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Anna Sewell (1820-1878)

Anna Sewell was born in a house on Church Plain in Great Yarmouth.

Anna Sewell's Birthplace

Anna Sewell's Birthplace (the one in the middle)

Her parents were Quakers and soon after they left Norfolk and moved to London. However, she and her brother Philip made frequent returns to Norfolk to stay with their grandparents - who lived at Dudwick Farm in Buxton. It was here that Anna first learnt to ride and it is almost certainly the inspiration for Birtwick Park in Black Beauty  (though some claim it was based on Tracy Park near Bath where the family also lived.)

When she was a teenager Anna injured her ankles and for the rest of her life suffered from mobility problems. As a result she relied heavily upon horse-drawn carriages and this may have given her a particular empathy with horses.

She wrote Black Beauty at a house on Spixworth Road in Old Catton and it was published by Jarrold's' in 1877. Anna was bed-ridden from 1871-1877 and wrote the book on slips of paper or dictated it directly to her mother. The book is subtitled The Autobiography of a Horse and deals with the life and mistreatment of  'Beauty'. In particular, Anna sought to highlight the cruel practise of using a 'bearing rein' to keep horses' head upright. The book achieved its intension for, soon after, the reins fell out of fashion. Mary Sewell, Anna's mother, is featured on the pilaster of Jarrold's shop front.

In Norwich, there is also a memorial fountain to Anna Sewell located at the junction of Constitution Hill and St. Clement's Hill - which also marks the entrance to Sewell Park. It was erected in 1917 by Ada Sewell - the writer's cousin - and was originally a  horse trough but is now planted with flowers by Norwich City Council.

Anna Sewell Fountain, Norwich

Anna Sewell Memorial Fountain

Heading north out of the city - and located in the middle of the Sewell Park College - lies the Sewell Barn. This is now home to the Sewell Barn Theatre Company but was said to be the the barn that once housed the horse which inspired Black Beauty. This area was originally part of an estate owned by Anna's brother Philip.

   Sewell Barn

Sewell Barn, Norwich

Sewell Park Plaque

Plaque on wall of Sewell Park

Anna Sewell Portrait

Anna Sewell

Anna died shortly after Black Beauty was published so she never lived to see the popularity of her creation. She died on the 25 April 1878 and was buried in the Quaker Cemetery in Lamas. The chapel is now a home and Anna's gravestone has been set into the wall by the gate.

There is a biography by Susan Chitty which was published in 1971.


More photographs of Anna Sewell locations in Norfolk

Read Black Beauty online





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