Entries covering Downton in Local Trade Directories from 1793 to 1855
The local historian can derive valuable information from old trades directories. These were the nineteenth and early twentieth century equivalent to the Yellow Pages, but gave more information than just lists of local companies. Each town and village has its own entry, which, in the directories of the mid-1800s onwards, usually contained three types of information-
Firstly a paragraph of general information about the area, a brief history, information about the local churches and schools along with details of the postal service. Next is a list of residents and finally, the main list of trades people in alphabetical order.
Entries for Downton from several old trades directories are printed below. The village first appears in a trades directory published as far back as the 1790s.
It has to be remembered that as interesting as the entries are, they only provide us with limited information. Only the wealthiest residents are recorded and of these only the head of the household (almost always male) is listed. Some of the information may have been out of date at the time the directory was printed. Directories published before the mid-nineteenth century also have the major drawback that inclusion had to be paid for by the trader. It was only when the Post Office started producing directories with free entries that their counterparts, the commercial publishers were forced to follow suit.
The other most frustrating problem with village entries such as Downton's, is the vagueness of the details. No precise address is given, there are no street numbers as there would be for businesses in towns and cities. In the earlier directories we are not even given any indication as to whether the entries only relate to Downton village, but do they also include Standlynch and Charlton? For instance James Smith was the miller at Standlynch, yet in the 1830 Pigot's Directory (listed below) he is listed along with all the Downton entries.
Nevertheless, the entries below make a fascinating read and act as a worthy supplement to Parish Records and (from 1837) the Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths.