26 June 2024

Chemists, Chymists, Pharmacists and Druggists – three in one week

Last week, on Monday 17th June, I was in North West London presenting a talk for the Northwood Hills U3A group. Afterwards I went to Wembley to check on a couple of ghostsigns – this one for a Daimler dealer and this one for a butcher's shop. I am glad to report that both are still intact. 

As I made my way towards the station, a bus came along headed for Ealing Broadway and so I got on that instead. I do like a mystery tour, and sitting on the top deck of a bus is a wonderful way to see places I barely know. The route went through Alperton (all new to me) and ended at bus stop 'A' at the northern end of The Broadway here.

As I disembarked, I noticed a marvellous old chemist shop at No.36 – much of D.Lewis's Art Nouveau shop fittings are intact both inside and out. Coloured glass, curved windows, bronze fittings, marble plinths and more. The interior looks to have much of the wooden shelving, display cases and drawers. For some reason I didn't go inside. Instead, I just took a couple of snaps making a mental note to return and properly investigate the whole parade another day when I had more time.

Two days later I was in Woodford, waiting for a friend and admiring the parade of shops that is also called The Broadway. I noticed at number 12 a carved and gilded sign for Chrystall, chemist and druggist. The shop also boasts lovely window displays which include metal frames, and curved and red glass etched with the services available. 

When my friend arrived, we went inside to investigate the shop's interior and found that the whole left side still retains it's wooden displays and shelving. I took just one photo, of the exterior, shown above right ( the one on the left is a google screen grab from here). We walked along the parade to see what other similar delights might be on offer and found that most of this parade still has elements of the original shops. As we walked past number 12 (four doors from the chemist, consecutive numbering, and now Euronics) I happened to notice that there were words at low level around the glass windows advertising confectionary [sic] and chocolates. 
Looking into the shop, I noticed that they had an old carved and gilded sign on the side wall at the rear of the shop, and it looked practically the same as the one at the chemist's. We went inside and chatted to the staff, who were lovely. Whilst they didn't know much about the sign or the Hermann family, they were clearly proud to have this impressive chunk of local history on their wall:

This sign for Hermann Brothers, Pastry cooks and confectioners is very impressive and unlike any I have seen before. Rather than a plain black background, this has a marble green and black effect which I am sure would have been top-of-the-range expensive, hinting at the quality of products the Hermann Bros would have made and the kind of well-to-do people that would have lived in this area before the tube line arrived. The bottom right corner of the sign shows that the sign was made by Brilliant Signs of Grays Inn Road, though I'd be surprised if they installed the sloppily applied/wonky later addition of 'Limited' as a stuck on patch (under Bros). It's interesting that 'confectioner' is spelled with an 'e' on the sign board but with an 'a' within the etched glass. 

And then, on Friday 21st June, I was wandering through Tyburnia, Connaught Village and the Hyde Park Estate, following a route specified in an old 1960's guidebook about old pubs and taverns to see if what was written about then was still in place today. I then crossed over Edgware Road and headed along Crawford Street, a street that also contains remnants of Victorian shops. It includes the marvelllous signage and multicoloured lantern of Meacher, Higgins & Thomas, chemists:

Again, I only took a few quick snaps, although this time I did go inside to chat to the owners. They are really proud about the history of their shop. I said I was embarrassed that although I had known about the shop for decades, since I worked round the corner in the late 1980s, yet I hade never stepped inside until now. 
Well, it turns out there's more old signage in there, plus glass jars and some of the orignal fittings in the form of wooden drawers and shelving. The exterior gilded sign is another one made by Brilliant Signs (see under 1814), a company name that appears on many of the best signs of this era*. 

There are, of course, many other lovely old chemist shops across London, but the three that immediately spring to mind are these – Walden, 65 Elizabeth Street, Belgravia, Allchin, 28 Englands Lane (but, since 2014, the lovely gilded script has been covered by dullness) and K.King at 35 Amwell Street, Islington:

Finally, a couple of ghostsigns featuring chemist's shops. There are many I could include here, but I suspect the two that people will recognise the most are these two – Boots facing Camden Town tube station and Dean's on Clapham Pavement on the north side of the common.

*I have built up quite a collection of signs made by this company and I really ought to pull together a blog post to showcase them.

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Thanks, Jane