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



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.



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1 Love, B., Manchester As It Is: Or, Notices of the Institutions, Manufactures, Commerce, Railways etc. (Manchester, 1939), 10.

2 Dentith, S., Society and Cultural Forms in Nineteenth-Century England (Basingstoke, 1998), 108; Carlyle, T., Past and Present [1843] (New York, 1965); Dickens, C., Hard Times [1854] (Oxford, 1989); Disraeli, B., Sybil [1845] (Oxford, 1981).

3 Arnold, D. (ed.), The Metropolis and its Image: Constructing Identities for London, c. 1750–1950 (Oxford, 1999); Arnold, D., Re-Presenting the Metropolis: Architecture, Urban Experience and Social Life in London 1800–1840 (Aldershot, 2000); Gilbert, P.K. (ed.), Imagined Londons (New York, 2002); Vaughan, W., ‘London topographers and urban change’, in Nadel, I.B. and Schwarzbach, F.S. (eds.), Victorian Artists and the City: A Collection of Critical Essays (New York and Oxford, 1980), 5976.

4 Gunn, S., The Public Culture of the Victorian Middle Class: Ritual and Authority and the English Industrial City 1840–1914 (Manchester, 2000); Gunn, S., ‘Ritual and civic culture in the English industrial city, c. 1835–1914’, in Morris, R.J. and Trainor, R.H. (eds.), Urban Governance: Britain and Beyond since 1750 (Aldershot, 2000), 226–41; Nead, L., Victorian Babylon: People, Streets and Images in Nineteenth-Century London (New Haven and London, 2000).

5 Gunn, The Public Culture of the Victorian Middle Class, 37.

6 D.J. Gray, ‘Views and sketches of London in the nineteenth century’, in Nadel and Schwarzbach (eds.), Victorian Artists and the City, 43–5; Daniels, S., ‘The implications of industry: Turner and Leeds’, Turner Studies, 6 (1986), 1017, 10.

7 Johnson, E.D.H., ‘Victorian artists and the urban milieu’, in Dyos, H.J. and Wolff, M. (eds.), The Victorian City (London, 1973), vol. II, 449–74; Piper, D., Artists' London (London, 1982).

8 This article represents part of a larger research project into the role of printed and ephemeral imagery in the development of provincial urban identities in the early nineteenth century. K.L. Jones, ‘Visual representations of provincial urban sites in England, 1790–1860’, Cambridge University Ph.D. thesis, 2006.

9 Samuel, R., ‘Workshop of the world: steam power and hand technology in mid-Victorian Britain’, History Workshop Journal, 3 (1977), 672 (39–45); Tweedale, G., Steel City: Entrepreneurship, Strategy, and Technology in Sheffield 1743–1993 (Oxford, 1995); Binfield, C. et al. , The History of the City of Sheffield 1843–1993 (Sheffield, 1993); Hopkins, E., Birmingham: The First Manufacturing Town in the World 1760–1840 (London, 1989); and Marshall, A.C. and Newbould, H., The History of the Firth's 1842–1918 (Sheffield, 1924), 116.

10 Arscott, C., ‘The representation of the city in the visual arts’, in Daunton, M. (ed.), The Cambridge Urban History of Britain, vol. III: 1840–1950 (Cambridge, 2000), 811–32; Arscott, C., Pollock, G. and Wolff, J., ‘The partial view: the visual representation of the early nineteenth-century city’, in Wolff, J. and Seed, W. (eds.), The Culture of Capital: Art, Power and the Nineteenth-Century Middle Class (Manchester, 1988), 191233.

11 Flint, K., The Victorians and the Visual Imagination (Cambridge, 2000), 139–66. For an overview of recent literature see A. Humpherys, ‘Knowing the Victorian city: writing and representation’, Victorian Literature and Culture, 30 (2002), 601–12.

12 Williams, R., The Country and the City (London, 1973), 1. See also Dyos, H.J., ‘The Victorian city in historical perspective’, in Cannadine, D. and Reeder, D. (eds.), Exploring the Urban Past: Essays in Urban History by H.J. Dyos (Cambridge, 1982), 13.

13 Nead, Victorian Babylon.

14 Engels, F., The Condition of the Working Class in England [1845] (Oxford, 1993). For a general overview of contemporary responses to the urban slum question see H.J. Dyos, ‘The slums of Victorian London’, in Cannadine and Reeder (eds.), Exploring the Urban Past, 129–57.

15 See Barker, H., ‘“Smoke cities”: northern industrial towns in late Georgian England’, Urban History, 31 (2004), 175–90.

16 Trinder, B., The Making of the Industrial Landscape (London, 1982), 170.

17 Borsay, P., The English Urban Renaissance: Culture and Society in the Provincial Town 1660–1770 (Oxford, 1989).

18 Sweet, R., The English Town 1680–1840: Government, Society and Culture (Harlow, 1999), 219–26.

19 Clarke, B., From Grub Street to Fleet Street: An Illustrated History of English Newspapers to 1899 (Aldershot, 2004), 139–63, 153–7.

20 Lake, B., British Newspapers: A History and Guide for Collectors (London, 1984), 163.

21 Brewer, J., The Pleasures of the Imagination: English Culture in the Eighteenth Century (Chicago, 1997), 433–8; McCreery, C., The Satirical Gaze: Prints of Women in Late Eighteenth-Century England (Oxford, 2004), 1338; and Clair, W. St, The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period (Cambridge, 2004), 343.

22 O'Connell, S., The Popular Print in England 1550–1850 (London, 1999), 167–74.

23 Brewer, The Pleasures of the Imagination, 452–3.

24 Wakeman, G., Victorian Book Illustration: The Technical Revolution (Newton Abbot, 1973), 23.

25 Hemingway, A., Landscape Imagery and Urban Culture in Early Nineteenth-Century Britain (Cambridge, 1992), 163–4 and 219–20.

26 Advertisement for ‘F and C. Osler’, Art-Journal Advertiser, January 1850, xiii.

27 For a more detailed study of directories, their development and publishers see Corfield, P.J. and Kelly, S., ‘Giving directions to the town: the early town directories’, Urban History Yearbook (1984), 2235.

28 Tallis, J., Tallis's London Street Views (London, 1839); Bisset, J., Bisset's Magnificent Guide or Grand Copper Plate Directory for the Town of Birmingham (Birmingham, 1808); Marks, J.L., ‘James Bisset: a note’, Warwickshire History, 2 (1973), 22–7. For an overview of trade directories, including pictorial directories, see Norton, J.E., ‘Guide to the national and provincial directories of England and Wales, excluding London, published before 1856’, Royal Historical Society Guides and Handbooks, 5 (1950), 113.

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), 4252.

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.

45 For a more detailed account of this process of manufacturing centralization in Sheffield see Jones, M., The Making of Sheffield (Barnsley, 2004), 81–2.

46 Advertisement for W. Greaves and Sons' Sheaf Works, Sheffield (c. 1825), Sheffield Local Studies Library, picture number S09762.

47 Gilpin, W., Three Essays on Picturesque Beauty, on Picturesque Travel, and on Sketching Landscape (London, 1792), 78.

48 Arscott, Pollock and Wolff explore a similar notion of ‘containment’ in regards to the nineteenth-century townscape in Arscott, Pollock and Wolff, ‘The partial view’, 218–19.

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). See also Hyde, R., A Prospect of Britain: The Town Panoramas of Samuel and Nathaniel Buck (London, 1994); Borsay, The English Urban Renaissance, 80–5; and Elliot, J., The City in Maps: Urban Mapping to 1900 (London, 1987), 59.

52 Comment, B., The Painted Panorama (London, 1999); Altick, R., The Shows of London: A Panoramic History of Exhibitions 1600–1862 (Cambridge, MA, 1978), 128210; Smith, D., ‘The Wyld family firm’, The Map Collector, 55 (1991), 31–8; and ‘Mr. Wyld's model of the Earth’, Illustrated London News, 7 Jun. 1851, 512.

53 Black, B.J., On Exhibit: Victorians and their Museums (Charlottesville and London, 2000), 3.

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), Sheffield Local Studies Library, picture number S09740.

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

* This article was developed during my doctoral research programme at the University of Cambridge. I would like to extend my thanks to the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Master and Fellows of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, for their financial support. I would also like to thank my Ph.D. supervisor, Dr L.E. Klein, and the editors and referees for their helpful criticism and suggestions.

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



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