2.4 Eyre Brothers’ Post Office Plymouth District Directory


In 1880 the first directory for the Plymouth area was published as Eyre Brothers’ Post Office Plymouth District Directory, embracing Plymouth, Devonport, Stonehouse, and the District Five Miles Round (First Edition, 1880-81).[i] Dated September 1880 the Introduction apologises to the residents of the so-called Three Towns (i.e. Plymouth, Devonport and Stonehouse) for a two month delay in publication and hopes for increased support of their inhabitants on future biennial occasions. The directory was published by the Eyre Brothers again in 1882-83 (2nd), 1885-86 (3rd) and 1888-89 (4th) suggesting they found it difficult to keep to their projected timetable.

There were 16 Editions of the Post Office Directory attributed directly to Eyre (with slight change of name) until 1904[ii]. However, only the first four editions were actually published by the Eyre Brothers themselves: the 5th edition (1890) was published by W H Hood; the 6th to 11th by J G Hammond who then published it annually from 1895; and later editions (the 12th to 16th) by Theophilus Creber. All these later publishers issued the work as Eyre’s Post Office Directory. The Directory was taken over by A H Swiss from 1905 and continued until c.1932, still with the Eyre name in the extended title.

The directory was an impressive publication with over 750 pages. Mistakes in pagination possibly indicate the rush to get the work distributed to subscribers. There is a separate Street Directory, Private Residents Directory and Commercial Directory for the three towns. The classified Trades and Professions Directory runs to 100 pages and the list of Booksellers (p.598) lists some 35 businesses including W Brendon & Son and Wm Trythall who had previously published directories and Alfred H Swiss who would take over the Eyre´s publication in 1905. Also listed are the agents for Eyre´s directory: Bazley & Co., 52 Bedford St., Plymouth; Clarke & Son, 43 Fore St., sole Devonport agent; and William Henry Walker, 28 Bedford St., Plymouth. Opposite this page is a full page advertisement announcing the forthcoming second edition of the Hotels guide.

The directory even included a map of the county and the inclusion of a map became something of a tradition until approx. 1900. Only this first edition of the directory (i.e. 1880-81) has a map of Devon, and this was a Philips Handy Atlas map with the Eyre title noted above. Subsequent copies until 1902, however, all included a map of the Plymouth district. The area maps by Maddock (Fig.11.) and then two plans by Brendon & Son (Figs.12. & Fig.13.) were used in 1882-83 and 1885-86 respectively. Post-1890 Eyre directories used a map lithographed by John Smith (Fig.14.) of Plymouth with the Eyre imprint first appearing directly on his map c. 1896. Theophilus Creber seems to have had a map specially commissioned: Theophilus Creber’s Copyright Plan of Plymouth, Devonport, Stonehouse and Neighbourhood (Fig.15.).[iii]

As mentioned, one advert announces a new edition of the Hotels, others offer the French Directory and the second edition of Watering and Visiting Places. However, the second edition of the directory (1882-83) gives a better indication of the scope of the Eyre Brothers output. Two full page adverts list their publications; apart from those works already noted above two directories of Cardiff and of Swansea are noted; Dr Abbott´s Sea Bathing Guide; and a “Devon & Cornwall Guide”.  Although the Eyre Brothers were careful to use the full names of the south and north volumes in this advert[iv] this latter reference could refer to Eyre’s Guide to the Watering and Visiting Places of Devon & Cornwall. No copy of Dr Abbott´s work has so far been traced even though it was now in its 12th edition (price 6d).

One attempt at keeping customer loyalty is worth a mention. At the beginning of the second edition an Important Notice dated August 1882 promises that One Shilling will be allowed to Subscribers to the 1884 edition of our [directory] who return their copy for 1882 in a complete condition when they receive the new book.

 Click here for the Directory Publishers

Click here for the Directory Maps

[i] Shaw, Gareth and Allison Tipper; British Directories 2nd Edition; Bloomsbury Academic; London; 1998. See entry 356 and also the table in Part 2.

[ii] Plymouth Central Library have a complete set of copies from the 1st to 16th editions.

[iii] Three copies are known although only one, at CUL, has been retained in its directory (loose copies at WDRO & DevA).

[iv] Although both advertising pages refer to The Aunuaire Didot-Bottin (sic).


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