The Fascination of Directories

Published in WIndlesora 01 (2008)

©2008 WLHG

What were the names of the streets in Windsor in the mid-19th century? Hunt’s Royal Directory of 1846 lists them all from Adelaide Square to William Street, including Frogmore Road, George Street, and Love Lane which have long since disappeared. It also gives the names of all the householders in each street and, where appropriate, their trade or business, bringing out the differences between the various streets. In its short length Clewer Fields had two beer retailers, two wood dealers, a baker, gardener, smith, and wheelwright; Gloucester Place, in contrast, advertised no tradesmen.

Who was trading In Windsor?

Many of the directories list the tradesmen and professional men in alphabetical order. Bailey’s Directory of 1784 is the earliest known for Windsor and in this there are just over 90 people listed from John Astle, a leather cutter, to Thomas Wyatt, the shoemaker. No addresses are given in this directory, nor the next earliest – The Universal British, Vol. 4, 1798, but all of the 19th-century directories include this rather essential piece of information. There are over 160 entries for Windsor in Holden’s Directory of 1811 beginning with William Absalom, grocer of Peascod Street. William Astle, a leather cutter of Peascod Street is the seventh on the list.

How many trades were there in Windsor?

n Pigot & Co’s Directory of 1823 the entries are arranged in some 60 categories from academies to wine merchants, and a miscellaneous section which starts with Jemima Allden, slop seller, and includes a pattern maker, farrier, wheelwright, pawnbroker, leather breeches maker, and bow street officer.

Local directories and where to find them

These directories vary considerably in their content and accuracy and the way in which they are set out, but they are invariably fascinating and a rich source of information. A set of photocopies of Windsor directories have been used in the past year by people investigating the history of their house, their family tree, the history of the public houses and breweries, coaching routes, and the River Thames. The earliest directories are to be found in the Guildhall Library in London, but both Windsor and Slough Reference Libraries have a good run of directories from the mid-19th century. Others can be found at the Central Library at Reading and the County Records Office. Maidenhead Public Library had a copy of Hunt’s Royal Directory of Windsor and the only two copies that I have discovered of Musson & Craven’s Directories of 1853 are at Aylesbury, one in the County Library and the other in the Record Office. These directories, of 1846 and 1853 are the earliest that have entries for Clewer, Dedworth, and Old Windsor; Musson & Craven has even records separately for Spital, ‘a small village and suburb of Windsor, whence it is about half a mile’. Today Spital is well within the town, though it still retains its own distinctive name in school, church, and post office.

Judith Hunter