Sunday, 20 June 2010

Bates's cures, St Pancras

Among the many products honoured with a medal at the 1851 Great Exhibition was King's effervescent citrate of magnesia manufactured by Bates & Co. This saline laxative had been launched in 1844 and was one of the firm's key products. The other one was a salve, which apparently was recommended especially for wounds and sores on breasts. However following a modification of the poison schedule in 1917 Bates & Co was forced to alter the recipe for this particular ointment.
The name of the company appears in professional publications, including Chemist & Druggist, on several occasions between 1870 and 1932, with most mentions dating from the last decade of the nineteenth century.
During that period sales must have been good enough, and Bates & Co, who operated from 1, Regent Square, London, opened a branch closeby at 55, Sidmouth Street.
I haven't been able to establish when Bates & Co was founded nor what happened to it after 1932. The houses on Regent Square weren't built until 1829 and the first inhabitants of number 1 were Isaac Seabrook, builder of St. Pancras Church, who lived there between 1834 and 1835 and 1838 and 1844, and Charles Templer Depree, solicitor, between 1848 and 1854. So Bates & Co was registered originally at another address and only moved to Regent Square at some point between 1854 and 1870, as the Chemists' Annual List from that particular year gives that address.

Bates & Co used this wall twice to advertise its remedies. Unfortunately the upper left corner, which is more exposed to the sun, has completely faded, leaving only a few letters on the right.
The most recent sign is on the left, the one in the background on the right:

... Salts
Gout and

& Sores

... the
...nowned [Renowned?]
... Salve
For ...s [Wounds?] & Sores
... [Of?] All Kinds
... 80 Years
Also For
Citrate of Magnesia
Invented in 1844
The Original Safest
& Best

Location: Regent Square / Picture taken on: 01/04/2008


Wellwynder said...

The Bates sign has to be the greatest ghost sign in London. I used to walk past it most days on my way to work - brightened up the morning no end!

Sebastien Ardouin said...

Good start to the day indeed.
I don't know whether it is the greatest ghost sign in London (I can think of several other contenders) but it is certainly a very interesting one from a historical perspective.

Wellwynder said...

I should say "my favourite of those I've seen", rather than "greatest". But there are several aspects of this one that especially appeal to me, like its age and its size, the tangle of different typefaces, the slightly gruesome subject matter, and the fact that it's in what seems (now) like an unlikely location, a quiet residential street. It would be interesting to know what your other contenders might be - that might make a very interesting post.

Sebastien Ardouin said...

Thanks for the suggestion.
Right now I can think of the following ones in London: 2 Little Crown Court on Tisbury Court, Black Cat on Dingley Road, Gillette on Commercial Road, and if you go a bit further from the centre itself, Peterkin's custard on St John's Hill, Bloom's Pianos on Kingsland Rd, Boots in Camden (for the painted -electric combination), Fount Pens Repaired / Walker Bros / Waterman on Stoke Newington's Church Street, Palais de Dance in Hammersmith station (Hammersmith & City line). I'm sure I could add a few others.
You're right the different typefaces, the uniqueness of Bates's & Co, and what it tells us about health remedies during the Victorian era make it very special.
Your comment about the "slightly gruesome subject matter" reminded me of the Edmund Martin Ltd shop front on Lindsey Street: "Tripe Dressers, Meat & Offal Salesmen". Great job to write down on any administrative form! I don't know whether these tiles behind Smithfields market are still there (I think the building was supposed to be demolished because of Crossrail) but it's worth looking for them when visiting the area.