It is with great pleasure and enormous gratitude to Mrs Ioana Miller, widow of Martin Miller, that we are able to tell you that the C J Park pharmacy, bought at auction by Martin Miller in 2012, has been gifted back to Park Pharmacy Trust. You may recall that Plymouth City Council received £26,500 from the proceeds of the auction. The gift from Mrs Miller is however of greater financial value because Martin spent an additional £20,000 in fees to the auctioneer and costs associated with the dismantling and removal of the pharmacy. However, no monetary value can be put on the historical value of this magnificent unique collection of Plymouth’s social history which not only included Mr Park’s chemist shop but also hundreds of treasured items donated to Park Pharmacy Trust for display in the pharmacy. Many of these items have personal memories attached to them, such as the tin of Zambuck brought back from the trenches in World War I and donated to the collection by the soldier’s great grand daughter.
Martin Miller, best known for Miller’s Antique Guides and Miller’s Gin was passionate about our heritage, having set up the Martin Miller Foundation to: acquire, manage and preserve heritage collections at risk across the UK. The CJ Park pharmacy was the Foundation’s first heritage acquisition. Martin and his good friend, Ron Thomas, always felt that Mr Park’s chemist shop should eventually be repatriated to Plymouth, its rightful home. The executors of Martin’s estate, in keeping with Martin’s wishes before his death, had offered to sell the collection back to Plymouth for the amount Martin paid at the auction together with the cost of dismantling and removing the collection to his antiques store in Hereford but Mrs Miller, acting on behalf of the estate decided to donate the collection to Park Pharmacy Trust.
The trustees of Park Pharmacy Trust would like to offer the display to Plymouth City Council for possible inclusion in the planned multimillion pound History Museum; they have written to the museum and are awaiting a reply. The trust, which is a founder member of the Heritage Consortium, would be very pleased to once again, work in partnership with the museum on this venture. For the present a new home needs to be found for rebuilding the shop and making it available as a visitor attraction as the History Museum won’t be completed 2020. And money needs to be raised now to enable this and more to be achieved.
We have suggested to the curator and other officers involved in the new History Museum, the idea of including Mr Park’s chemist shop, manned by trained volunteers, in the new proposed multimillion pound History Centre in Plymouth of which Plymouth has been awarded £12.8 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The retail aspects of pharmacy and the allied medical professions always fascinated visitors to the C J Park pharmacy when in the Merchant's House Museum and in the new History Museum could be much more accessible than the top floor of the Merchant’s House.
The walk in shop could perhaps be part of a section on the history of science and medicine in Plymouth. Plymouth as a port and Naval town brought exotic diseases to the city and the famous apothecary William Cookworthy advised naval officers that scurvymight be prevented and treated by supplying crews with fresh fruit and vegetables, and in their absence, saurkraut which is rich in vitamin C. Including William Cookworthy, best known as the discoverer of china clay in Cornwall, links Plymouth with the pharmaceutical giant, Glaxo Smith Kline. Cookworthy had trained as an apothecary in Plough Court Pharmacy, London which later was to become Allen & Hanbury itself acquired by Glaxo in 1958. Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK) was formed in 2000. Cookworthy was sent to Plymouth in 1726 to found, with the Bevan brothers, the wholesale firm of chemists and druggists, Bevans and Cookworthy in the Barbican Plymouth. He also had a porcelain factory in Plymouth at the site of the current China House pub.
Pictured immediately below is Martin Miller in 2012 standing outside the historical pharmacy in the Merchant’s House Museum that he had just purchased at the auction. And next to that picture is Mr C Armstrong Park in 1984 standing outside his rebuilt shop in the Merchant’s House Museum.