Making a welcome return to Leiston, Sheila Harrison (pictured) read History at Somerville College, Oxford, before pursuing a career as a Lecturer in Further and Higher Education, as well as tutoring for the Open University. Now a resident of Suffolk, she has since researched the histories of Leiston Abbey and Butley Priory, as well as compiling a trilogy of talks based upon the diarised memoirs of Parson Woodforde.
The audience was fascinated to learn that a transcription of James Woodforde’s original journals, completed and maintained by members of the Parson Woodforde Society, stretches to seventeen volumes. The original diaries are held at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and have also been published in an abridged edition, still currently available (see image below).
The content of the diaries is particularly noteworthy for the richness of the language used, including vivid descriptions of the food with which Parson Woodforde entertained guests, and the extreme weather conditions that his household and parishioners regularly endured. The enthusiasm of the audience for the subject matter was also evident in a quick-fire question and answer session, during which many people expressed keen interest in learning more about James Woodforde’s intimate recollections.