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Archives in London and the M25 area

Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 2130
Held at: Society of Apothecaries
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Full title: Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London
Date(s): 1617 to present day
Level of description: Collection level (fonds)
Extent: approx. 600 boxes, one plan chest and loose volumes
Name of creator(s): Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London


Administrative/Biographical history:

The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London, a City Livery Company, received its Charter and Grant of Arms in 1617 and acquired its Hall in 1632. Following its destruction in the Great Fire of 1666, Apothecaries' Hall was rebuilt on the same site and is the oldest extant livery company Hall in the City. London apothecaries had originally been members of the Grocers' Company until they were granted their own charter of incorporation by James I in recognition of their specialist skills in compounding and dispensing drugs.

The Society established an 'Elaboratory' for the bulk production of medicines in 1671-1672 at Apothecaries' Hall, laying the foundations of the British pharmaceutical industry. The Society's trade expanded and the Laboratory Stock, 1672, and Navy Stock, 1703, were created, merging to become the United Stock in 1822. From 1888 a committee managed the pharmaceutical businesses. The Society continued to manufacture, wholesale and retail drugs at the Hall until 1922.

In 1673 the Society founded Chelsea Physic Garden. Apprentices and later medical students were taught botany at the Garden, where the Society's ceremonial barge was kept and raw drugs and medicinal plants were grown, some of which were processed in the Hall laboratories. The Society managed the Garden until 1899.

In 1704, as a result of the ruling in the House of Lords in the Rose Case, apothecaries won the right both to prescribe and dispense medicines and so became legally ratified members of the medical profession. The Apothecaries Act, 1815, empowered the Society to institute a Court of Examiners to examine medical students and to grant its licence to practise medicine, the LSA, to successful candidates. The post-nominal was later changed to LMSSA by the Apothecaries Act, 1907, to reflect the all-round competence of Licentiates in medicine and surgery. John Keats qualified as Licentiate of the Society, 1816 and Elizabeth Garrett (later Garrett Anderson) became the first woman doctor to qualify in Britain, obtaining her Licence in 1865. Ronald Ross, the second Nobel Prizewinner in Medicine or Physiology, 1902, qualified LSA in 1881. The Society offers eleven specialist medical postgraduate diplomas, including Medical Jurisprudence, Forensic Human Identification and HIV Medicine.

In 1959 the Faculty of the History and Philosophy of Medicine and Pharmacy of the Society of Apothecaries was established, running and teaching two diploma courses and holding an annual programme of eponymous lectures at Apothecaries' Hall. In 2004 the Faculty of Conflict and Catastrophe Medicine was founded, resulting from the success of the pioneering Diploma in the Medical Care of Catastrophes.

The Society is number 58 in the city livery companies' order of precedence, is the largest company and the only one designated 'Society'. By its constitution 85 percent of its membership must belong to the medical profession.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London, 1617 to present day, chart the history of its development and its changing roles and activities and notably comprise constitutional records, 1617 to present day, including charters, grants of arms, rules and ordinances, and bye-laws; records of governance, 1617 to present day, including Court and committees' minutes and standing orders; membership records, c 1670s- present day, including Yeomanry and Livery lists, freedom admission registers, quarterage books and apprenticeship bindings, and financial records, 1626 to present day, including Wardens' accounts, ledgers, bonds and annual accounts.

The collection also includes records concerning associated trade/professional organisations including the Royal College of Physicians of London, Royal College of Surgeons of England, Royal College of General Practitioners, University of London, Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain and British Medical Association. Also those of specialist interest bodies of the Society, including The Friendly Medical Society, The Association of Physicians and Surgeons of the Society of Apothecaries Limited, The Association of Certificated Dispensers; the Society's educational charities The Faculty of History and Philosophy of Medicine and Pharmacy and The Faculty of Conflict and Catastrophe Medicine; The Court of Examiners and Examinations Committee, including minutes, correspondence, lists of Licentiates including Elizabeth Garrett and Ronald Ross, lists of 'Assistants to an Apothecary', candidates' entry books, questions papers and marking sheets; Chelsea Physic Garden, including Garden Committee minutes, account books, catalogues of plants, deeds and photographs; the pharmaceutical manufacturing and retailing businesses including the Laboratory, Navy and United Stock companies; Society's awards and lectures including the Rogers Prize, Gillson Scholarship in Pathology, Galen Medal, Strickland Goodall Memorial Lecture and Gold Medal and the Keats Lecture.

Papers include administrative and legal records, including those of the Clerk's office, Counsels' opinions, those concerning hospitality and ceremonial events, year books, Royal Addresses, Royal Commissions of Enquiry and staff records. Records of gifts and charities including Distressed Members' Fund, Widows' Fund, donations and bequests, and records of the Hall including deeds, plans, inventories, rentals, records of building works and photographs.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
Mainly in English

System of arrangement:

Currently in process of arrangement.

Conditions governing access:

Open, however a thirty-year rule applies in some cases. Please contact Archivist for more information.

Conditions governing reproduction:

At the discretion of the Archivist.

Finding aids:

Temporary detailed box lists are held by the Archivist in the Brande Room/Archivist's office. Please contact the Archivist for more information.

Archival Information

Archival history:

The archives, a new repository, has been formed since 1998, by combining the substantial quantity of historical records recently discovered at Apothecaries' Hall with those previously on deposit at Guildhall Library.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Internal acquisition and by transfer from departments within the creating body to the Society of Apothecaries Archives at the Hall.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: A History of the Society of Apothecaries, Penelope Hunting (The Society of Apothecaries, London, 1998); A History of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London, Volume 1, Cecil Wall (The Wellcome Historical Medical Museum, Oxford University Press, London, 1963) and
Compiled by Dee Cook, Archivist and Sam Velumyl, AIM25 cataloguer.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal Place and Corporate Names 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
May 2008

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