Anna Sewell, author, was born 30 March 1820 in Yarmouth, Norfolk. She was the daughter of Quaker parents Isaac Sewell, a draper, and Mary Sewell, a writer who had some success publishing a series of works for workers and children when in her sixties.
The family moved to London, Nottingham, Sussex, Gloucestershire, Somerset and back to Norfolk with her father’s work.
In her youth, Anna displayed an interest in natural history and showed a talent for drawing. When Anna was about 14 she damaged her ankles which did not heal correctly leaving her unable to walk. However, when the family returned to Norfolk, she learned to ride and drive a horse.
Sewell never married or had children, she always lived with her parents.
Anna’s only publication was Black Beauty, written intermittently from 1871 to 1877 at a time when her health further declined, and she was confined to the house and her sofa. The novel was sold to her mother’s publishers, Jarrold & Sons, for an outright payment of £40 and published as Black Beauty: his grooms and companions; the autobiography of a horse, Translated from the Original Equine, by Anna Sewell, on 24 November 1877 when Anna was fifty-seven. Now a children’s classic, the novel was originally written for those who worked with horses. It has been seen as instrumental in leading to the abolition of the bearing-rein.
Anna lived just long enough to know of her novel’s early success. She died at the White House of hepatitis or phthisis on 25 April 1878 just five months after its publication. She was buried on 30 April 1878 in the Quaker burial-ground in Lamas near Norwich.
Anna and her mother Mary are commemorated by a horses’ drinking trough at the bottom of Constitution Hill.
Find out more: You can see records relating to Anna Sewell at the Norfolk Record Office – click here and search for ‘Anna Sewell’.