Tag Archives: druggist

Victorian Pharmacy: a look back

13 Aug

Last night saw the final episode of the BBC television series Victorian Pharmacy. Over the last four weeks (actually five because they missed a week) I have found the series both enjoyable and informative. The only difficulty has been trying to relate it to the lives of my "chemist and druggist" ancestors.

It has provided a good general overview of an interesting period of development. I would have liked to have seen a bit more depth, perhaps doubling the number of episodes, but having ancestors "in the trade" would make me say that wouldn’t it.

I must admit I was rather sad to see them leaving the shop and driving off in a horse and cart, I hope we see more of the Victorian Pharmacy in the future, perhaps a Christmas special like the one they did for Victorian Farm last year.

Another good thing about the series is that it has lead to more information on the subject becoming available. For example, there is a book accompanying the series, which has some great pictures and recipes (which are clearly marked so you don’t end up trying something harmful).

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain has a new page about the series including a link to a pdf of articles about the series from their journal Pharmacy Professional.

The other good news is that there does appear to be a DVD of the series in the pipeline, according to the BBC Shop the release date is the 11th October, so plenty of time for it to be added to my Christmas list.

It seems like there never has been a better time for someone interested in the life and work of chemists and druggists!

Victorian Pharmacy

19 Jul

Last Thursday saw the first episode  of a new four part series on BBC 2 entitled Victorian Pharmacy. The series is produced by the same company (Lion Television) who produced Victorian Farm, which was shown last year.

The series looks at the workings of a Victorian pharmacists’ shop. The first episode sees the shows two main stars, Ruth Goodman (also from Victorian Farm) and Nick Barber, along with their apprentice Tom Quick setting up shop in the re-constructed Victorian town at Blists Hill.

We saw quite a wide range of activities in the first episode, from gathering herbs for traditional remedies to the creation of a slightly more scientific remedy in a rather basic (by today’s standards) laboratory.

Like Victorian Farm there were several experts on hand to explain some of the principles, and there was also a stream of ‘customers’ willing to try out their remedies and treatments.

Their shop was quite spectacular to look at with all sorts of bottles, jars, pots, boxes and packages displayed on the counter, in glass cabinets and on shelves. I am not sure how typical this would have been, because the shop is itself is a museum exhibit.

I certainly had trouble reconciling the image that I have in my mind of my GEERING chemists and druggists with what was shown on screen. Admittedly my mental image comes largely from the description provided by Thomas Geering in his book Our Sussex Parish.

I just can’t imagine my GEERINGs mixing remedies or gathering ingredients from the countryside surrounding Hailsham, Sussex. I see them more as shopkeepers buying in ready made preparations for sale to the residents of Hailsham.

Overall the programme was fun and entertaining, there was a small element of education, but the emphasis was more on things that seemed shocking or laughable to our modern eyes, like the use of leeches.

As a glimpse into the possible lives of my ancestors it is invaluable, I just wish I knew more about what was in their shop and whether their business flourished or was avoided like the plague by the residents of Hailsham.

After the Victorian Farm comes the Victorian Pharmacy

11 Jul

This week sees the start of a new four part series on BBC Two, that has captured my attention more than the forthcoming new series of Who Do You Think You Are?

According to the BBC website the series Victorian Pharmacy is a “historical observational documentary series which recreates a Victorian pharmacy”. For someone like me with druggists in my family tree this should be really interesting.

The programme was filmed at Blists Hill Victorian Town, Ironbridge, Shropshire (a place that has long been on my list of places to visit) in a reconstructed pharmacy. Even though the series hasn’t started yet there is already a book of the series available.

The first episode is scheduled for Thursday 15th July 2010 at 9pm on BBC 2, and is a “look at the world of the pharmacy at the beginning of Queen Victoria’s reign in 1837.”

My genealogy to-do list for the week ahead (week 17)

25 Apr

I had quite a good week last week, I think most of my paper notes have been sorted out. I didn’t really do any fresh research, but I still have plenty of information in a digital format that needs sorting out.

I have research plans in place for a couple of archive visits, and now need to actually make a decision and decide on an actual date. I have avoided making a decision on going to Carlisle Record Office, there are only a few days left before it’s temporary closure, so it is not going to be possible to visit.

I am going to try not to focus on the fact that I have so much "stuff" to sort out and research that I would like to do, but rather focus on the smaller projects that I want to work on, whether they are researching or organising.

  • This week I want to define an "exit strategy" for my GEERING research, I still have quite a bit of research to do at the East Sussex Record Office, but I think it is time that I was able to draw everything together and move on to something new.
  • One aspect of the GEERINGs I haven’t paid much attention to so far are occupational records. I know they were chemists and druggists, and I need to find out if the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain can provide me with any information on the family business.
  • Create a schedule for actually getting all my digital files in order. I feel I need to set a deadline and get some discipline into my organising, such as sorting one surname folder a day.
  • I also need to decide which projects I am actually working on. I seem to have lots of things on the go at the moment, and I need to get some of them finished before I start exploring new areas and taking on more work.
  • I really must tidy up my computer desk and the spare bedroom in general. There are genealogy books and magazines dotted about everywhere, and an old computer that needs stripping down for spares. I really need to get my workspace sorted out.

Something tells me that this week is going to be a spring cleaning week.

My 6x great-grandmother was “the old druggist”

17 Apr

I am finally in a position to be able to say with confidence that my 6x great-grandmother Mary GEERING was the woman that was described by Thomas Geering in his book Our Sussex Parish as “the old druggist”.

It was about eight weeks ago that I first wrote about the discovery of Thomas Geering’s book and set about proving to my own satisfaction that my ancestor was described in the book (so far I have not been able to find a family connection with Thomas Geering himself).

It always seemed quite likely to me that I was related to “the old druggist” and quite often over the past couple of months I have referred to the GEERINGs of Hailsham, Sussex as my ancestors even when I haven’t been 100% certain until now.

The final piece of evidence was the death certificate of Ann GEERING (my 5x great-grandmother), but really it is not just that one piece of evidence but all the other bits of evidence I accumulated over the weeks, and the complete absence of any trace of contradictory evidence.

Although I have achieved my major goal, I still feel that I have a lot more work to do on the GEERINGs before I move on, not least of all to write up their story. I still have a long list of things to-do at the East Sussex Record Office, and a few other records dotted around other archives to check.

I am also aware that I have very nearly missed out a whole generation, jumping from one Richard GEERING (my 4x great-grandfather) to another Richard (my 6x great-grandfather) almost bypassing James GEERING in between. I still need to find out if his wife Ann was in fact a HOWLETT and find out if James did serve with the army and in what capacity.

Directory Enquiries: The GEERINGs at Hailsham, Sussex

7 Apr

I have found five entries for the GEERING shop in Hailsham, Sussex in early county directories, however the caveat exists that the evidence provided is not entirely reliable.

1823/4 Geering M. druggist & linen draper (Pigot’s Directory of Sussex)
1828 Geering M. chemist & druggist (Pigot’s Directory of Sussex)
1832/4 Geering Mary, chymist and druggist (Pigot’s Directory of Sussex)
1840 Geering Mary, chymist and druggist (Pigot’s Directory of Sussex)
1845 Geering M. chemist & druggist (Kelly’s Directory of Sussex)

The first entry is quite interesting because it tells us that there was also linen available at the shop at one time. This, along with the description given by Thomas Geering in his book Our Sussex Parish suggests that the shop was more than just a chemist and druggist shop.

The other thing of note is that the name of Mary GEERING still appears in the entry even after her death in 1825. This might indicate the failings of the compiler, but it might also suggest that the shop still traded under the name of Mary GEERING, even after her daughter Ann had taken over the business.

The chemist shop at Horsham Museum

18 Mar

My current obsession with chemists and druggists reminded me of a display in Horsham Museum. Amongst their many wonderful exhibits and displays they have a recreation of a local chemist’s shop.

The chemist shop in Horsham Museum

I took the opportunity this week to pop into the museum and have a quick look at the ‘shop’ and try and imagine my 6x great-grandmother standing behind a similar counter in Hailsham, Sussex.

In my imagination the GEERING’s shop in Hailsham had once looked like this, neat and tidy, clean and with a highly polished counter, but I imagine it didn’t last long and over the years it became more and more neglected. I might be doing my ancestors an injustice but the situation described by Thomas Geering in his book was not one of a pristine, well maintained shop.

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