Tuesday, 3 January 2017

As others saw us ........... Eltham in 1858 according to the Melville & Co's Directory

Front cover of the Directory
“Eltham is a small ancient but pleasant town and suburb of London adjoing Lee, eight miles S.E.from London, in the lathe of Sutton-at-Hone, Blackheath hundred, union of Lewisham, West Kent. 

The population, with Mottingham, in 1851 was 2,437.  The church of St John is a plain edifice, but was considerably improved and enlarged in 1819.  The living is a discharged vicarage, in the diocess of London.  

There are six alms-houses, founded by Thomas Philpot in 1680, and Foster’s Almhouses.  There are two chapels-one for Independents, and the other for Wesleyans.

Mottingham is a hamlet, partly in the parish of Eltham church, and three miles N.W. from Bromley.
POST-OFFICE-James Lawrence, Postmaster.  Money Orders are granted and paid at this office.”

And in 1858 that was pretty much all you needed to know.

Eltham Lodge in 1909
The directory listed 65 names under Gentry, and all the familiar big houses are there.  So Mrs Wood was living at Eltham Lodge, James Vicat at Southwood House, Mrs Lucy Lambert at Eagle House and Alfred Bean Esq in Castle House.

But more interesting are those listed under Trades.  Here are the people who toiled for a living, getting their hands dirty busying themselves from dawn till dusk.

And there are the usual mix of trades ranging from blacksmith, carpenter and tailor to those selling everything from food to drugs running private schools and even a collector of taxes.

As ever a significant number of those engaged in meaningful activity were the beer sellers and publicans who amounted to 17% of the trades listed.  Of these quite a few ran beer shops as opposed to inns.  They owed their existence to the 1830 Beer Act which allowed anybody to brew and sell beer for a small charge.

Often these beer shops were no more than the front room of a house and many of them did not last long.

Some at least may have been a short term strategy lasting just long enough till an alternative means of income could be found.

I rather like Melville & Cos Directory for Eltham and I rather think I will return to it, looking in more detail at the people it listed, checking them off against the census returns for 1851 and 1861 and exploring where they lived.

Pictures; front cover of Melville & Cos Directory of Kent, 1855, and Eagle House, from The story of Royal Eltham, R.R.C. Gregory, 1909 and published on The story of Royal Eltham, by Roy Ayers, http://www.gregory.elthamhistory.org.uk/bookpages/i001.htm

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