Sunday, September 4, 2011

Trade Directories

One of the earliest trade directories was Samuel Lee's list of the City of London merchants published in 1677. It wasn't until 1800 that directories for cities and large towns began to make an appearance and it is Frederic Festus Kelly that we have to thank for the most comprehensive of all directories.

The former Inspector General of Letter Carriers took over publication of the Post Office London Directory in 1835 and by 1845 was producing provincial directories for just about everywhere. Until the incorporation of the borough in 1900, Swindon received two entries for the old and new towns. The format for these publications was pretty standard with a general description of the place and a little local history followed by a list of the notable inhabitants followed by commercial enterprises.

Kelly's Directory of Wiltshire dated 1899 describes Lydiard Tregoze, now pretty much absorbed into Swindon, as 'a village and parish, 3 miles south east from Wootton Bassett station on the Swindon and Bath section of the Great Western Railway 4 west by north from Swindon.'  There follows a detailed description of St. Mary's Church and the St. John family connection, then a brief mention of Basset Down House, home of the Story-Maskelyne family and the Midgehall estate that once belonged to the Abbey of Stanley. But the most interesting bit for family historians is a list of residents, though it has to be remembered that only tradesmen are included.

First there are the great and the good, Rev. Henry George Baily, then Viscount Bolingbroke and finally Mervin Herbert Nevil Story-Maskelyne. Following these come the commercial listings, which, in a rural parish such as Lydiard Tregoze include farmers, cattle dealer, blacksmiths, dairymen gamekeepers and not forgetting the beer retailers.

After the First World War Swindon Directories included not just tradesmen but street listings. With census returns closed for 100 years, such directories are useful finding aids.

Telephone directories are another useful resource for the family historian and Swindon Central Library holds copies of the Gloucester Area telephone directory, which includes Swindon with an almost complete run from 1957 to the mid 1980s.

The Swindon Almanack and Guide was first published in 1863 by William Dore. The business was later taken over by Robert Astill, a printer from Coventry. The Astill family home, an impressive three storey stone building on the corner of Bath Road and Victoria Street was an Old Town landmark known as Astill's Corner. Astill's printing works was a few doors down in Victoria Street. Swindon Central Library holds microfiche copies of these directories from 1867-1888.  Swindon Central Library has extensive holdings of many trade directories in both book and microfiche copies.

Images are courtesy of  Swindon Local Studies Collection, Central Library see

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