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With a whole weekend of social isolating at my disposal, I allowed myself the luxury of a deep-dive into Pigot’s.  What, you’ve never used this amazing resource?  Let me enlighten you.  James Pigot started out as a publisher of general directories and in 1811 he began publishing trade directories for Manchester.  His big project – the Commercial Directory – was first published in 1814, and in 1823 he expanded to other cities, including London.  And in 1830 our hero brought out his “National Commercial Directory; Comprising a Directory and Classification of the Merchants, Bankers, Professional Gentlemen, Manufacturers and Traders of the Cities, Towns, Sea-Ports and Principal Villages of the Following Counties, viz Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire”.  Catchy title!  But it does what it says on the tin: it’s basically the forerunner to the Yellow Pages.  And for getting the flavour of daily life at the time, it’s fantastic.

Pigot 1830

For instance, in 1830 Cambridge was the place of business for four artists (including one “horse artist”), two bird stuffers, four breeches makers, thirty-three butchers (four of them women), several chymists [sic] (including “Isaiah Deck, practical chymist to the Duke of Gloucester, and mineralogist”), numerous “coal and corn merchants” (not a combination we would imagine today), plenty of (non-university) professors and teachers (including the polyglot Frederick de Boetticher, who offered lessons in Italian, Spanish, French, German, Dutch and Russian), 110 pubs and taverns – and one dentist, one piano tuner and one coroner.  It certainly tells you a great deal about people’s interests, concerns and priorities.

I am also taking this opportunity to plan ahead with my monthly behind-the-scenes research newsletters, so do sign up if you’d like more fascinating detail about life in the 1820s, in both London and Cambridge.