The Society of Apothecaries holds important but restricted information about apothecaries and
some other associated persons. The Society’s historical records are those of the organisation,
rather than those of individuals, and they therefore contain records of those who were examined in
order to practice as an apothecary. Apprenticeship bindings, membership records, candidates’
entry books, and the lists of Licentiates and pharmacy technicians (originally examined as
‘Assistant to an Apothecary’) are held by the Society, and are very useful sources of information for
family historians and genealogists.
However details of individual’s private lives and personal and
family histories are not generally found in the files. The professional career paths of the medically
qualified practitioners may be traced in the Medical Directory and Medical Register, which have
been published annually, the former since 1845 and the latter since 1859.
As a City Livery Company, the Society’s jurisdiction over the trade and profession of the
apothecary started on 6 December 1617 (when the Society was incorporated) and until 1 August
1815 (when the Apothecaries Act, 1815, came into force), was restricted to the City of London and
the area within a seven-mile radius of it. Unless an apothecary was a freeman of the Society at that
time, or was apprenticed to a member, there will be no record of that individual in the archives.
Although apothecaries were originally what we would call community pharmacists today, their
role changed gradually and they became legally ratified members of the medical profession in 1704
as a result of the Rose Case, a key lawsuit in the House of Lords.
By the early 19th century, apothecaries had evolved into general practitioners of medicine or GPs. Consequently, the
Society’s archives do not contain the records of chemists, druggists or pharmacists, or of their shop
premises, or of the papers of pharmaceutical manufacturing firms or companies other than the
Society’s own pharmaceutical manufacturing stock companies. These are more likely to be found
in the records of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, founded in 1841.
Between 1st August 1815 and 31st December 1858 the Society examined and licensed medical
students to practice as apothecaries (in effect a G.P.) anywhere in England and Wales and hence
anyone wishing to practice as such had to hold the Licence of the Society of Apothecaries (the
The Society holds records of those who gained this qualification. The Society also licensed
surgeons who wished to engage in general practice but it did not license surgeons to practice as
surgeons. Apothecaries were not trained in surgery unless they had been apprenticed to a surgeon,
to a surgeon-apothecary or to a surgeon, apothecary and man-midwife.
After the passage of the Medical Act of 1858, which set up the General Medical Council, the LSA
continued to be set and was recognised as a fully registrable medical qualification. However, after
the Medical Act 1886 was entered onto the statute book, anyone qualifying to practice medicine
also had to be examined in surgery. The post-nominals LSA were therefore altered to LMSSA
(Licence in Medicine and Surgery of the Society of Apothecaries) by the Apothecaries Act 1907, to
denote the all-round competence of the Society’s Licentiates.
The Society holds records of those
individuals who took those examinations. However the majority of those who took the
examination to gain the Licence in medicine did not become members or Liverymen of the Society
The Society also holds records of those who became “Assistants to an Apothecary” under the
Apothecaries Act of 1815, which evolved into a qualification for pharmacy dispensing technicians.
The last examinations for this qualification were held in 1999.
Also held at the Hall are some records of staff who worked for the Society and who in a few cases
also lived at the Hall.
Apothecaries' Hall, Black Friars Lane, London EC4V 6EJ
020 7236 1189