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.