A Century of Pharmacy Furniture

Cetaceum, Resina, Potassium Tartrate; no, they are not celebrity baby names, they’re some of the substances available in the early twentieth-century from ‘Hallaway’s’ chemist’s of 5 Devonshire Street, Carlisle, writes David Rounce.

'Hallaway's chemist's of 5 Devonshire Street, Carlisle. Photographed in the 1950s by James Hall, the last owner.

‘Hallaway’s chemist’s of 5 Devonshire Street, Carlisle. Photographed in the 1950s by James Hall, the last owner.

As our curatorial team continues to delve into the museum’s off-site store, one of the many fascinating collections we’ve encountered has been from this chemist’s shop. The evocative gold labels on ranks of drawers with their ornate glass knobs, not to mention shelves, cupboards and an intriguing array of half-empty glass bottles, prompted a little digging through the museum’s files which revealed more about where these fittings came from as well as the remarkable story of their survival.

Some of the many exotically-labelled drawers recovered from the chemist's.

Some of the many exotically-labelled drawers recovered from the chemist’s.

Carlisle-born John Hallaway was registered as a pharmaceutical chemist in 1858, aged 22, and set up his own business in the city. In 1892 he moved premises to Devonshire Street and was joined by his son Robert who took over the chemist’s on John’s retirement in 1916.

The Cumberland News of 27th August 1976 recalled ‘Hallaway’s’ as;
‘(Having) a very handsome and dignified exterior, which was matched by equally handsome interior fittings – dark mahogany counters and show cases, walls lined with small drawers, each marked with a gilt label to indicate its contents, and with large mirrors and shelves above to hold the gilt-labelled jars and boxes in all shapes and sizes.’

A small selection of the surviving fittings and bottles.

A small selection of the surviving fittings and bottles.

Robert Hallaway himself died in 1923 but his successors continued trading under the ‘Hallaway’s’ name until 1959 when the last owner, James Lothian Hall, retired for health reasons. Although he hoped somebody might take on the business, it was not to be and 5 Devonshire Street passed to the Abbey National Building Society.

All seemed lost until salvation arrived in the form of Mr and Mrs Jocelyn Morton who, concerned that this example of a typical Victorian chemist’s shop would be lost, bought and removed the interior furniture which they then had installed in their kitchen!

Sketch by James Hall showing the layout of the 'Hallaway's' shop fittings.

Sketch by James Hall showing the layout of the ‘Hallaway’s’ shop fittings.

In 1976 the Mortons were moving house and the new owners, perhaps understandably, did not want a kitchen full of Victorian chemist’s furniture. Keen to see their collection preserved the Mortons then offered it to Beamish.  At that time the museum had a re-creation of a Stockton chemist’s on display in Beamish Hall, but the ‘Hallaway’s’ fittings were accepted and put into store for the future.

Today 5 Devonshire Street is a bank although the ornate Victorian frontage has changed little since John Hallaway opened for business. As for the contents, these are still safely in store as sadly the museum does not currently boast a chemist’s shop. Who knows though; some day in the future you might be able to step through the doors of a re-constructed ‘Hallaway’s’!

3 thoughts on “A Century of Pharmacy Furniture

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