Directories of Individual Towns
In addition to the county directories there were directories for individual towns. These took a wide variety of forms - possibly as a local appendix to an almanac or as extra information pages at the back of a diary. These would be produced by a local stationer, such as Joshua Brackett in Hemel Hempstead, whose directories appeared in the late 19th century, funded in part by adverts by local shopkeepers. You should be aware that some of these directories may only have included people who paid for an entry - so may include a biased selection of entries. Even an early calendar, issued free with a weekly local paper, with adverts round the edge, can be considered a limited form of trade directory.
Others directories may have been produced as part of a town guide and I have an Official Directory of the Borough of Hemel Hempstead published in 1937, priced at 4 pence. There was a St Albans Almanack, first published in 1860, and I have a photocopy from the Langley's Directory of St Albans 1877 from this source. The Almanack continued and a photocopied set starting in 1881 is on the open shelves of the St Albans City Library. Initially it tended to only list the people "who mattered" and businesses that paid for adverts but it improved over the years until about 1900, when it ceased publication of the directory sections because Kelly's produced a comprehensive street directory. This was initially annually - but there were breaks during the First World War and my personal copy of Kelly's Directory of St Albans, Harpenden, Hatfield, Radlett and District, dated 1949, is the 38th edition.
The following extract comes from Langley's Directory of St Albans 1877
Fenson Misses, Dressmaker
Harding J. H.
Harding Mrs, Dress maker
Hawkins J, Grocer and dairyman
Stone George, Dealer
Sharp C. Oilman
. Esq, Abbey Orchard House
Organist, S. Michael's Ch.
Abbey Mill Lane
Many of the very local directories, particularly the earlier ones linked to a particular year, will have had a very local circulation. Something like a diary - with a locally produced appendix - was unlikely to be sent to the copyright libraries such as the British Library. In addition such items were only seen as ephemera and would rapidly become rubbish. As a result surviving copies are rare. HALS, at Hertford has a number, but most relate to the 20th century and the only pre-1900 town directories it holds are for Watford (1884, see History of Watford - Trade Directory), Berkhamsted (1882) and Hemel Hempstead (1889). Copies may sometimes be held in the local studies collection at the relevant town library.
If you can add to the information given above tell me.
Page updated October 2009