Penrith Remembers - 1

13th July, 2014

Penrith Remembers – Yellow Pages, 1914 style

What was it like to shop and trade in Penrith in 1914?  Some businesses we know today were already well established – for example, N. Arnison and Sons (1742)  J&J Graham (1793), John Richardson and Son (1852), Penrith Building Society (1877), Joseph Cowper Ltd (1899) and Penrith Co-operative Society (1890).

The Yellow Pages of its day was the Kelly’s Directory, named after its creator Frederic Festus Kelly. In the 1830s, Kelly took over responsibility for the Post Office London Directory and started to expand the range of business directories from London to counties and towns in England. The 1914 records for Cumberland – there’s a copy in Penrith Library – give fascinating insight into Penrith as a commercial centre on the eve of World War 1. Over five pages it lists more than 600 businesses, dignitaries and organisations.  

For just nine ‘early adopters’ of the relatively new technology called the telephone, Kelly’s lists two-digit telephone numbers. N. Arnison (Tel. 78) and Joseph Cowper (Tel. 63) retain these two digits on their modern, 11-digit dialling codes.

Unlike Yellow Pages, in Kelly’s, businesses were listed alphabetically by name, which isn’t all that helpful if you are trying to find a yeast merchant or a fancy repository*.  So we’ve done the hard work for you. Over the next few weeks in this blog, Penrith Chamber will be taking a closer look at the businesses that traded in Penrith in 1914. What people were wearing, eating and drinking (or not drinking – businesses included seven temperance hotels). How the sugary offerings of the 19 confectioners kept the six artificial teeth makers busy. And how, before women were able to vote, Penrith had at least 90 entrepreneurial women trading as publicans, drapers, milliners, bootmakers and dressmakers. One of them was the town crier – another ran an illicit gambling den.

Ali Turnbull, fit to print

I will point out that I (Ali) am neither local nor historian, so if you do have interesting snippets, invoices, photos or stories about your ancestors who traded here, do let me know.   [email protected] 

*And if you have any idea what a fancy repository was, please enlighten me. Penrith had three of them.  I’m guessing gift shop, homeware, anything you’d buy to enjoy that was neither food nor clothing. 


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Penrith Museum
Penrith Museum