Where to buy manure, and what to do after you have fished a body out of the canal in Liverpool.
As every shopper will have noticed, it is difficult to find a reliable beast tamer or manure dealer in the modern shopping parade. But if you are curious to know what was on sale in your local high street 100 years ago, or more, it is worth a dip into the Ancestry website, where a vast collection of old business directories are available on line from tomorrow (Wednesday).
There you can discover what other shops there were in Liverpool in 1909, when Frank Woolworth opened Britain’s first Woolworth’s at 25-25A Church Street, starting a century in British retailing history that ended today.
Woolworth’s was something of a novelty because it was a general store buying in stock from a range of suppliers, instead of the normal family affair offering one specialised service or commodity for clients who knew what they wanted to buy before they left the house. Impulse buying and retail therapy were not common in those days.
The only name from Church Street, Liverpool, that has outlasted Woolworth’s is also the only other general store trading in 1909, namely The Bon Marche, who listed themselves simply as ‘merchants’.
The other shops along that street were all specialists. They were The Liverpool China & Indian Tea Co, Trainor Campbell - fancy drapers, Beresford & Co - brush manufacturers, Salmon & Gluckstein – tobacconists, Bennett John - coal merchants, Naylor Harry – hosiers, and The Standard Guano Co – manure store.
Other shops in the vicinity included Thomas Bennett & Co., a major manufacturer of casks and barrels based in Liverpool city centre. There was also a well known tailor’s shop, C. Sutherland, in North John Street, where you could buy a three piece suit for “just three guineas”, and Riley, J. & Co., a popular toy shop, and Hampshire, Hobbs & Co Ltd, the well known fish curers.
In other parts of the country, names that are familiar to us were already in the directory, though not always in the context that we expect. John Cadbury, for instance, is listed as a Tea Dealer, though he also sold groceries in his ship and, by the way, chocolate. In the 1840s, there was a grocery shop in Knightsbridge run by a former miller named Charles Henry Harrod. A century later, in Southend High Street, in 1937, a man named Charles Kalms set up a photographic studio, whose frontage was so narrow that the name Kalms & Co would not fit on the sign, so he called the shop Dixons instead. His son Stanley is now President of the huge conglomerate that owns Dixons, Curries, and PC World.
Winding back another century, and the shops listed on Church Street, Liverpool, in the 1790 edition of Gores Directory, are all specialists. They are William Crosdale – corn merchants, Ann Cross – victualler, Mary Daniel – apothecary, Johnson & Malaby’s – liquor vault, Thomas Binns – currier & leather cutter, Thomas Stelfox – sadler, John Thornley – hatter, and Charles Wilson – roper.
Nearby, there was also J Clarkson – beast tamer, George Clayton – gunsmith, Thomas Eyres – dealer in exotic substances, Sarah Knowles – Bacon Driers, and the Institute for Recovering Drowned Persons, which offered half a guinea for each body of a drowned person fished out of the water.
Olivier Van Calster, Managing Director of Ancestry.co.uk said: “This collection of directories is unique in that they cover 250 years of 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, 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.”Tagged in: ancestry, genealogy, woolworth
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter