Kelly's Post Office Directories date from 1845. These are the most available directories containing information organised by county. Different volumes might contain different combinations of counties and the information on one county may appear in several volumes with slightly different dates on the cover of the collection. In addition some large volumes may have subsequently been broken up into counties - and the "date" on the binding is one that someone had assigned by looking at the contents. For example a number of Hertfordshire libraries have copies of the 1860 and 1862 directory - the only snag is that they are identical - and my assessment is that the 1862 date is probably correct. However there is little doubt that at the end of the 19th century the Hertfordshire entries were being updated on a four year cycle.
The structure varies a bit between editions but in 1855 the St Albans entry was four pages long and consisted of (1) description of the town; (2) details of small outlying places not listed elsewhere, such as Park Street and Bernard Heath; (3) alphabetical list of the gentry; (4) Names, trade and street address of traders in alphabetical order by surname; (5) sections on the Post Office, Corporation, Public Establishments, Public Officers, Places of Worship, Public Schools, Posting Houses, Coaching to London and elsewhere, and Carriers. From the point of view of the genealogist the alphabetical listing of traders is more convenient than the classified approach of the Pigot's directories - but it is easy to overlook names that occur only in the final sections. Later editions also had comprehensive countywide "indexes" listing names within occupational categories. By 1898 the size of the directory entry for St Albans (now a city) had expanded to just over 18 pages and while part of this is because the population was higher, much was due to a much more thorough coverage.
The following comes from the trades index for the 1908 directory for Hertfordshire
See Agents - Brewers'.
Varty N. & Sons, Royston iron works, Royston
Wickham D. & Co. London rd. Ware
BRICK & TILE MAKERS
[For full lists of this trade in United Kingdom, see Building Trades Directory, Price 30s.]
Ashby Albert, Aldbury, Tring; & Bouveridge brick fields, Northchurch, Berkhamsted
Bennett Ltd. London Colney, St Albans
Boff Brothers, Shenley, Barnet
Butterfield Jesse, Great Gaddesden, Hemel Hempstead
Child William Charles, Leverstock Green, Hemel Hempstead
Collier's End Brick, Tile & Pipe Works (Walter Brazier, manager), Collier's end, Ware
Kelly's became the main publisher of all kinds of specialist directories - including local street directories - and an extensive set of street directories for the St Albans are available in St Albans Central library
See LDS Holdings of Hertfordshire Directories
The 1851 Post Office Court and Trade Directory for Essex, Hertfordshire, Kent, Middlesex, Surrey and Sussex, the 1851 Post Office Directory for Hertfordshire [the bound photocopy available in various Hertfordshire libraries dated 1850 is identical] and the 1866 Post Office Directory for Hertfordshire are available on CD from Archive CD Books. Hertfordshire Brickmakers 1851 shows how the information the 1851 trade directory contains can tie in with the county directory, while Straw Plait Dealers 1851 shows how strongly clustered the straw plait industry was around St Albans and how it ties in with the 1851 census (where available). The excellent Archive CD Books Kelly's Directories of Hertfordshire - Compendium Set covers the years 1882, 1886, 1890, 1912, 1922, 1926, 1929, 1933 and 1937. The later ones contain considerable detail, including history, of the towns and villages of Hertfordshire, for instance see extract from 1922 for Markyate.
Dates of Post Office/Kelly's Directories for Hertfordshire
The following is based on British Directories - England & Wales 1850-1950 by Gareth Shaw & Allison Tipper (2nd edition, 1997). The years in bold are available on CD from Archive CD Books. Directories available online from the Digital Library of Historical Directories are shown in italics. 1914 is also available on CD from Generations Gone By. Most of the directories are available for reference at HALS.
[1845/6], 1851, 1855, 1859, 1862, 1866, 1870, 1874, 1878, 1882, 1886, 1890, 1894, 1895, 1899, 1902, 1906, 1908, 1910, 1912, 1914, 1917, 1922, 1926, 1929, 1933, 1937
Note that the 1845/6 edition is not available at HALS but there is a copy at the Guildhall Library (1845) and at the British Library (1846).
Note that the 1894 edition was a joint publication with other counties and its Hertfordshire content appears identical to the 1895 edition. Similar small uncertainties in dates may well apply to other years.
1851, 1866, 1882, 1886, 1890, 1912, 1922, 1926, 1929, 1933 and 1937 Directories are indexed on Ancestry. There may be others on CD from various publishers.
If you can add to the information given above tell me.
Page updated July 2016