Our Pharmaceutical Trade

The Society was in great part responsible for laying the foundations of the British pharmaceutical industry. In 1671 the Apothecaries decided to establish an 'Elaboratory' at the Hall as part of their post-Great Fire re-building programme. This was the first operation for the largescale production of drugs in the country.

(This pill tile, dated 1686, belonged to the Apothecary John Smithies who was made free of the Society that year. The arms and motto demonstrate his affiliation to the Society. Although pill tiles were used for rolling and cutting pills, they were normally hung or displayed in apothecaries' shops)

The Society's commercial activities developed from the Laboratory Stock (1672). The Navy Stock followed soon afterwards (1703). Originally, the Apothecaries' clients were members of the Society but, before long, the Navy, the Army, the East India Company and the Crown Colonies had become lucrative customers. As business boomed during the eighteenth century the Trade's premises at the Hall expanded and included laboratories, a mill house and a still house, mortar, magnesia and gas rooms, warehouses, packing rooms and shops.

(A watercolour by George Shepherd (1814) featuring employees of the Society's Trade at work in the courtyard of Apothecaries' Hall)

In 1822 the two Stock companies were merged into one, the United Stock, and from 1881 a committee managed the pharmaceutical trade.

 (Interior of part of the Society's retail pharmacy at Apothecaries' Hall which had its own entrance on Water Lane - now Black Friars Lane-  (c.1920)

The Society continued to manufacture, wholesale and retail medicines, pharmaceutical preparations and surgical appliances at the Hall until 1922 when, after 250 years, the Society accepted that it could no longer compete in the marketplace and the businesses were sold.