Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Ointment pots, their provenance and records thereof.

A semi-recent trip to GB Antiques left me with these ointment pots, no clue when they were from and some interest to find out more. At a glance, the only noteworthy thing about them is that they’re from the same chemist at two different addresses.

My best eyeballed guess was around the 1920’s with no grounding other than estimate based on the font, mould of the ceramics and usage of adhesive labelling. Unsatisfied with that as an answer I did some digging with the resources I had, and some interesting results came of it:

The owner of the pharmacy I traced back to Hedley Egbert Dwelly (1867-1940), (Unfortunately an Ancestry link is the best I could find as my record finding skills aren’t the sharpest) who also appears on pages 7 & 110 of ‘The registers of pharmaceutical chemists and druggists (1919)’ under his Chatteris address, although I can’t find anything similar for the Harlseden address except a court case for murder that took place on the 24th of June 1905 at the Old Bailey which reads: 

“HEDLEY EGBERT DWELLY. I am a chemist, of 41, Acton Lane, Harlesden- on Saturday, February 4th I sold a 4-oz bottle of carbolic acid to the prisoner- he took it away with him “

This tells me that he must’ve been working at the Harlesden address in 1905. I can't ascertain when he moved to the Chatteris address, but it does suggest the Harlesden pot is earlier than the Chatteris one. 

The contents of the Chatteris pharmacy appear to have been auctioned off in 1987 according to the information on this photograph. Which is presumably why I found these at the big antiques shop I went to. Also, why cursory google of the name mostly brings up Ebay listings for other bottles, pots and pharmaceutical bits originally held by the pharmacy.

On looking, the aforementioned photograph seems to predate 1917 with the Victorian looking jars on display as well as the colourful carboys in the window, which in the 19th century were used to show a Chemists competency by the ability to mix vivid colours. This translated their skill in a visual medium to shoppers who may not be able to read the signage due to illiteracy.

This interior seems outdated for 1917, to me. Although there could've been many reasons for it to stay so old fashioned. Possibly out of historical interest, it's definitely somewhere I would've been interested in visiting had it not been auctioned.

A page on the website of Cambridgeshire's archive shed some further light on the pharmacy itself:

“A Pharmacy since around 1800, 33 Park Street was owned by pharmacist Hedley Dwelly from 1917. From his death in 1940  his son Egbert ran the shop without  pharmacy registration selling patent medicines and agricultural medicines until around 1985. The contents and furnishings were as they were in 1917 and the building complete with contents was bought by a Dr Guy of Ely around 1985 who auctioned everything in 1987. This photo could be early 1980s.”

Perhaps the interior remained similar since it's founding in 1800 and Dwelly, being born in the 1860s, felt some interest in preserving it.

With the information from the CCAN website, the Chatteris pot can be dated from between 1917-1940. Which almost fits my initial estimation! No further luck on the Harlesden besides ‘at least 1905, before 1917’. But that’s better than an eyeballed estimate. 

I'm glad to have done the research, even if it didn't precisely answer my question it revealed an interesting piece of history I would otherwise not have known.

Further images of the ointment pots:

I have no idea what the numbering could represent. Odd that it's the same on both pots. 

Interestingly, the Chatteris pot looks older even though the dates of pharmacy ownership suggest otherwise. Though this could be my naivety in ceramics. 

Direct transcript of text on the pots: 
Pharmaceutical Chemist
33, Park St., CHATTERIS, Cambridgeshire 

Pharmaceutical Chemist 
41, Acton Lane. 
Harlesden. N.W. 

If anyone with more knowledge on the subject can offer further details about either the pots themselves or the pharmacy, that would be most welcomed.