Park Pharmacy Trust, a registered Educational Charity, has since its inception in 1984 been working closely with Plymouth City Council for the wider benefits of the local community. It has received National recognition for both its innovative approaches to life-long learning and as a tourist attraction for visitors to Plymouth. Its famous C J Park Pharmacy, the last remaining Victorian chemist's shop in Plymouth, established in 1864, had been a major tourist attraction in the Merchant's House Museum where it was manned by trust volunteers. There thousands of visitors could see the pharmacy, try their hand at old fashioned pill-rolling (and earn a certificate of proficiency in the art of pill rolling) and talk to the volunteer stewards on duty. A weekend event held at the Merchant's House Museum Pharmacy is Phun, attracted record numbers of visitors.
The pharmacy was televised Nationally to over 8 million viewers when Park Pharmacy Trust became the joint United Kingdom winner in the Tourism and Heritage categories of the BBC's ''It's My City!'' competition. In fact Plymouth, because of Park Pharmacy Trust, became the only winning city in the south of England. The eventual display in the Merchant’s House, eventually had hundreds of items donated to the trust by people for display in Mr Parks chemist shop. All these donated items together with the whole collection from Mr Park were auctioned in 2012 for which Plymouth City Council received £26,500.
This is the way the pharmacy purchased by Mr Charles Park in 1875, looked in 1864. It was then at no. 1 Mutley plain. It is thought that Mr Park moved the pharmacy to number 23 Mutley Plain around 1879. The original shop had four carboys (big glass bottles) in the window wheras at 23 Mutley Plain there was only room for three carboys. The fourth carboy was found in the hayloft and is in the collection of Park Pharmacy Trust.
Mr Charles Park (third from right) with his staff around 1910 and the delivery boy on the left, who worked for the Park family for 40 years was known as ‘Park’s Express’.
The original basket covered in oil cloth and conserved was in the Merchant’s House Museum from 1984 until 2012 when the entire shop and display was sold at auction for £26,500 with the proceeds going to Plymouth City Council.
Mr Charles Armstrong Park, the son of the founder, Mr Charles Park, used to greet his old customers on a Friday afternoon after his shop had been rebuilt in the Merchant’s House Museum
Background to Park Pharmacy Trust
Park PharmacyTrust has been recognised on many occasions for its innovative and imaginative work in education and life-long learning. In 1984 Park Pharmacy Trust pioneered recall reminiscence sessions in collaboration with Age Concern Devon and Plymouth Age Concern. It also runs hands-on practical workshops for primary school children (of which there are currently five). These Children's Industry Workshops have attracted National and International recognition when the chairman and curator of the trust were invited to give a presentation at the Edinburgh Science Festival, a conference in Amsterdam at the first European Week of Scientific Culture, and was short-listed for the prestigious Jerwood Award. It has received two grants from COPUS (Committee on the public Understanding of Science) and other grant awarding bodies including two recent grants for mental health from Plymouth council. It received a commendation for its innovative educational work from the Gulbenkian Trust's Museums and Galleries Awards. The trust has its headquarters in Thorn Park Lodge, Thorn Park, Plymouth. At the lodge is a pharmaceutical library, a collection of materia medica (used in the past for making pharmaceutical preparations) an extensive collection of artefacts and old fashioned proprietary goods. People of all ages visit its headquarters (by appointment) where they are transported back in time by the touch and smells of our pharmaceutical past and can even a certificate in pill rolling and powder envelope folding. For many years the trust has been developing a medicinal garden at Thorn Park Lodge where visitors can learn about plants used in the medicine or just sit and enjoy the surroundings.
In spite of enormous opposition and claims made by all the people opposed to the development that Thorn Park Lodge and garden were within Mutley Park, and not brown field land claimed by Plymouth City Council, planning permission was granted Emeris Coolart Ltd, in a profit sharing development, to build 5 houses in the medicinal garden at Thorn Park Lodge and the adjacent garage site owned by Emeris Ltd and Coolart Ltd. The only way to quash the planning permission was to challenge the legality of the grant of planning permission in a judicial review hearing. Unfortunately Park Pharmacy Trust lost the judicial review but saved the garden and prevented the development. There was one good and one bad outcome of the judicial review hearing: The good outcome was that the judge in the High Court acknowledged that there had been an error on the part of the planners in believing Thorn Park Lodge and garden were on brownfield land. Instead, as established in the High Court, the lodge and garden were firmly within Mutley Park itself within the Mannamead Conservation Area. The proposed development for which planning permission had been granted could not now proceed without first a separate application to the Secretary of State for change of use from green space to residential. This application is unlikely to be successful while Park Pharmacy Trust, who has security of tenure at Thorn Park Lodge ad garden remains a tenant. And the planning application has expired.
The bad outcome was that the judge considered the errors made by the officers (the planners and their legal advisors) to be ‘human’ errors not deliberate. If the errors had been deliberate then the actions on the part of the officers would constitute maladministration and the Council would have lost the judicial review. Instead the judge in using his discretion and giving his opinion that the errors were ‘human’ Park Pharmacy Trust lost the judicial review and was further ordered to pay the costs of Plymouth City Council. The costs awarded were initially £54,000 but after the Council got bailiffs to ‘seize’ the C J Park pharmacy collection in the Merchants House, the costs rose to £72,000 with interest accruing daily at £11.40 a day. However, the Council only spent £19,000 on the judicial review hearing the rest of the costs awarded are profit of charging £164 an hour for the legal staff at Plymouth Council and for interest. The trust, being a charity with no money left after having paid its own legal costs in this failed hearing pleaded with the council not to enforce the court order for costs. These pleadings, which came from many supporters led to the Council seizing the main asset of Park Pharmacy Trust and selling this wonderful tourist attraction in the Merchant’s House Museum by auction for which the council obtained £26,500, considerably more than they actually spent on the judicial review hearing (around £18,000) but less than the actual order of costs, which included all their profit costs.
The trust offered to give the C J Park pharmacy to the Council and even agreed to continue to man the pharmacy and provide professional support to satisfy the legal and health requirements of such a collection. Each time the Council refused. However, the Council actually wanted the collection, but would not accept it in lieu of the costs. When the collection was seized by bailiffs, it then became the property of the Court. I think the Council thought they could just keep it. The Council then applied to the High Court to be allowed to purchase the seized collection back for £10,000 by private treated. However, the Council would not write off the rest of the debt.
When the judge asked the enforcement officer how much was the debt, the judge was told £54,000. The judge realised that £10,000 would not make a dent in this debt, especially if the trust was awarded the costs of this additional hearing The judge then dismissed the Council’s application to purchase the C J Park collection for £10,000 by private treaty and ordered the council to pay its own costs. The enforcement officer was told by the judge that it was his duty to sell seized goods to get the maximum amount of money. After three Freedom of Information Requests it was discovered that the Council had spent £18,000 on having the collection seized by bailiffs and then going to the High Court to try to buy it back.
The C J Park pharmacy collection was bought at auction by Martin Miller. Martin Miller, best known for Miller’s Antique Guides and Miller’s Gin was passionate about our heritage, and when he learned of the importance of the C J Park pharmacy to the heritage of Plymouth he decided to 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. Martin sadly died in December 2013 but his widow, Ioana Miller, and Martin’s daughters decided to donate the entire collection to Park Pharmacy Trust for display somewhere in Plymouth.
The gift from Mrs Miller is however of greater financial value than the £26,500 paid at the auction 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.
Mr Park’s chemist shop is now back in Plymouth in store and the trust wants to find a home for it in Plymouth where visitors can once again reminisce with stewards on duty in the shop. It would be great if Mr Park’s chemist shop could be rebuilt in the refurbished Merchant’s House Museum in a part of the museum that was accessible to elderly people and others with disabilities. It could eventually go the new History Museum, due to be opened in 2020.
Martin Miller, who bought the entire collection at auction in 2012, is seen outside the shop in the Merchant’s House. When Martin learned of the circumstances of the auction and the history behind the collection, he put the collection into the Martin Miller Foundation.
The council bid at the auction £21,000 but Martin Miller bought it for £26,500. The council pocketed the £26,500 and now are being offered the same collection free of charge. This story could have a fairy tale ending if the council were to once again work in partnership with Park Pharmacy Trust for the benefit of the whole community and enable Mr Park’s shop to once again be on display in Plymouth.