Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Matlock Bath, Derbyshire

At the apothecary’s, 1

While the Resident Wise Woman dived into the Old Apothecary Shop on Matlock Bath’s North Parade, her brain switching automatically to present-buying mode, I stood in awe looking at the shop front and the interior fittings.*

Although this street of shops was first built in 1835, it was made over just after 1900, and the then resident apothecary, Alfred Newton, oversaw the installation of a new shop window and the outstanding shelves, drawers, and counters inside. This was just the kind of interior that would have suited the fashionable pharmacist in the early-1900s. One would expect to see big glass carboys full of coloured liquids on the top shelves, packets of patent medicines in the display cabinets below, and equipment such as pestles, mortars, and accurate balances on the counter. There must have been perfumes too, precious phials and bottles displayed securely in the glass-fronted cabinet: the word ‘perfumery’ still marks it out in carved wooden letters of an ornate and Art Nouveau style.

Such shop interiors are rare survivors, the sort of thing one is as likely to see in a place like the Black Country Living Museum as in a real, working high street. It’s remarkable to find this one, among neighbouring emporia selling beach balls and ice cream, still used for goods related to the ones first sold here.† A multiple pleasure, for social historians, architectural historians, and shoppers alike.

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* This is not the first time I have been indebted to the Resident Wise Woman for leading me into a shop of architectural or historical interest; I am forever grateful.

† Matlock Bath’s ‘retail offer’, as they say these days, seems, for an inland town, remarkably skewed towards businesses that are generally seen at the seaside. There are amusement arcades and candyfloss too.

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