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W.C. Fry Chemist Shop c 1912

W C Fry Chemist Shop c 1912 Taunton Somerset

Not the best of photographs but so rare and a recent addition to the archive. Mr. Fry was at 18 Fore St. from 1878 to around 1912. Prior to this, the shop was listed at 20 Fore St. from 1872.

I am not sure if the numbering system changed but in 1878 Woollatt the chemist took over the address at number 20. Maybe Mr. Fry moved for some reason. If you look in the doorway of the travel agents at number 20 you will see Woollatt’s name in the doorway.

Later this became Boyd’s chemist with Adcock at number 18. Fry retired or died in 1903 when his son Albert took over the business. Describing Mr Fry in an account around 1900 it states that he had been in business in Taunton for 30 years in the oldest establishment of its kind in the town. No doubt that referred to the shop at 20 Fore St. when it was a chemist shop owned by Mr Lyddon in the 1840s. I have a nice bottle with his name on. Boyd’s business was listed as established in 1762.

The photograph dates to around 1912 as the new owner Pettifer has hurriedly amended the shop front. The building now houses The Cats’ Protection shop. The entrance to Bath Place is to the left. Little else has changed though you might notice that the fine balustrade on the roof has been built in. Health and safety I expect.

Mr. Fry’s specialties included 
‘Fry’s Quinine and Iron Tonic’, and ‘Effervescing Saline and Spring Blood Purifier’.

Tonics and Blood Purifiers were all the rage in Victorian times though most were quackery. He also sold respirators and a tonic for ‘delicate children’.

Whilst excavating the big Victorian tip at Bathpool dating to 1892 we dug up two Fry pot lids. ‘Cold Cream’ and ‘Cherry Areca Nut’. Both came in two sizes. The excavation took over a year and all of the contents were recorded.

Adcocks played a small part in my formative years. I joined Boots in Taunton as a chemist dispenser. Working out stuff in pre-decimal days was difficult so I had private lessons from the kind shop owner.

Dispensing was an arcane craft back then. ‘Scripts’ were handwritten in Latin and everything had to be made up. Count up label and pour today with typed ‘scripts’. Heaven help us poor apprentices if we got air bubbles in the suppositories.

Boots in Taunton must have tired of my inadequacies as after training I got transferred to work in Wellington Boots.

I could write a book about my experiences there but for the moment this short piece will have to do.

By Nick Chipchase

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