Companies such as Kelly's published Trade Directories from the late eighteenth century to the middle of the twentieth. They were the Yellow Pages of their day. Their main purpose was to list businesses and business people as an aid to commercial travellers who journeyed from place to place to sell their goods.
Representatives of the company visited homes and businesses inviting people to advertise in their directory. Even very small concerns were included although, as a fee was charged, not everyone chose to participate.
Some companies, such as Kelly's were more reliable than others.
Directories also listed general information including details of postal services, transport and public institutions such as schools. Most included potted histories and descriptions of the towns and villages they covered. They were organised by county but large towns and cities often had their own directories. Lists were compiled alphabetically by name, street, business, trade or profession.
Local studies libraries and archive repositories.
The Historical Directories website has directories for all counties. It is searchable by placename. Pages can be viewed as pdfs and printed off.
Ideas for use
- To compare a locality in Victorian times with the same locality today.
- To create a timeline.
- To create a database of occupations.
- To investigate how the locality has developed.
- To evaluate how good a source it is - comparison with census.