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Association Events
Monday, 01 May 2017 17:52

Visit to Apothecaries Hall 2016

On Friday 23 September, twenty-five members of Millbank Branch and friends met up in London to visit Apothecaries Hall near Blackfriars.

The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries was incorporated by royal charter as a City Livery Company in 1617. Over the centuries, it has had many roles and undertaken many activities. These include being a major centre for the manufacture and sale of drugs at the Hall from 1671-1922, being the founder and manager of Chelsea Physic Garden, and from 1815 it was the medical examining and licensing body.

Steeped in this history and tradition, the Society is one of the few livery companies in the City of London to remain professionally based with 85 per cent of its membership belonging to medicine, the remainder from pharmacy and a few from professions allied to medicine. It is one of the largest City livery companies with over 1,600 members in 2012 and ranks 58th in their order of precedence.

Over a welcome cup of coffee, the Beadle gave an introduction about the Society and the Hall. The building, originally part of the Dominican Priory of Blackfriars, was called Cobham House prior to its purchase by the Society in 1632. The original building was destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. A new hall was completed on the same site in 1672 to the design of Edward Jerman and an "Elaboratory" was then included for the first ever large-scale manufacture of drugs. From then until 1922, the Society manufactured medicinal and pharmaceutical products at their Hall, and sold some of their products from a retail outlet opening onto Water Lane. Many of the manufactured drugs were destined for the Society’s clients including the Navy, the Army, the East India Company and the Crown Colonies.

A major restoration and external building programme was carried out in the 1780s. Although the hall underwent further redevelopment in the 1980s, its appearance has altered little since the late-eighteenth century. Sadly, during our visit much of the Courtyard was covered in scaffolding as dry rot has recently been found, and an extensive restoration is underway to check the damage and restore the exterior in time for the 400th Anniversary celebrations 

The Beadle then took us on a tour of the main public areas, telling both interesting and amusing stories about various artefacts. He mentioned both well-known facts and hidden gems, many of which were not known by the three Apothecaries who were on the trip.

Following this excellent tour, many of our members took the opportunity to purchase mementos before taking the short walk through narrow lanes to Cote Brasserie at St Paul’s. The Events Team at the restaurant made us very welcome in a private dining room with easy access by lift for those who required it. Our pre-booked lunch was delicious and was served with a choice of wine or soft drink. From the buzz of conversation and subsequent emails, I believe that the day was enjoyed by all.

The members had heard of the illness of our Immediate Past Secretary Allison Johnson and it was agreed to send best wishes and a gift.

Col Jane Carey-Harris


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