Yeovil people

Ebenezer Whitby

Bookseller, Printer & Stationer


Ebenezer Whitby was born in 1815 in Yeovil, the fourth son of Elias Whitby Snr and his wife Hannah née Hooper and he was the younger brother of Elias Whitby Jnr.

In the early 1840s Whitby was in partnership with Benjamin Trenchard and the firm of Trenchard & Whitby traded as 'Stationers, Booksellers and Printers' in Princes Street. Trenchard and his wife lived above the shop premises with an apprentice, William Guppy, and a house servant. In 1844 the firm moved across the road to premises at 8 Princes Street.

On 8 June 1848 in Yeovil Ebenezer married Mary Ann Kirby Beavis, the daughter of Abraham Beavis of Sidmouth, Devon and his wife Harriet née Kirby. In the 1851 census Ebenezer and Mary were living at 10 Peter Street with their baby son John and a house servant. 35-year-old Ebenezer gave his occupation as 'bookseller, firm of 2 employing 3 men and 5 boys'.

The Trenchard & Whitby partnership was dissolved by mutual consent in May 1854 after which Ebenezer traded on his own account. The dissolution of the partnership was listed in the London Gazette.

As a sidenote; After the termination of the partnership, Benjamin Trenchard and his wife Charlotte moved to London, first living in Uxbridge and then in Lambeth where he died in 1887. Charlotte moved to Bournemouth for a few years but died in Croydon in 1904.

By the time of the 1861 census Ebenezer had moved his own family to the 8 Princes Street premises, known as Albion House, and was living above his bookshop (see photograph below) with Mary, their four children John, Lucy, George and Frederick and a domestic servant. He stated his occupation in the census as 'Bookseller employing 1 man and 3 boys'. He was the owner-occupier of Albion House from 1854 until 1888. In the 1871 census he described his occupation as 'Bookseller, Printer & Stationer, Master, employing 2 men and 4 boys'. By this time Ebenezer was aged 55 and his 21-year-old son John was assisting him in the business, now known as E Whitby & Sons.

In the 1881 census Ebenezer and Mary were still living at 8 Princes Street above the bookshop with sons John who was a bookseller and Frederick who was a printer and both working in the family business. Also living with them was son George, a wool merchant, and a domestic servant. Ebenezer gave his occupation as 'Bookseller & Printer, employing 2 men and 5 boys'.


In the 1891 edition of 'Where to Buy' Ebenezer Whitby's business was given the following description -

Messrs E Whitby and Son,
ooksellers, Printers and Stationers, Princes Street

One of the handsomest shops in the town is undoubtedly that of Messrs E Whitby and Son, the booksellers and stationers, Princes Street, with its four fine plate glass windows, always dressed with consummate taste. These spacious premises have been occupied since 1844, prior to which the business was carried on upon the opposite side of the road.

 The admirably appointed shop contains a fine stock of photographs and views of interesting places in the surrounding district. The selection of fancy goods and stationery is a comprehensive one, embracing all the leading manufacturers; the latest things in plain and fancy stationery are on hand, in addition to the leading games, etc. The stock of books on sale is unusually extensive, and of a varied and attractive kind, it includes the works of all the best authors, in travel, biography, history and fiction, the poets not being forgotten. Newspapers and periodicals are supplied and delivered on the arrival of the early morning train. There is also a circulating library here, in connection with Mudie's, all the latest works being added every week.

This is also the depot for the British and Foreign Bible Society, the Christian Knowledge Society, and the Church of England Sunday School Institute. A fine stock of handsomely and plainly bound bibles, prayer books, etc. is always on hand.

A considerable business is done in bookbinding, in which the best material and workmanship is employed. Messrs Whitby and Son have extensive printing works at the rear, where constant employment is found for a number of first-class hands - this branch is replete with perfect machinery and modern type, for the execution of the highest class of work. The Yeovil Almanack and Trade Directory, a most useful work, which has now reached its 13th year of issue, is published here.

Here, also are the offices of the Yeovil and Sherborne Permanent Benefit Building Society, of which Messrs Whitby and Son are secretaries; they are also agents for the Sun Fire and Life Office.


Ebenezer Whitby died in the summer of 1889 but his business was carried on as Whitby & Sons by John and Frederick well into the twentieth century and became famous for producing their Yeovil Almanack Advertiser as well as postcard views of Yeovil and illustrated books about Yeovil. His business survived for more than a century, finally closing in the 1960s.


For the Whitby family tree - click here.


This photograph of Princes Street dates to around 1875 and is one half of a stereoscopic pair. It was taken at the time Ebenezer Whitby was running his bookshop / printer's / stationers which was situated in the distance behind the cart in the photograph.


Whitby's advertisement in his own Yeovil Almanack Advertiser of 1888.


Ebenezer Whitby & Sons' bookshop, printers and stationers in Albion House, 8 Princes Street with a pair of single Sugg lamps outside. This photograph was taken about 1900.

Albion House had been rebuilt in 1847.


A photograph of the southern end of Princes Street, looking towards High Street, and dating to around 1900. All the buildings in this photograph survive to this day - the planners and developers must be holding their breath waiting to destroy these buildings like they've done to much of the rest of the town!


A photograph of the northern end of Princes Street dating to around 1900. At right, at this time the Assembly Rooms were known as the 'Palace of Varieties' as indicated by the vertical sign attached to it. The three impressive three-storey residences at left, beyond Whitby's ivy-clad shop, Albion House, are Bryndene, Wyndham House and Old Sarum House.


Same view, slightly different viewpoint, photographed around 1910.


From my collection  -  This photograph features in my book 'Yeovil From Old Photographs'.

A head-on photograph of Whitby & Son's premises from the 1906 edition of the Homeland Handbook.


A 1920s postcard of the same view. Wyndham House retains its small front garden and young tree, but notice how part of the pavement of the previous photograph has been whittled away in front of Whitby's shop premises.


Ebenezer Whitby's obituary from the Western Gazette.


Courtesy of Tracey Williams

Whitby's bookshop, photographed in the 1960s.