Anna Sewell was born in a house on Church Plain in Great Yarmouth.
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
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
trough but is now planted with
flowers by Norwich City Council.
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.