Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Old Thanet Directories

I am in the process of producing some more reprints of old Thanet street directories, my objective being to get the directories of streets, private residents or local businesses from 1900 to when the stopped doing them in the 1970s for Ramsgate, Margate and Broadstairs into print. I am starting by aiming for five year intervals, 1900, 1905, 1910 and so on done.

I have taken on a coupe of extra part time workers and am surrounded by computer scans, cover images and so on. I have just written up an introduction to go in them. Anyone got any thoughts or additions to my first draft below.  

“Back in 2004 I decided to produce a few local history booklets to sell in my bookshop in Ramsgate. A big factor in this was Ramsgate Library fire, which destroyed most of the town’s local history book collection.

At the time of writing (2016) I have over 170 in print, combined with my stock of secondhand and new books produced by other publishers about east Kent, I usually have over 300 local books and booklets in stock.

These directories, either arranged alphabetically by streets, private residents or local businesses are the nuts and bolts of our local history. If you want to know who lived in your house in the past or where you relations lived in Thanet they are the main source of information.

Original copies of the directories are difficult to find and expensive to buy, in many cases the paper is poor quality meaning that the directories crumble away when used.

I also publish some sheet maps of Ramsgate 1822, 1849, 1872 and 1939 with Ramsgate tunnel system overlaid on it. These can be used in conjunction with the directories to help build up a picture of the past.

Another aspect of my publishing which can be helpful here are the tourist guides to Thanet that I publish the earliest being for 1763 and one of the most useful being the guides for 1903/4 which are the first to have photographic adverts for some of the Thanet businesses.

Over the years many of the streets have been renumbered, particularly before 1900 although quite a few were renumbered between 1900 and 1915, so I would recommend checking the streets you are most interested in against the later directories especially if you are using a pre 1900 directory.  

I would also recommend walking the areas you are most interested in with the street directories for the periods you are most interested in, taking photos and making notes as you go.

From a technical point of view the pages in the directories I produce are pictures of the pages in the original directories and not something retyped at a later date by man or machine. This method of production means that any errors are only those in the original directory.

Finding pictures of a particular building is often a difficult task, using a street directory in conjunction with an internet image search, searching the names of the people living in the surrounding buildings and the names of any adjacent businesses can sometimes be productive.”

For anyone who doesn’t know what I am talking about, here are a few sample pages from a directory.

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