In 1864 a new pharmacy opened at 1 Mutley Plain (on the corner of Alexandra Road). Mr R A Saunders, Chemist, developed the business which was sold in 1885 to Mr C J Park, MPS. Charles James Park transferred the business to 12 Mutley Plain (later renumbered 23) around 1897 where it stayed for the next 87 years until it finally closed on 31 December,1983.
Father and Son
In 1906 a son, Charles Armstrong, was born to Mr and Mrs Park and it was he who took over the business on the death of his father in 1933. C J Park had qualified MPS (Member of the Pharmaceutical Society) in 1881 and his son, in 1927, followed in his father's footsteps, after part time study at The Plymouth School of Pharmacy. Charles Armstrong thought prescribed amount. With this change most pharmacists began to put aside their array of beautifully labelled dispensing bottles and replace them with prepackage products to catch the eye of the customer.
The elegance of the Victorian pharmacy was in no small measure due to these symbols of status which were displayed with their Latin labels so that all could marvel . . .and few understand.
But it's not all change...
So many things have changed , but not everything.Charles Armstrong Park recalls how he would frequently advise people who could not afford the services of a physician; and aren't there notices in pharmacies today inviting customers to seek such advice?
It time to retire after sixty years' service to the community when (or so it was rumoured) it became good pharmaceutical practice to type, rather than write the label on a prescription!
The changes in the practice of pharmacy during the 120 years of the chemist's shop on Mutley Plain have been profound and, by both chance and design, much of the original material has been preserved to bear witness to these changes.
The amount of business done has been to some extent in proportion to people's earnings and the existence of some form of health insurance. The set of prescription books going back almost to the opening of the shop indicate the cost of the pharmacist's services; most of the prescriptions in the 1891 book cost about one and threepence (one shilling and three pence, written 1/3, equal to 6p). This is roughly equivalent to the present day cost of a National Health Service prescription! Of course this sum included the cost of labour in measuring and weighing, mixing, dispensing into bottles, corking the bottle, wrapping the bottle, tying the neck with pink string and sealing the top with wax! Presentation then, as now, was all important.
Secondly there has been a change in what the pharmacist is called upon to do. The craft of making pills is still known by older pharmacists in Plymouth and this collection includes pill-making apparatus. Again emphasis was placed on presentation and for rich customers (or especially badly tasting pills) the pharmacist might cover the pills with silver or even gold! However, even when the shop first opened chemical manufacturers were beginning to provide ready made products for retail sales in the pharmacy. Similarly the apprentices over the years lost their job of the cutting up the roots of exotic plants and making extracts from them; but the infusion jars which they once used form part of this collection. At the turn of the century tablets were made individually by hand in the pharmacy.
Chemistry and the Pharmacist
The development of the science of organic chemistry has made another considerable change in what the pharmacist has sold over the years. When extracts of plants were made in each pharmacy, even though everyone followed the prescribed methods, the results (and the potency of the extract) would differ very greatly from one to another. (Get a dozen cooks to make a sponge cake to the same recipe and you will finish up with 12 distinct products!).
Until there were ways of estimating the concentration of the required drug (or even of knowing what it was in your extract that was supposed to do you good) you could never be sure of just how much you were getting. However the chemists (those practicing the profession of chemistry, not pharmacy) changed all this by extracting the active constituents of the roots, bark and berries and purifying them. This meant that the pharmacist could now buy pure, solid chemical substances rather that the raw materials, and so standarisation of dose becames possible. Moreover there occurred as another consequence a shift from prescriptions dispensed as liquids in bottles to solids, and again the customer no longer had to guess at how big a tablespoon really was, and could now take a pill containing exactly the