You have only to look through old 19th century Directories to get an idea of what I mean by vanished trades. There are still plenty of shopkeepers, and lawyers will always be with us; newsagents and insurance agents are still a presence on the High Street (or not far off it) but have you come across a silk thrower lately? Or a basket maker? Or even a dressmaker? Silk still gets woven somewhere, and baskets are still made, while women’s clothes are so plentiful they just get thrown away, but I doubt they are made much closer to home than Bangladesh. Nor do I think sackcloth is a big seller in Woodbridge any more, but two hundred years ago it was. Even coal merchants are few and far between nowadays.
Straw bonnet makers are no longer with us, nor are the straw bonnets they once made. Saddlers are not as common as they once were, though people still ride horses and so still require saddles; someone must make them. Horses still need grooming as well, but this tends to be done nowadays by their devoted owners, rather than by professional grooms. Shoemakers are not the common tradesmen they were in the 19th century, but shoe shops have replaced them to some extent. Plumbers, carpenters and bricklayers are as sought after as ever.
The butcher is still a useful tradesman, although supermarkets have taken a lot of the business that once was exclusively in the hands of the small trader. The same is true of the baker, but the hair dresser is still independent, and there are no big chains of barber’s shops. Jewellers are now a mixture of large chains like Samuels and smaller independent shops like Windsor Bishop here in Norwich. The large chains tend to concentrate on the cheaper end of the market, while the independents supply the wealthier customer. Music teachers are still in demand, although they tend not to describe themselves as Professors of Music any longer. Accountants are more prolific than ever, and bookkeepers; so too are bookmakers, although booksellers seem to be struggling.
Among the vanished trades is that of currier; I am not even sure what a currier did. It had nothing to with making curries, that’s for sure. Upon further research I discover that a currier was responsible for dressing leather after the tanner had done with it, applying the dyes, softeners and waterproofing. So now you know. A bird preserver must have been what we would now call a taxidermist; does such a trade still exist, or is it done today exclusively by amateurs? Malting is now done in large processing plants, and the old trade of maltster has gone. There used to be tobacconists when I was young, but although tobacco is still available it is hidden away and never seen. The trade of hosier has gone, the sale of socks and stockings being subsumed into the general clothes retailing sector. You would go a long time before you came across a foreman boiler maker, and even longer before you met wheelwright.
What about the trades that have replaced these old ones? That of garage mechanic springs to mind, and before that the cycle repair man. Typists and telephonists have come and gone between the 19th century and now. Buses have replaced stage coaches and so bus drivers have replaced coachmen, while aeroplanes have appeared out of the clear blue sky, together with their pilots. Shops selling mobile phones and computers were unknown forty years ago. Charity shops did not exist before the Second World War, and nor did health food stores. The Chinese restaurant was the first of the exotic food outlets to appear in town and cities, to be followed by Italian restaurants. Now you can buy virtually any cuisine under the sun in your local high street.
The nature of employment has changed and will continue to change. Automation and robots will increasingly takeover the mundane tasks, but that does not mean the end of work. The reluctance of people to prepare their own meals has led to a huge growth in restaurants and takeaways; once it was just the chippie. Eventually food preparation may be automated, but with more people than ever being employed in this country I can see no evidence that the growth of technology has led to a lower demand for workers. Estate agents shops have flourished while banking branches have declined. Antique shops and garden centres have sprung up in the last 75 years, demonstrating how the increase in wealth and leisure time is changing our shopping habits.
MEMORIES OF OLD TRADES