This essay should perhaps have been called the Raven family tree, because in many ways the story begins with Mary Raven (1733-1809). This is an amazing tale, not exactly of rags to riches, but of how one family rose from relatively humble beginnings to a place among the greatest in the land. This took just four generations and it all started in a rural Norfolk village.
Mary Raven’s father was a maltster in Whissonsett in Central Norfolk. He also kept a grocer’s shop near one of the two windmills in the village. In 1765 Mary married William Hardy, a Yorkshireman who was working as an Excise Officer in East Dereham, the local market town. They set up a maltster’s business in Coltishall, a village some nine miles north of Norwich. Besides malting barley they also used some of it to brew ale, and supplied a number of local pubs.
In 1781 the family moved a few miles away to Letheringsett, a village a mile or so outside the market town of Holt. Letheringsett already had a brewery which was up for sale, and William Hardy bought it. William and his wife Mary had three children, all born before the moved to Letheringsett. The eldest, Raven Hardy, was born in East Dereham and died at the early age of 19. The second son, William, went on to be a prosperous and useful businessman but he died without leaving any surviving issue in 1842. The third child was a daughter, Mary Ann. This child’s grandfather Robert Raven had travelled from Whissonsett to Coltishall to attend her christening in 1774.
Mary Ann married Jeremiah Cozens in 1806. They had one son, William Cozens, who was born in 1806 and lived until 1895. He inherited the brewery from his uncle William Hardy and he continued the family business. Besides being a maltster and brewer he farmed 580 acres around Letheringsett. On inheriting the business he changed his surname to Cozens-Hardy, a requirement of William Hardy’s will.
The number of tied houses belonging to the Hardys had been 25 during their time in Coltishall, and the number increased greatly at Letheringsett during the 19th century. The business was sold to Morgans of Norwich in 1896 on the death of William Cozens-Hardy. The brewing at Letheringsett then ceased but soft drinks were still produced there until a fire damaged the property in 1936.
The family was prosperous but no more so than scores of other local brewers who supplied a few dozen pubs in their districts up and down the country. It was Wiliam Cozens who began the climb out of obscurity. He was living in the family’s home village of Letheringsett before inheriting the brewery, and he had been working as a solicitor. The local courthouse was in the nearby town of Holt, so there was plenty of work for a lawyer to do. In view of their legal background it was natural that his sons should choose the law as their careers. His second son, Herbert Hardy Cozens-Hardy, did particularly well in this respect, having been sent away to boarding school as a child. Education played a big part in his subsequent success; he went on to University College London.
His elder brother Clement had been sent to London too, also as a student of law; in his case the career did not suit him, and he returned to Norfolk to farm at Cley Hall. Nevertheless, his legal training he later found useful when he was appointed as a Magistrate for North Norfolk. Herbert meanwhile had qualified as a barrister and did so well that he was promoted to be Master of the Rolls in 1907. He was ennobled as the 1st Baron Cozens-Hardy in 1914. He even achieved the posthumous honour of being the subject of a poem by John Betjeman!
His son William Hepburn Cozens-Hardy followed his father to University (though at Oxford rather than London) and into the law, and he too became Master of the Rolls. He also followed his father as a Liberal politician, only having to leave his seat in the Commons on succeeding to the Lords in 1920. He spent the 1st World War in the Royal Navy. He died young in 1924, in a motoring accident in Germany.The title passed to his younger brother Edward, the 3rd Baron Cozens-Hardy. Edward had not followed his brother into the law but was a mechanical engineer and director of a glassworks at the time of his succession to the title.
I can remember playing by the lake at Letheringsett in the 1960s when I was a pupil at Gresham’s School. There were still Cozens-Hardys living at Letheringsett Hall. One was the remarkable Lady Beryl Cozens-Hardy. She lived to be 99 and only died in 2010. She was a great supporter of the Girl Guides and was the holder of several important positions in the movement. She was the daughter of the 3rd Baron Cozens-Hardy, Edward (1873 – 1956). She was unmarried, as was her brother, Herbert Arthur Cozens-Hardy, who died aged 68 in 1975. Like his father he was involved in glass manufacture and was a Director of Pilkington Glass. With his death the Barony became extinct.
This advance to membership of the House of Lords by Herbert Hardy Cozens-Hardy was an impressive move up in the social world, but his eldest sister Caroline had already married a young man from Stoke Holy Cross when her brother went up university in 1857. This young man’s name was Jeremiah James Colman, the mustard miller. In fact the families were already related – Caroline’s maternal grandmother had been a Colman. It is this branch of the family which, although it never became part of the peerage, married into the Royal Family. J. J. Colman’s son was Russell and his grandson is Timothy (now Sir Timothy) Colman who was born in 1929. He it was who married Lady Mary Bowes-Lyon, niece of the Queen Mother.
The family has come quite a long way in less than 200 years, but it has not been without its tragedies. The death of young Raven Hardy as a law student in North Walsham in 1787 was one such occasion. The death of Timothy Colman’s elder brother David in the battle of El Alamein was another. He was a 2nd Lieutenant and only 21 years of age at the time of his death. His mother Lettice (née Adeane) lived in Framingham Chase until her death in 1970. The house had been the home of David at the time he joined the army. His father Geoffrey had died when David was still a teenager. The house was demolished by her surviving son Timothy after his mother’s death.