendants. The diaries were passed down the generations through his nephew William Woodforde (Nephew Bill) to his great-grandson Robert Edmund Heighes Woodforde who was for some years, the local doctor in the village of Ashwell in Hertfordshire.
The missing diary was at Ashwell in 1927 when John Beresford, who edited the volumes for Oxford University Press, copied some extracts for the third volume of Diary of a Country Parson.
The notebooks, with many other Woodforde documents, were deposited at the Bodleian Library in Oxford in 1959, soon after Dr Robert Woodforde's death. It was realised then that the notebook was missing.
It is possible that the notebook has been donated to a library or an archive or is with a family member who may not be aware of its significance.
The Parson Woodforde Society and members of the Woodforde family are looking at all possibilities and hope to follow up on all lines of enquiry.
If you can help in any way, with information, an idea, or a theory, please send us a message using the Contacts Page.