Using trade directories: reconstructing life 100 years ago

Primary History article

By Alf Wilkinson, published 14th June 2021

A case study from Heckington, Lincolnshire

Alf Wilkinson has previously covered the importance of trade directories as a source that teachers can use in primary history.  Alf develops this into a case study for a Lincolnshire village that can be used as a template for primary teachers.  All communities have distinctive characteristics and Alf outlines these but opens out the issues in a way that can be followed by all primary teachers no matter where they are.

One of the problems facing us when we try to develop local history in the primary classroom is the availability – or lack – of accessible sources. Old postcards and photographs are readily available, but so too are trade directories. Trade directories were the telephone directories of the age – published annually, listing the ‘private residents’ and all the businesses for each town and village in the county. They are an incredible window into the past. You can find copies of many Victorian and Edwardian directories in the ‘local studies’ section of your local library. For a more general look at trade directories see Primary History 72.

This article looks at one particular village approximately 100 years ago. The village is Heckington near Sleaford in Lincolnshire. The suggested activities can of course be used almost anywhere in the country...

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