Anyone wishing to do some digging into the history of a place could do worse than examine the trade directories of the 19th century. In the Record Offices there are usually large collections and in libraries one may often find a few in the Reference Section
The 'Post Office Directory' of 1876 for Bidford-on-Avon conjures up a picture of the place in the mid-Victorian age. The parish details include three of Bidford's satellites, viz. Broom, Barton and Marlcliff. Although the parish was smaller than Studley and Alcester, the 'Commercial' section of its entry shows what trades were employed and how self-reliant the place apparently was.
Farming played a prominent part: there are nine farmers in Bidford, one the proprietor of a thrashing machine and one a maltster: Barton has two farmers and Broom one.
The next most numerous class are the victuallers: there is the 'White Lion', the 'Boot' and the 'Mason's Arms', with six other beer retailers, one being at Barton and one at Broom. Of these nine victuallers, five have secondary occupations (vet., wheelwright, bricklayer, shoemaker and shopkeeper). These latter occupations are additional to people who made them their only trades: there are five other shoemakers, two being at Broom, five other shopkeepers, two being at Broom, plus the Co-operative Society: and another bricklayer and another wheelwright.
Also trading in skills with wood were three carpenters in Bidford and one each at Marlcliff and Broom.
Directly allied to farming were two millers, one of these being at Broom Mill. There were also five black-smiths, one of these at Barton and two at Broom. Horses also come into the picture with a 'horse clipper', a saddler and a haulier.
Bidford is on the River Avon, so the inclusion of a fisherman and a boatman come as no surprise. What the local historian would want to know and which the Directory does not tell him is exactly what these people did. There is also an 'osier grower': who bought his product?
The parish in l876 included tradesmen whom one would find in any medium to large settlement: two iron-mongers, a clockmaker, two bakers and three butchers, two painters, a builder, five drapers/tailors, three dressmakers, an inland revenue officer, two gardeners and two grocers, one of whom was a bank agent and one of whom ran the post office.
In an area where stone was quarried, it is no surprise to find a quarrier and two stone masons/carvers. There is a preparatory day school, in addition to the Nation-al School, and two surgeons, both of whom were also employed by the Guardians (Alcester Union) and the Sanitary Authority.
The Vicar of Bidford employed a curate, a rarity nowadays. Industry, as usually understood, is practically absent: a machinist alone is mentioned and needlemaking had not spread south to Bidford.
Spring 1990 Index
© Alcester & District Local History Society 1991