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The synthesis of town and trade: visualizing provincial urban identity, 1800–1858

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 May 2008

Centre for Urban History, University of Leicester, Leicester, LE1 7RH


The early nineteenth-century manufacturing town was a diverse and transient environment that inspired a varied canon of printed imagery. Alongside folio engravings and souvenir prints, one of the most prevalent genres of urban imagery was the commercial advertisement. This article demonstrates the value of early pictorial advertisements in accessing contemporary attitudes to urban manufacturing and to provincial urbanization in general. It argues that in a climate of urban rivalry, artists and publishers inherited and invented new visual formulae with which to promote manufactories and commercial premises to tradesmen, consumers and tourists. It concludes that the resulting imagery throws into question the prevalent historical caricature of the early nineteenth-century manufacturing town as a place of deprivation, disorder and decay.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2008

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29 Page from Bisset, Bisset's Magnificent Guide.

30 This model is exemplified by the plates titled ‘Miscellaneous businesses in New Street, Birmingham’ and ‘Miscellaneous professions and businesses in Birmingham with a view of St Philip's Church’, Bisset, Bisset's Magnificent Guide.

31 Love, Manchester As It Is, frontispiece.

32 Advertisement for ‘Boulton's Soho Manufactory’, Bisset, Bisset's Magnificent Guide.

33 For this history of trade cards I am indebted to the work of Julie Anne Lambert on the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. In particular, Lambert, J.A., A Nation of Shopkeepers: Trade Ephemera from 1654 to the 1860s in the John Johnson Collection (Oxford, 2001), 4252Google Scholar.

34 Bill of trade for ‘Robert King, engraver, Surrey Works, Number 121 Granville Street’ (1850), Sheffield Local Studies Library, picture number S09926; bill of trade for ‘George Davey, Printseller, Number 1 Broad Street’ (1843), Bristol Local Studies Library, Braikenridge Collection, IV, 105.

35 Lambert, A Nation of Shopkeepers, 76.

36 Advertisement for ‘Samuel Laycock and Sons, Manufacturers of hair-seating and curled hair, Porto-bello Place’, White's Gazetteer and General Directory of Sheffield (1852).

37 Advertisement for ‘Frederick Stones' Albion Works, Arundel Lane, Sheffield’, Blackwell's Directory of Sheffield (Oxford, 1828).

38 Advertisement for ‘S. Hirst's Eldon Street Foundry, Sheffield’, White's Gazetteer and General Directory of Sheffield (1852).

39 Bill of trade for ‘Chadburn and Company, 40 Nursery Street, Sheffield’ (1825), Sheffield Local Studies Library, picture number S10079. For an introduction to bills of trade in Sheffield as well as a brief history of these and other premises see M. Chesworth, Bought of: Nineteenth-Century Sheffield through its Billheads & Related Documents (Sheffield, 1984).

40 ‘An Act to repeal certain parts of an Act passed in the 33rd year of his present majesty, for the better regulation and government of the Company of Cutlers within the liberty of Hallamshire in the County of York, and to alter and amend the said Act’, 17 Jun. 1814.

41 Advertisement for ‘Chadburn and Company, Brass and Iron Founder, Sheffield’, Blackwell's Directory of Sheffield.

42 Advertisement for ‘L. G. Reed and Company, Raff Timber and Slate Merchants, 1 Broomhill Street, Sheffield’, Sheffield Local Studies Library, picture number S09749.

43 Tradesman's list for ‘Edward Thomason's Manufactory, Church Street, Birmingham’, Bisset, Bisset's Magnificent Guide.

44 Advertisement for ‘Edward Thomason's manufactory, Church Street, Birmingham’ (c. 1825), Birmingham Local Studies Library WK/B11/4170.

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49 For evidence of the enduring emphasis placed upon a firm's history see W. Cornish, Cornish's Stranger's Guide through Birmingham (Birmingham, 1849), 112.

50 Bill of trade for ‘Thomas Turton and Sons' Sheaf Works, Sheffield’ (c. 1854) in William Fawcett's scrap book, Sheffield Local Studies Library, ACC 082.2 SSTQ.

51 A number of the Buck brothers' prospects were combined and published in later volumes such as: Buck, N., Antiquities; Or, Venerable Remains of Above Four Hundred Castles, Monasteries, Palaces, &c., &c., in England and Wales (London, 1774)Google Scholar. See also Hyde, R., A Prospect of Britain: The Town Panoramas of Samuel and Nathaniel Buck (London, 1994)Google Scholar; Borsay, The English Urban Renaissance, 80–5; and Elliot, J., The City in Maps: Urban Mapping to 1900 (London, 1987), 59Google Scholar.

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54 Advertisement for ‘James Dixon and Son's Silver Street Works, Sheffield’ (c. 1855), Sheffield Local Studies Library, picture number S10905.

55 Advertisement for ‘William Jessop and Sons' Brightside Works, Sheffield’ (c. 1870), Sheffield Local Studies Library, picture number S09754. Advertisement for ‘John Henry Andrew and Co.'s Toledo Steel Works, Sheffield’ (1878), Sheffield Local Studies Library, picture number S09852.

56 ‘Picture Sheffield’ image collection, Sheffield Local Studies Library, Sheffield Central Library, Sheffield; Manchester Local Image Collection, Archives and Local Studies, Manchester Central Library, Manchester; the John Johnson Collection of Printed Ephemera, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford; Birmingham Local History Library, Birmingham Central Library, Birmingham.

57 Billing, M., colour lithographic advertisement for ‘Charles Cammell and Co.'s Cyclops Steel Works, Sheffield’ (1858)Google Scholar, Sheffield Local Studies Library, picture number S09740.

58 Auerbach, J., The Great Exhibition of 1851: A Nation on Display (New Haven and London, 1999), 104CrossRefGoogle Scholar. See also ‘The machinery of the Exhibition’, Art Journal (1850), i–viii.

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