Posted in History, History of Medicine, Museum, TV Programme

The Victorian Pharmacy

Lloyds Dispensing Chemists, Swanage Museum

Great news for anyone interested in the history of medicine, the hugely successful series The Victorian Pharmacy is currently being repeated on BBC2, Monday evenings at 7pm.   Professor Nick Barber, historian Ruth Goodman and PhD student Tom Quick bring to life the challenges faced by the Victorian pharmacist.   The BBC recreated an everyday pharmacy at Blists Hill Victorian Town in Ironbridge

I recently stumbled upon a charming little Museum situated on Swanage sea front.  The Swanage Museum was founded in 1976 by a group of enthusiastic artists and historians.  The displays have been arranged and constructed with care by a team of volunteers.  One of the exhibits that caught my eye is the replica of Lloyds Dispensing Chemists shop (see image above) which was situated at 42 High Street in Swanage.   Following Pharmacist Henry Lloyd’s death in 1933, the business was carried on by his wife Kathleen and later by their daughter Mary.  The shop closed in 1995.   Some of the equipment in the images will be appear familiar if you are a fan of The Victorian Pharmacy!

Here is how the Victorian pharmacist created pills from raw ingredients:

  • all the dry ingredients were pulverised and mixed in a pill mortar and pestle;
  • excipient was added, drop-by-drop to bind form into a pliable mass.  Excipient was usually syrup of liquid of glucose;
  • the mass was then rolled into a ball  and then into a long, even sausage-style length;
  • the sausage-style length was cut into portions;
  • using the pill machine, the pill mass would be rolled to the number required to create rounded portions;
  • each pill round was roughly rolled between the finger and thumb and a smooth finish was created by using the pill rounder in a circular figure of eight movement;
  • the well-rounded pills were then set aside to dry.

If you want to learn more about the history of medicine, check-out the London Museums of Health and Medicine website.

Middle L-R, Pill Rounder, Pill Machine, Weights and Measures, dispensing exhibit, Swanage Museum
Pestle and Mortar, dispensing exhibit, Swanage Museum


Social historian, based in the UK.

2 thoughts on “The Victorian Pharmacy

  1. During WW.II I was an American GI( stationed in Swanage(see article, Aug. 13, 2013 issue of Dorset Life). I met Mary Lloyd and her mother in Nov. 1944. Is Mary Lloyd still living in Swanage? I would like to renew our acquaintance. – John Livingstone.


    1. Dear John,

      Thank you so much for getting in touch. What a lovely, lovely story. I haven’t seen the article in Dorset Life but I will have to get a copy. I am afraid I don’t know the answer to your question but may I suggest that you get in contact with Swanage Museum directly who I am sure will be able to help you further. Their details are: Swanage Museum & Heritage Centre, The Square, Swanage, Dorset, BH19 2LJ Tel: 01929 421427 EMail: Good luck. Regards. Emma.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s