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Ye Olde Yellowe Payges: trade directories 1677-1946 online

Wednesday, 7th January, 2009 has digitised the trade directories from 1677 to 1946 and from tonight will be available online. 

The directories were compiled by surveyors who would knock on doors to gather information and it didn’t cost anything to be listed. The directories were initially compiled for London, with the first UK-wide directories published in 1820. The English County Directories contain particularly detailed information, listing amenities such as churches, hospitals and schools as well as information on local history, industry, transport and agriculture.

Individual listings vary from the standard occupations of the day such as chimney sweeps, dress makers and greengrocers to more bizarre roles such as leech importers, weapons dealers and beast preservers.

You will be able to find many of today’s well-known names: the first shops of Charles Henry Harrod (Harrods), John Boot (Boots Chemists), William Henry Smith (WH Smiths) and John Cadbury (Cadburys) are all included as are the first outlets of Marks & Spencer, Dixons and Woolworths.

The UK City and County directories were eventually replaced by other media such as the BT Phone Books.

Olivier Van Calster, Managing Director of said:

‘This collection of directories is unique in that they cover 250 years of the UK’s social and commercial history and include many famous names that can still be found on the High Street today.

‘Because the collection spans most of the UK and just about everyone will be able to discover something of relevance – whether it’s what their ancestors were doing hundreds of years ago or how their hometown has changed across the centuries.’

By Emily Andrews, Daily Mail 7th January 2009

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