London Merchants of 1677
As early as 1650 a pamphlet by Henry
Robinson describes an "Office of Addresses" in Threadneedle Street.
This office, which seemed to cover real estate, employment, trade, shipping,
and even marriage brokerage, among other things, kept a register of all manner
of addresses and for a fee of sixpence (though free to the poor) answers to
all sorts of questions relating to business could be obtained.
The publication in 1677 of 'A collection of the names of the merchants living in and around London' for Sam. Lee and Dan. Major was possibly the first printed commercial directory of London.
While it may seem as though many merchants could be found at their local tavern that was not the case. The practice of street numbering did not commence in London until the 1760s. Since Roman times merchants used signs to advertise their business, such as a shoe for a cobbler, or a mortar and pestle for an apothecary. This allowed even those not able to read to find business premises readily. With multiple businesses in the same area dealing with the same product, such as the goldsmiths of Lumbard (Lombard) Street, other unrelated symbols were used. These symbols were usually painted on a sign-board and hung outside the premises and resulted in addresses such as 'at the Sun' or 'at the Black Lion'.
The introduction to a reprint of the 1677 publication in 1878 suggested many names were spelt phonetically. An example given was John Peatorson who was probably the Scottish merchant John Patterson. Matth. & Abra. Heybert were possibly Matthew and Abraham Hébert merchants and dyers of French origins. Even the street names suffered with Hartichoak Lane instead of Artichoke Lane.
The only occupations listed were the Blackwell Hall factors and goldsmiths.
In the 1600s manufactured woolen cloth was the principle trade commodity of England and Blackwell Hall in London was the center for that trade. Initially cloth manufacturers, clothiers, would bring the finished product to Blackwell Hall to be displayed and sold to merchants and drapers. In the mid 1600s agents, or Blackwell-hall Factors, were introduced to handle the trade, for a fee. By the 1690s the Blackwell-hall Factors had virtually taken over the market so that clothiers were excluded from selling their own goods, as was their ancient right, causing a long running controversy. The Blackwell-hall Factors were still very active in the mid 1700s.
The goldsmiths listed are those that 'kept running cashes'. Goldsmiths were the early bankers before the revolution of 1688 and joints stock banking and safe facilities in paper currency started a new era in finance.
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