Brian Moseley, Plymouth
Webpage created: October 10, 2019
Webpage updated: March 09, 2020




The Plymouth business house of Messrs Doidge and Company, booksellers, stationers, photographers and binders, were originally located at 30 Whimple Street but later moved to 169 and 170 Union Street, Plymouth.

Mr John Sweet Doidge founded the firm when he took over the business at 30 Whimple Street, Plymouth, next door to the Naval Bank, from Messrs E Nettleton and G Simms circa March 1859.  The prices of books were not fixed by the publishers in those days and he was offering new titles from London and American publishers at a quarter of their stated price.  He even offered a discount of 15% off books ordered from London publishers if paid for in cash.

Mr Doidge was born at Tavistock in 1793.  He married Miss Mary Butland on February 21st 1821 at Holne, Devon.  They appear to have had one child, a daughter by the name of Mary Sweet Doidge, born on August 23rd 1821 and christened at Teignmouth Wesleyan Methodist Chapel on September 23rd 1821.  (She appears in the 1851 census with John Sweet Doidge and Sarah at 32 Union Street, East Stonehouse, where, as Mrs Mary Ford, she is declared as his daughter.)

Presumably John's wife, Mrs Mary Doidge died (no death has been traced yet), because on Sunday September 21st 1828 the third reading of the Banns were called at the Anglican Church of Saint Peter, Cornworthy, Devon, for his marriage to 31-years-old Sarah Goodman.  They had three sons and two daughters, who were recorded in the 1851 census for 32 Union Street, East Stonehouse, as: John S Doidge, born in the Newton Abbot Registration District (i.e Teignmouth) in 1829; Sarah Doidge, born 1830; Thomas Doidge, born 1832, bookseller assistant; Jabez Doidge, born 1834; and Jane Doidge, born 1838.

Thomas Sweet Doidge was in fact born at Wolborough, Newton Abbot, Devon, on September 14th 1833.  He was baptised at the West Teignmouth Wesleyan Methodist Chapel on October 14th 1833.  He joined his father in partnership by an Agreement of Understanding dated November 5th 1864, a copy of which is held at the Plymouth and West Devon Record Office.  In 1867 he removed the business to 169-170 Union Street, where he built up the largest bookselling establishment in the West of England.

He founded Doidge's West of England Illustrated Almanack (which became Doidge's Western Counties Illustrated Annual) in 1867, the first being for the year 1868.  Doidge's continued to publish it until 1900, when it was taken over by Messrs Hoyten and Cole.

Mr Thomas Sweet Doidge was married twice, first to Miss Fanny Abbott Toms at Torrignton, Devon, in 1861.  She died in 1870.  He then married Caroline Crewes, from Camborne in Cornwall, at Mutley Methodist Chapel, Plymouth, on January 28th 1875.  Caroline died in 1886.

During his lifetime he conducted the Plymouth Young Men's Sunday Afternoon Bible Class but was forced to resign by failing health.  Likewise he sat on the Board of Guardians but was forced to stand down.

John Sweet Doidge, the founder of the business, died in 1884.

On Saturday May 5th 1888 he declared that he was feeling unwell and retired to his home at Brent in the hope that the change of air might relieve his symptoms.  This might have been successful had he not been called to his business in Union Street upon some important matter.  As this did not conclude until 9pm he stayed the night there and at 5.30am the following morning became unwell.  Two doctors were sent for, who declared him to be suffering from congestion of the lungs and liver.  He rallied shortly after 8am.  Thomas Sweet Doidge passed away peacefully at 5pm on the evening of Friday May 11th 1888.  He was only 54 years of age and hisbodywasinterred at the Plymouth, Stonehouse and Devonport Cemetery on May 15th 1888.

Unusually for those times, the business was taken over by his two daughters as John Ellery Toms Doidge was only eight-years-old at the time.  But not for long.  Miss Lily Toms Doidge married a Mr John Stevens Johns at East Stonehouse in 1896.  This was followed during 1897by the death in the Saint Thomas Registration District of Exeter of Miss Evelyn Fanny Grace Doidge, then only 31-years old.  Thus by marriage the business passed to Mr Johns.

The 1899 edition of Doidge's Western Counties Illustrated Annual was published by Messrs Hoyten and Cole, of Russell Street, Plymouth.

In the 1901 census both Mr Johns and Mr John Ellery Toms Doidge was listed as booksellers and they were living at Compton Park House, 6 Tavistock Road, Compton Gifford.  Between then and the 1911 census they parted company and also disposed of the business.  Mr Johns was then living at 9 Reservoir Road, Plymouth, with his wife, Lily, and three children, Gladys Johns, Doris Johns and Reginald J Johns; while Doidge had become a newsagent and tobacconist  at 27 Percy Terrace, Alexandra Road, Lipson, Plymouth, where he was living with his wife, Kate Louise, and one son, Lenard Thomas Sweet Doidge.

Doidge and Company, was last recorded in 1914, still at 170 Union Street, Plymouth. 

Mr John Ellery Toms Doidge died at Plymouth in 1970.


  With acknowledgement to the late Mr Tom Jewell, of the Devon Family History Society,
 for research done at the Westcountry Studies Library, Exeter.