There has been a chemist shop at South Petherton, Somerset since the early 1800s. It belonged to an apothecary and grocer named John Wellington (1774-1845), son of John WELLINGTON (1747-1827), chemist of Chard, and a brother of my great-great-great-grandfather George WELLINGTON (1781-1847), chemist of Yeovil.
John WELLINGTON Jnr married Ann MARTIN in 1807 and had four children. Their three daughters Mary, Sarah Jane and Ann; and a son George William who also became a chemist in Taunton. John was a member of the South Petherton town council and ran a successful business until his death in 1845 at the age of 71.
The business in St. James Street, South Petherton passed to John’s brother George’s son William Edwards WELLINGTON (1813-1850) and then to another son Frederick George Noble WELLINGTON (1824-1887). They were qualified druggists and apothecaries and also sold groceries, tea, wine and spirits in their shop. They had a second business in the nearby town of Martock.
When Frederick retired he sold the shop and all its stock to William Charles WHITE in about 1887. W. C. WHITE practiced as a chemist until 1909 and when he died the business passed to his son Charles Edger who was a grocer but not qualified to dispense medicines. The chemist department was abandoned and boarded up behind a locked door, complete with the dispensary and its contents.
Charles WHITE continued as a grocer for several decades, the business then passed to his unmarried daughters Margaret and Eveline who, with the change to decimal currency in 1971, gave up the struggle and upon the death of the surviving sister in 1987 the whole shop came up for sale.
When the door was unlocked an amazing time capsule was discovered. The dispensary, complete with its old balances and scales, medicine jars, bottles and ancient cures, gave a unique glimpse into the life of a Victorian pharmacy.
The complete contents and fittings of the apothecaries shop was purchased at auction by Flambards Amusement Park in Cornwall and re-assembled in their Victorian Village as close as possible to how it appeared 70 years earlier – with the dust and cobwebs, but without the poisons and more dangerous compounds which were confiscated by the British Home Office.
The South Petherton Local History Group owns the archive of accounts and records of White’s pharmacy and general store. I have written to the group asking if they have any documents dating back to when the WELLINGTON family owned the business.
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Notes: William Edwards WELLINGTON and Frederick George Noble WELLINGTON were the sons of George WELLINGTON, chemist of Yeovil; and brothers to Jane and Susanah WELLINGTON.
Sources: http://www.southpethertoninformation.org.uk, South Petherton Local History Group, Wellingtonia, The History of the Wellington Family, by John Evelyn; GRO Indexes and documents, Pigot’s Directories of Somerset and Dorset 1830 to 1885. Flambards Amusement Park. You can see and listen to the story of apothecary William White’s lost time capsule at Flambards at this Youtube link.