Anna Sewell, a True Norfolk Legend

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A rare collection of letters and manuscripts relating to the family of Black Beauty author Anna Sewell has been brought back to her home county of Norfolk.

Having found the letters, when I looked through them in greater detail, I immediately recognised their local, national and international significance.DSCF5153

The collection includes at least seven letters written by Anna herself; one written to Philip Sewell, her brother, signed “your loving sister Anna Sewell” and several signed “Nannie”, her family’s pet name for her.

Other documents in the collection include letters relating to her brother Philip, and from her mother, Mary, father Isaac and aunt Emma, as well as other family correspondence. Philip Sewell spent a lot of time in Spain and his letters from there are full of family news and tales of life there for an English engineer at the time. When he returned to England, he settled in Norwich and lived in the area where we now see The Sewell Barn Theatre and Sewell Park School.

The most interesting parts of the collection are the family ones, for instance, when her brother lost one of his children, Anna wrote a poem all about his little girl who died, and there’s actually a working copy of this poem… where she’s crossed parts out and changed the wording.

DSCF5156There are not many letters in her own hand that exist and these order ventolin hfa ones shed more light on the woman who wrote Black Beauty and who was active in charity work among the poor.

Black Beauty was written while Anna was quite ill, in her mid 50s and she died five months after it was published.

  • Anna Sewell was born to a Quaker family in Great Yarmouth in March 1820
  • When she was about 14 she injured her ankle which was then treated badly
  • As she couldn’t walk properly, Anna relied on horses
  • She began to write Black Beauty when she moved back to Norfolk in 1871
  • Black Beauty was published by Jarrolds of Norwich in 1877
  • Jarrolds paid Anna a one-off payment for the book
  • Anna died five months after its publication
  • Black Beauty started the whole Animal Cruelty debate and, thanks to this lady, we now treat animals with respect and care.

Most children know the story and have seen either television adaptations or series based on this fantastic tale but, for me, the collection brings back memories of my childhood. When I was little my dad always used to read me and my sister a couple of pages from our copy of Black Beauty before we went to bed, so the find took me back to those days in the ’60s.

By Glynn Burrows Director of Buy Local Norfolk & Local Historian

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