In this trade directories collection you will find a number of digitised extracts from three trade directories for Shropshire, published in 1822, 1850 and 1895.
What are trade directories?
Trade directories were first published in the seventeenth century, in response to the growing demands from businesses and people for easy access to information about the transport, economy and trade of an area. The first trade directories covered London, but eventually they were published to cover each county in England. They usually follow the same basic format:
- An introduction to the county's landscape, history and economy. A map of the county was often inserted.
- Entries for all the parishes, in alphabetical order. Each parish entry usually included:
- A description, history and economic summary of the parish and towns within it
- The names and addresses of the important people in the parish, such as poor-law officers, police and church officers
- A list of the tradespeople, organised either by trade or by surname
- Information about the coaches (for carrying people), carriers (for transport of goods) and other methods of transport from a parish, such as canal or railway
- Advertisements for companies
What are the drawbacks of using trade directories?
There are several problems when using trade directories to make comparisons with places over time:
- Some less reputable trade directories pirated from earlier versions. Thus although the later directory seems to show few changes, it might be that in fact the information was simply copied from previous years. On the other hand, some later trade directories were better-researched, picking up on things which had always been present but which the earlier directories overlooked.
- In an entry for a particular town there will be details of the transport from that place to another (e.g. Shrewsbury to Drayton). However, in the entry for the second place there may be no information about the same route back to the first town (e.g. from Drayton to Shrewsbury). This can make it appear as if you could only take a one way trip, when in fact this was not the case.
- It took up to a year for information for a directory to be gathered and printed. So in the short term, and in a few cases, the lists of tradespeople or transport may be up to twelve months out of date.
Despite these reservations, directories are of great help to the historian because they contain such a diverse variety of factual information.
The directories chosen
The three directories from which the extracts in this collection are taken are:
- Pigot's Directory, 1821-1822
- Slater's Directory, 1850
- Kelly's Directory, 1895
These three respected publishers had high standards and checks in place to try to ensure the accuracy of each entry. By the late nineteenth century, Kelly's had become the standard directory, the equivalent of the modern Yellow Pages.
The period chosen
This collection contains excerpts from three trade directories, published in the nineteenth century in 1822, 1850 and 1895:
- 1822: Three years after 1822, the Stockton and Darlington railway would be opened; the railways revolutionised the speed and efficiency of transport.
- 1850: At the mid-point of the nineteenth century, Britain was the world's leading industrial nation. The Great Exhibition of 1851 demonstrated the country's scientific, industrial and economic prowess.
- 1895: As the turn of the century, and the end of the Victorian period, approached, Britain looked increasingly like the modern world we know today. The first commercially produced cars had started to appear, the electric light was emerging on streets and in homes, and the telephone, gramaphone and motion pictures were starting to change the way we communicate.
The trade directories cover the county of Shropshire, a very rural county in the Midlands, but which was also the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. Within the county, the collection focuses on four parishes and towns:
- Shrewsbury: The capital town of Shropshire and the largest urban area; it was the hub for transport and trade to and from the county.
- Oswestry: A market town and parish on the north-west border with Wales; although in a rural area, Oswestry was also an important industrial centre during the nineteenth century.
- Drayton: An agricultural town and parish in the north-east of the county; Drayton's markets were affected by the changes in transport and industry of the nineteenth century.
- Broseley: A market town and parish which was at the heart of the industry in Shropshire; it was in this area that the famous Iron Bridge was cast.
Trade directory sources relating to Shropshire: Next
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