BLUNDELL, Bezer. Greyhound Inn memorial trade card. Bury St Edmunds: The Greyhound Inn, c.1780.
12mo, engraved tradecard with image of greyhound, cut down from larger sheet, mounted on acid-free card.
Bezer Blundell, the landlord of the Greyhound Inn, Bury St. Edmonds died on the 1st November 1780. He was master of the pub for many years and had two children, James and Sarah, with his wife Sarah.
The Greyhound Inn was a coaching inn in Bury. Like many other public houses at this time it was a meeting place and used for official local business. In 1753 for example, when Thomas Dorling the Younger was declared bankrupt he was instructed to appear before the Commissioners at the Greyhound. Records suggest that there were coaching services from the Greyhound Yard on the Buttermarket dating from 1721. The coach ran to and from the Vine Inn in Bishopgate Street in London. Starting in the 1730's the Royal Mail service from Norwich to London came by Post Boys. This changed from 1785, when the first mail coach ran between London and Norwich. The Bury to Thetford road was too poor for their use so Bury had a slow connecting service from the Greyhound to Newmarket. By 1795 the Greyhound was home to the 'Marquis of Cornwallis' coach, setting out three times a week to the Saracen’s Head in Snow Hill. The Marquis was advertised as "a new and elegant long coach, being as near as possible, a pattern taken from his Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales's Long Coach." This coach would survive into the coming of the railway to Bury in 1846.
The Greyhound was replaced by the Suffolk Hotel during a rebuild in 1833. The hotel was redesigned again in 1873 – into its current Grade II listed form - but would remain a hotel until 1996. Even after coaches had disappeared from English roads they could still be rented from the Suffolk Hotel. The landlord was licensed to let post horses, and a coach took hotel guests to and from the railway station. The name Greyhound was re-used in the 1840's when a pub of this name opened in Eastgate Street. This inn opened in the 1840's, taking its name from the well-known and prestigious former pub. The Greyhound is still open today.
The item appears to be a trade card. These were small cards, much like visiting cards, which were distributed by businesses to clients or potential customers. Prior to the 1760s the main method of publicity was the hanging signboard. Complaints about obstruction, and the danger from signs during bad weather, led to their prohibition and shops turned to alternate means to increase their visibility. Bill posters covered blank walls but the constant need for advertising space meant handbills were rapidly covered by competing adverts. Merchants thus turned to more permanent advertising, such as sandwich boards and placards, but their popular nature could be a problem when dealing with polite society.
Trade cards were seen as a solution. They were already in use - having been first used in London in the early 17th century - and acted as both advertisements and maps to help people find the shops. The combination of a visual and textual language created an aesthetic, as well as practical, function. At first the cards were printed by woodcut or letterpress, but by the 18th century copperplate was the most common method. This ease of production would make it very likely that market towns would have people who could produce them, even if there were not larger book printers. At the same time, there was some expense in production which could make the cards a mark of status.
Trade cards had a permanence other advertising methods lacked. They were visual and portable; they captured the imagination; they created a personal connection with the shopper; they could be used to introduce other people (giving them a wide ranging impact); and, most importantly, they offered an exclusivity denied mass media such as handbills and placards. They were often only given to customers, and then only important ones, which cultivated a connection to and a loyalty from the customer to whom they were given (SIMS, Ashley, “Selling Consumption”, Shift Issue 5, 2012, p.5) . As much as the customer having the card helped carry the shop's identity further abroad, the customer gained from being the sort of person who would have such a card. In the case of a public house and major transport hub this suggestion would be useful in creating repeat business in the status obsessed 18th century, and in a crowded market. Eventually trade cards developed not only into the modern business card but also into many other forms of business printing such as letterhead, price lists and trade lists. Maurice Rickards suggests they 'may thus be seen as the foundation stone of commercial printed graphics' and also as the start of mass-advertising. (Encyclopedia of Ephemera, British Library, 2000, p. 334). Their textual nature can also be seen as an aspect of a literate society with a thriving print culture, and thus part of newspapers, satirical cartoons and other cultural dissemination methods (BERG, Maxine and Helen CLIFFORD, “Selling Consumption in the Eighteenth Century”, 2004, (accessed at www.consume.bbk.ac.uk/ZIF%20Conference/Berg.doc, 6th June 2012), p.18 ).
Intriguingly, this card does not feature the advertising of services, or details of address, which typify many cards of the period. It is likely these are not present because, given the Greyhound's role as a coaching inn and the relative size of Bury St Edmunds in the period, the inn would be easily locatable by anyone seeking it. More interesting is that the card features a memoriam to the former owner Bezer Blundell. This makes the card an interesting mix of business and memoriam cards. Society required certain behaviours on the part of bereaved families, one of which was a notification of the death. Although this is not a typical memorial card it is tempting to consider the card serving a dual purpose of societal duty and advertising method.
The most prominent feature of the card is the image of the greyhound at the top. Above the image is the name 'Dancer', which suggests that was the dog's name. It is likely that this was the greyhound for which the pub was named. The sign thus acts as a memorial to Dancer, as this card does for Blundell. He becomes part of the history of the inn, and he must have been famous enough as its master to lend a cache to the pub through its association with him. Defoe had emphasised the importance of reputation in The Complete English Tradesman, and cards like this often mentioned deceased owners to take advantage of prior relationships. The association of the pub with the owner and the dog creates a sense of tradition and continuity, which could be vital in an age with the habit of using credit for purchases. As well, these things are details which people remember easily, and thus remember the pub, and which give a sense of place and character which help differentiate the place from its rivals.
It should be mentioned that the card appears to have been cut down from a larger sheet. It is possible that this was simply to make it easier to carry, but may have removed the image and writing from a larger setting. Trade cards became more important as art works, rather than as advertisements for businesses no longer trading, and were trimmed to be mounted. This emphasised the quality of engraving, but could divorce the item from a wider context of explanation and annotation. Without seeing another example of this card it is impossible to comment further on any other original content.
The trade card travelled through both public and private space acting to advertise the business and to associate the bearer of the card with that business. As they moved between people they accrued new meanings and uses, becoming bills or artworks. Rather then than being simply a disposable element of advertising culture they became important markers of economic exchange and status objects in their own right. This card is thus a part of the changing view of consumer culture in the 18th century, and of how shoppers and sellers perceived their relationship to each other.