Susan Grossey

Horse artists and bird stuffers

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.

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  1. Graham Thomas Avatar
    Graham Thomas

    Dear Susan

    Glad to hear that you are able to put your unexpected extra dose of time to good use. Your love of books and research will hopefully stand you in good stead in the long weeks ahead!

    Best wishes and stay safe and well.


    1. ihatemoneylaundering Avatar

      It’s surprisingly hard to concentrate, Graham – I thought it would be easy (a relief!) to escape into the past, but with worrying news everywhere, my mind is all over the place. But as this becomes our “new normal”, I daresay I will settle down to more research – and maybe even a bit of writing! Best wishes to you too – and keep safe and chirpy!

      1. Graham Thomas Avatar
        Graham Thomas

        You’re in good company. Several of my work colleagues have said how they thought they would enjoy working from home but, in reality, they are finding it quite a struggle. One very important thing I forgot to check with you, do you have a good supply of chocolate biscuits to tide you over? Graham

  2. ihatemoneylaundering Avatar

    Thanks for your concern, Graham – I have managed to secure a Sainsbury’s delivery for this evening and they have just emailed to say that eggs and tinned tomatoes are out of stock but my 85% dark choc and Jaffa Cakes are safe, so I call that an excellent result.

  3. Roy McCarthy Avatar
    Roy McCarthy

    Love these old publications though, in my case, they end up robbing me of potentially productive hours.

    1. ihatemoneylaundering Avatar

      Just go with the flow, Roy – it’s not really unproductive if you’re enjoying it! And who knows when that nugget of seemingly useless information might suddenly be just the detail you need to make a scene really believable… I’ll certainly be considering how to work a bird-stuffer into my story.

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