Catalogue ReferenceR/D131
TitleRecords of Lovejoy's Library and estate agency, Reading
Date1824-1899
RepositoryBerkshire Record Office (code: GB 005)
LevelSub-Sub-Fonds
Extent15 vols, 143 bdls, 79 docs
Admin HistoryGeorge Lovejoy (1808-1883) established a bookshop and private subscription library in London Street, Reading, in 1832. By the year of his death (1883) it was said to be the largest library of its kind outside London, and held over 70,000 volumes, with 268 susbcribers. Printed catalogues of the library in 1845 and 1855, held at the University of Minnesota, are available online at http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=umn.31951002000896q;view=1up;seq=5 and http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=umn.31951002000896q;view=1up;seq=7 (accessed in February 2016).
George Lovejoy was recorded in Pigot’s Directory of 1844 as a bookseller and stationer at 117 London Street, Reading. He appeared in the 1847 Kelly’s directory as a stationer, bookseller, circulating library, post office receiving office, and agent to the Globe insurance office. Billing’s Directory of 1854 just as bookseller and stationer. By 1863 he was also said to be a printer. The Post Office Directory of 1869 lists him as bookseller, stationer, printer, news agent, circulating library, post office and post office savings bank. The Harrod’s Directory of 1876 lists him only as bookseller and stationer, and as proprietor of the Southern Counties Library. By 1877 the premises had been renumbered as 37 London Street. In Kelly’s directory of 1883 he was once again an agent for an insurance company (London & Liverpool Globe Insurance), as well as continuing the library and bookshop, and the business premises were 39 London Street, although George lived next door at no. 37. The firm was also a small publisher. George and his wife Alice, nee Cecil, (1811-1895) lived on site with their daughters Martha Jane (1837-1856), Alice Beckwith Cecil (1852-1921), Katherine Cecil (1953-1945), and Julia Cecil (1854-1939).

George’s sister Mary Lovejoy was one of his assistants. She had retired by 1871, but in her old age returned to live with her brother, being listed at 37 London Street in an 1877 directory. By 1881, George Lovejoy had five male and three female assistants, one of whom was Miss Eliza Langley. Lovejoy’s will had provided for her to remain as the paid manager if his executors continued the business. The trustees of his will sold nos. 33 and 35 London Street to Henry Wilfred Brown in [1883?].

Eliza Langley was born in the parish of River, Kent in c. 1834-1835, and baptised there on 4 January 1835. Her father George (c.1806-1881) was a paper manufacturer. In 1861 she was an assistant in a wool depot in Dover. She was working for George Lovejoy by 1871, and boarding at Miss Mary Lovejoy’s house, 118 London Street, Reading. By 1881 she was living with George and his family. Miss Langley claimed to have greatly enlarged the business since she purchased it from the Lovejoys. She remained living on the premises, while Mrs Lovejoy and her unmarried daughters moved to Victoria Square. The business was still called Lovejoy’s Library until [some time between 1891 and 1895], and the premises at 37 and 39 London Street included what was described as a county club and public reading rooms, and Miss Langley continued to publish as well. In 1891 it was described as the Lovejoy & Southern Counties Library. In 1895 Miss Eliza Langley is recorded as acting under her own name as a bookseller and stationer at 37 and 39 London Street. She died in 1898, and was succeeded in business by William Colebrook Long [who appears to have bought the business from her executrix, a married sister]. Long (born in Reading in 1857) was a draper who had inherited his father’s business in London Street. By 1903 Long had partly retrenched the business, which now occupied only 39 London Street, the other part of the premises now being used as a photographic materials dealer’s. The Southern Counties Circulating Library was still part of the business in 1907.

A house letting agency was run from the library by all three proprietors, Mr Lovejoy, Miss Langley and Mr Long. There was also a modest employment agency.

Long appears to have sold the business in 1911; he was still in business there on the 1911 census, but by the time that year’s Kelly’s directory was issued William Smith & Son were listed as the booksellers at 37 and 39 London Street, where they remained until the 1980s. The library is mentioned again in directory entries from 1939 to 1949. In 1960 (but not in other years) they were described as ‘university technical booksellers and drawing office materials’. By 1969 the firm had become a limited company, William Smith (Booksellers) Ltd and occupied 37-41 London Street. In 1975 and 1976 the premises were listed as 35 and 37 London Street, but this may be an error. Yellow Pages entries from 1977 onwards show the firm at 37-41 London Street as before. By 1980 it had been renamed the London Street Bookshop, 35-39 London Street, acting as agents for BBC Publications and Ordnance Survey maps as well as having a wide general stock. It was still listed as the London Street Bookshop in the 1982 Yellow Pages. The shop was listed in 1985 as William Smith (Booksellers) Ltd, 35-41 London Street.
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