Chemists & Druggists

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Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire

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Bradford on Avon Museum’s main exhibit is the reconstructed Christopher chemist shop. There were and are others in Bradford, oddly all in Silver Street too, as well as grocers who sold patent medicines.

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George Marks, chemistGeorge Marks had set up as a chemist in a big Georgian house near the bridge in Silver Street by 1841. He was only 20 at the time and had been born in Bradford. The distinctive giant pestle and mortar above the sign bearing his name probably dated from his time. He was the Honorary Secretary of the town’s Literary Institution and was still trading in Silver Street in 1881.

 

George Marks, chemist, billheadA rather worse-for-wear billhead issued by George Marks to John Harding jr. of Holt. It shows the arms of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain, of which Marks had been elected a member. The year is missing, but it was probably in the early 1860s.

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W.H. Willson's chemist shop, 1890sBy 1887 George Marks’ business had been taken over by Walter Henry Willson, who retained his predecessor’s sign and the pestle and mortar above. The photograph is from the 1890s and shows Willson’s young sons with his assistant. The shop’s windows display nine large glass carboys, which were probably only decorative. In the right window are large glass jars containing natural sponges.

 

medicines from H.C. WillsonWalter Henry Willson died in 1931 at the age of 75 and the business continued under his son Harry Courtenay Willson. In 1961 the shop closed and the building was acquired by the Spencer Moulton rubber company, who demolished it to make a vehicle entrance to New Mill behind. This is the opening into Lamb Yard today. The pestle and mortar sign seems to have been in the Tithe Barn at Barton Farm for a while, but then disappeared.

 

Thomas & Emanuel Taylor cardAnother chemist and druggist shop in Silver Street was that of Thomas & Emanuel Taylor, which was in the building that is now the Bunch of Grapes public house. The Taylors had a sideline in selling wine, beer and spirits that gradually became the mainstay of their business.

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Arnold Scrine chemist signThe last chemist shop to open in Silver Street was that of Arnold Scrine, who came from a family of Bradford butchers. He trained with Richard Christopher, but then set up in one of the brick shops on the opposite side of the road. He died at the age of 47 in 1958 and the shop continued under other owners, but retaining his name until the end of the century. It is still trading today as the Day Lewis Pharmacy, the last chemist shop in Silver Street.

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Another recent pharmacy was 16 St Margaret’s Street, on the corner of St Margaret’s Hill. In about 1972 P. Gallagher was practising as a chemist here and was followed by Geoffrey Garland MPS. In the 1990s it moved to the Health Centre, near the railway station and is known as St Margaret’s Pharmacy.

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