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Trade Directories

Trade directories are an especially useful source for studying local and community history as they can provide a great deal of information about a particular place and its people.

Trade directories were designed to provide the user with current information about localities and their services. They are arranged by parish, and broken down further into townships. Later trade directories arrange the parishes alphabetically, but the earlier editions are arranged geographically by Hundred and have an index of places at the front. 

At the beginning of each parish entry there is an introductory section which details the administration, history and notable people of the parish. The parish history in the earlier editions can be quite detailed and may include information on the development of the parish church and local landowner’s seat. Additionally, the early editions provide a list of historic seats in the county at the front of the directory. This introductory section usually includes “day to day” information, such as the times of postal deliveries and the departure point for coaches. These small details help to build a detailed picture of a particular settlement at a given point in time.

The parish entry is then usually divided into two sections – private residents and commercial. As individuals would pay to be included in a trade directory, being listed as a private resident was something of a status symbol and it therefore tends to be the wealthier members of a community who appear in this section. The commercial section lists businesses and craftsmen in alphabetical order of surname. The earlier directories break the commercial section into further trade categories, but the later editions simply list the commercial entries alphabetically. Later editions also tend to provide more details of address. Townships within parishes are often given a separate listing under the main parish entry.

It is worth noting that trade directories are not always comprehensive and that private individuals or tradesmen who did not pay for any entry will not be included. Employees are not listed or numbered. Some parts of the country are covered by street directories (which list householders by street), but this is not the case for Staffordshire and trade directories do not fulfil the same function.

Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Archive holdings of trade directories are as follows:

Lichfield History Access Point

Staffordshire Directories: 1818, 1834, 1835, 1850, 1851, 1860, 1872, 1880, 1896, 1900, 1904, 1912, 1916, 1921, 1940

Staffordshire Record Office

Staffordshire Directories: 1818, 1834, 1851, 1870, 1900, 1912, 1928, 1932, 1940

Local Directories: 1965

Stoke-on-Trent City Archives

Staffordshire Directories: 1783-1940 (not every year)

William Salt Library

Staffordshire Directories: 1793, 1818, 1834, 1851 and then every fourth year from 1860-1942

Local Directories: 1891-1947.  A number of local directories for Lichfield were transferred from Lichfield Library in 2018, but they are not currently available.

A number of other libraries in the county hold 19th and 20th century trade directories, details of which can be obtained directly from them.

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