Norwood Ephemera

Several years ago, whilst rummaging through boxes at The Old Ephemera & Newspaper Shop in Kinnerton Street SW1 (is it still there?) I found and bought Drane & Co’s Price List. Drane & Co. were Dispensing Chemists of 56 Knights Hill Road, West Norwood. This booklet came to light again when, in my post retirement zeal to sort out the contents of my home, I found it in a box file labelled 15 years ago (!): ‘TO SORT’.

Drane & Co. were first listed at this address in directories in 1886, the address being then at the recently built 5 West Parade. By 1889 this is listed as the West Parade Pharmacy, 56 Knights Hill Road, between the Ironmonger at number 54, adjacent to the Jews’ Hospital cab stand, and the Baker at 58. The last listing of Drane & Co. chemist, at 56, is in 1899. By 1901 Sidney W Dawson, Chemist, was listed and a new parade of shops occupied the cab stand site.

All these shops are still there almost opposite West Norwood station. Number 56, recently a print shop, is empty at the time of writing. The two Parades are easily identified, much of the external features remain, including those of some of the shops.

The Price List, produced sometime between 1893, from dates given on advertisements, and 1898, allowing for the lapse of time in publishing Kelly’s Directory, makes fascinating reading. The front cover advertises the availability, for cash only, of drugs, patent medicines, herbs, toilet and nursery requisites, perfumery, surgical instruments, teas etc. A drawing of a limp–eyed Victoria lady advertises Dr. Tibbald’s Blood Tonic. ‘The Great Blood & Skin Medicine’. Twenty-four pages contain further advertisements and a long stock list.

Readers are assured that Clarkson’s Embrocation can be used internally, to cure cholera, spasms and all bowel complaints: and externally, to cure everything from gout and sciatica to toothache, cuts and sprains. It was honoured with medals in Tasmania and Jamaica. On application to the manufacturer, a list could be obtained of the thousands cured by it in the influenza outbreaks of 1891 and 92. All this for between 1s. 1d. and 11 shillings a bottle!

Drane & Co advertised all goods were delivered free within a radius of two miles. Goods (apart from Mineral Waters) worth above five shillings (25p) were delivered free whatever the distance. Weekday opening hours were from 8 a.m to 9 p.m; on Saturday until 10.30 p.m.; and on Sunday for a few hours in the evening. Prescriptions had to be left before 6 p.m. to ensure same day delivery. Mixtures under 2 ounces cost 6d and powders cost up to 1 shilling (5p) a dozen; prices which are comparatively high when considered now.

Many names are still familiar today’ Robinson’s barley, Beecham’s pills, Benger’s Food and Bovril to name but four from page 7. A frightening amount of drugs, from antimony (1d per ounce) and creosote (6d) to saltpetre and zinc sulphate are listed. One could also obtain five different enemas, horse and cattle medicines and Crystal Palace John Bond’s marking ink among the usual requisites.

I have recently sold this booklet to a well-known local historian. I am sure it will be displayed at one of his exhibitions – far better than being hidden in my box file.

Judy Harris

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