The Society have many printed directories dating back to the 18th century. County directories were expensive to advertise in, so local businesses opted for the smaller local ones. Each local directory is a hive of useful information for family historians who’s ancestors owned small businesses.
The Society is currently working on a ‘British Business Index’ which will gather as much information as possible on British shopkeepers, businessmen and women and their companies.
The primary source for this index will come from a series of books published in the 1890s by the Brighton firm of Robinson, Son and Pike which later became W T Pike. The contents of these particular directories contain more than just business listings and advertisements. They include a history of the area, its attractions, major institutions and its commercial life. There are sometimes details of town councillors, often with vignette-sized photographs and sometimes even a picture of the local football team!
Pike’s books have a minimum of a paragraph about each shop, often showing a photograph of it or the proprietor and there are frequently details of when and from whom the business was acquired (often a named relative). Family members working in the business are usually given and, if a person is prominent in local society, the entry often mentions membership of the corporation and leisure activities including involvement with clubs, charities and other institutions. This kind of information tells a lot about an individual’s character and is extremely difficult to find elsewhere in such a comprehensive form.
The below images are taken from the 1895 Halifax Brighouse & District directory.