What is a Trade Directory? If, like me, you happen to have been born after 1970, then you may not have come across them before. Simply put, they are the old fashioned equivalent of the Telephone Directories and Yellow Pages rolled into one book.
The earliest known directory of London merchants was published in 1677 and is kept in the Guildhall Library in London. However it was not until 1781 that the first national directory was published. It was the industrial revolution and the growth of the British Empire that boosted the publication of directories. Before the second world war the directories were typically split by counties, apart from those for the larger industrial cities. After the second world war they had grown so much in size it was necessary to split the directories into large towns or city volumes, for example, Kelly's Directory of Rochester Chatham, Gillingham , Strood, Rainham and Neighborhoodwould originally have been part of Kelly's Directory of Kent, Surrey & Sussex. A number of companies published these directories including Pigot, White, Slater and Baines, but from now on we are going to focus on those which are arguably the most famous, the Kelly's Directories.