Before the internet there was Yellow Pages, and before that you used local directories to find the trades and services you needed. These county directories were compiled by the Post Office and private companies such as Kellys. They are a fantastic resource for learning a little about your town/village/hamlet such as its administration, church, population and local landowners. You can find out what time the post was collected, the name of the carrier, and the area’s chief crops. After that come the names of the residents: the private subscribers usually first, followed by those in trade.
Some businesses chose to advertise and their creativity provides some delightful discoveries of the services available to county citizens and visitors.
Travellers in search of ‘a good Sunday house’ were ‘respectfully solicited’ to visit Williams’ Commercial Temperance Hotel in Corve Street, Ludlow for ‘luncheons, dinners and teas etc’. We can probably assume that the ‘etc’ did not include a bar. Corn, cake and manure merchants Tucker Brothers of Abergavenny travelled to Hereford on market and fair days to show their linseed mills, litter cutters, horse gears and steaming apparatus. The sole tent maker to Her Majesty’s War Office could furnish you with sacks and bags for coffee and sugar, as well as patent dressings for wagon covers from their flax and jute works in Manchester.
A dazzling array of typefaces was employed to attract readers’ attention and some advertisements featured images such as that of Mr W H Maddox, business manager of the Theatre Royal, Shrewsbury (proprietress Mrs Maddox), who was responsible for the provision of ‘comedy, drama and comic operas and all the latest London successes’. This made the adjacent ad for The Music Hall, Shrewsbury offering ‘every occasion of Public Assemblies’ look rather tame, particularly with its claim to be ‘fully supplied with seats’. Perhaps this was unusual.
Refined lard, silver plate, American organs, carriage rugs, strawberry-coloured roofing tiles, Artesian well-boring apparatus, and magnesia to sooth ‘bilious affections’ were all to be had in 1895 Shropshire.