Basil Cozens-Hardy (1885-1976)

Basil Cozens-Hardy was born on February 4, 1885 and died on January 13, 1976. Educated at Norwich School, Rugby and Trinity College, Oxford, he qualified as a solicitor in 1911 and practised all his life in Norwich.

We can but summarise here the record of a very long, full and active life, concentrating on his contribution to antiquarian matters in the county. His many other activities will have been recorded elsewhere.

The disability following injury in the first war, which necessitated his giving up active sport, could have led to his becoming interested in archaeology. Be that as it may, to those of us who were priviliged to know him in his latter years there is little doubt that it was in this archaeological and historical sphere that his most passionate interest lay.

He joined the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society in 1919 and within three years had been elected Excursion Secretary. Not only did he arrange the outings, but he also gave many interesting papers at the places visited - these can be read in extenso in our Transactions. From 1928 he was General Secretary, while continuing the excursion duties until 1936. It was in that year, when he was Sheriff of Norwich, that a successor as Excursion Secretary was found; although he continued as General Secretary until he became Treasurer in 1973. In recognition of these services for over fifty years, he was made the first Honorary Life Fellow of the Society in 1972. Many of his colleagues regretted that he never became President, but he always declined to be considered for this office.

In spite of the difficulty he found in climbing stairs he most regularly attended our meetings, both of the Council and of the General Purposes Committee of which he was chairman for many years. In fact, he missed his first Council meeting in forty years when he was laid up in hospital following a motoring mishap! Until the last he was very alert to local happenings which could call for action by the Society, and as a consequence the writer was a frequent recipient of letters, terse and and always effective, containing the occasional Latin phrase and written in a small neat hand.

Two important developments took place in 1922, with both of which he was closely connected. The Norfolk Archaeological Trust was formed for the purpose of holding property which would have been vested in the Norfolk and Norwich Archaeological Society had such a course been legally convenient. Independent of the Society but described by him as 'its hand-maid' this Trust still flourishes today very largely due to the interest he has always showed in it as secretary for its first fifty years, and more particularly because of his genorosity upon which it relied in large measure in its early years. It was also in 1922 that he was appointed to the Church Advisory Committee then newly set up by the Bishop of Norwich.

In 1924 he supervised the scheduling of Norfolk's ancient monuments - some 190 of them (a record number for any county) were submitted to the Ancient Monuments Board.

Five years later he was the prime mover in getting the Caistor St Edmund excavations (NHER 9786) underway, and he took an active part in this 'dig' under Donald Atkinson during the next few years.

He was elected Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1931.

During all these years he made valuable contributions to the historical records of the county, contributing regularly to Norfolk Archaeology and also to the publications of the Norfolk Record Society. He edited The Diary of Sylas Neville 1767-1788 in 1950 and his History of Letheringsett appeared some seven years later. He also published, in collaboration with Ernest A. Kent, The Mayors of Norwich 1403-1835, and at the time of his death he was engaged in typing the family history.

With Basil Cozen-Hardy's passing Norfolk antiquarians have lost a distinguished colleague and valued friend. Those who knew him best will remember him with affection and gratitude.

Published as:

Cresswell, I., 1976. 'Obituary B. Cozens-Hardy, D.L., M.A., F.S.A. Hon. Life Fellow' in Norfolk Archaeology, XXXVI, III, 283-284

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