By Catherine Turnbull
Staff at Boots the chemist in Haverhill are celebrating the store’s 75th birthday and discovering how much has changed since March 12, 1940 when the doors first opened.
Current manager Jason Beeton has dusted off the scales that were used to make up potions and lotions for customers in the same location at 15 High Street.
“Pharmacists prepared many of their own drugs before they were available to buy off the shelf,” Jason explained.
“They used a pestle and mortar to grind their preparations and kept a poisons register and a controlled drugs book.”
The book from 1940 has signatures for diamorphine, used to control pain. And the poisons register lists farmers and gamekeepers buying strychnine to control pests, such as moles and rats.
“We are going from strength to strength,” said Jason. Of course we have to adapt to market forces and new legislation all the time and offer new services.
“Among these are health checks, malaria prevention, travel vaccinations and smoking cessation, consultations and that is just the health side.”
When Boots first opened the shop only went back a few feet. In 1989 it was extended. After this it could offer more departments such as beauty and fragrances.
Tony Turner of the Haverhill Family History Group, who supplied the archive photo above right said the shop was Shearman’s chemist shop before Boots took it over in 1940.
A Boots archivist, who supplied the photo above left, said the firm purchased the business that previously existed there.
Part of the upstairs of the store was originally used as accommodation for the manager – consisting of a bedroom, sitting room and kitchen.There has been a little redesigning to the building but it remains in the same location.
Boots has its roots in the mid-19th century when John Boot, an agricultural worker, moved to Nottingham to start a new business. He opened a small herbalist store in Goose Gate in 1849, from which he prepared and sold herbal remedies.
His son Jesse in 1884 opened the first shops outside the city, in Lincoln and Sheffield. Jesse had ambitions for Boots to be a nationwide chain and so he began acquiring new premises and also some chains of chemists.
The store network grew
rapidly: in 1890 he had just 10 stores and by 1914 this had risen to over 550 stores throughout England, Scotland and Wales