The Changing Face of Local History in Wimbledon Hill Road: Parkes Drug Store

Norma Cox

 Merton Council’s Masterplan for Wimbledon Town Centre, to attract major investment into the town was documented in the March Newsletter of the Wimbledon Society (1).  New developments such as office blocks will involve a change in the street scene of the town. I wondered how many changes to the street scene of Wimbledon had occurred in the past. I decided to study the history of a shop site in the centre of Wimbledon and this shop was a drug store once located on Wimbledon Hill Road.

In 2019 I researched and documented some local history about three Merton drug stores. One store was at 14 Wimbledon Hill Road on the corner of Wimbledon Hill Road and St George’s Road. This drug store was called Parkes Drug Store and the research project studied this drug store for the years 1900-1930 (2). Parkes Drug Store in fact became Parkes Chemist Ltd in 1924 (3).  A drug store was a shop which sold non- poison patent medicines, examples of which were Beecham’s Pills and Andrew’s Liver Salts. Patent medicines had registered patents but some ‘patent medicines’ were not patented as the manufacturers did not wish to disclose their secret formulae (4). The safety and efficacy of patent medicines was later investigated in 1914 and 1920 and these products would soon fall from favour. The drug store also sold non-poison ‘put-up’ products such as Cod Liver Oil and the drug store’s own mixtures. Some drug stores also dispensed non-poison containing prescriptions but this practice would cease after 1911, the year of the National Insurance Act when most dispensing passed to registered pharmacists. Drug stores were not registered pharmacies, and the proprietors were not registered Chemists and Druggists. This meant that drug store proprietors could not compound and sell poisons. Drug stores were very popular, their prices were very cheap and with their high turnover they argued that their medicines were fresher. Mostly they allowed people to self- medicate and not have to pay to see a doctor.

The site of Parkes drug store in Wimbledon would have been where Starbucks coffee shop is today at Unit 5, 10 Wimbledon Hill Road, the end shop in a row of modern shops Nos 2-10 Wimbledon Hill Road. Starbucks is shown in Figure 1.  The drug store would have been in a shop constructed in the front garden of an original villa, which had been built close to Wimbledon Railway station during the end of the nineteenth century (5).

 To find out who owned the villa and garden of 14 Wimbledon Hill Road in the nineteenth century, some information from the electoral registers and Post Office Home Counties Directories was obtained from the curator and assistant curator of Wimbledon Museum.  The Electoral Registers for the years 1868-1890 showed that the occupant of 14 Wimbledon Hill Road was Mr Other Windsor Berry, who in the 1868 entry was a Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries and had another address at 26 Canonbury Road Islington, also written were the words Charing Cross Hospital in brackets.  In the Post Office Home Counties Directory 1887 there was evidence that Mr Berry was a surgeon, and he had the word Junior written after his name suggesting that his father had the same name.  Mr Other Windsor Berry (Junior) was also listed at 12 Wimbledon Hill Road in the 1887 Post Office Home Counties Directory (6). Evidence that Mr Other Windsor Berry was a doctor was shown on the British Medical Journal News website where Other Windsor Berry of Charing Cross Hospital, passed the first University of London MB examination-entire examination on 27 August 1864 (7). In addition, confirmation that Dr Other Windsor Berry was a doctor practising in Wimbledon, and thus being a doctor he would have owned his own house, came from a record of a murder trial at the Old Bailey London.

The details of the trial are available online and they record the murder of Percy Malcolm John a pupil at Blenheim School Wimbledon by George Henry Lamson on 3 December 1881. The trial records showed that Dr Other Windsor Berry was the doctor who attended to the pupils of Blenheim School and on the night of 3 December 1881 he came to treat the ill pupil who later died. Giving evidence Dr Other Windsor Berry confirmed that he was a surgeon and registered medical practitioner practising in Wimbledon and he had been in practice for seventeen years (8) Therefore, Dr Other Windsor Berry was the owner of 14 Wimbledon Hill Road and garden from 1868-1890. Blenheim School was at Blenheim House No. 2 St Georges Road Wimbledon (9).  

There is a 1906 photograph (No. 120) of the Wimbledon Hill Road villas and shops in Richard Milward’s book Wimbledon: A Pictorial History. The caption of photograph No. 120 states “On the left of Hill Road are a number of small shops, added on to the original houses built in the 1870’s” (10). Parkes Drug Store was first recorded at 14 Wimbledon Hill Road in 1894 (11). By the 1970’s the shop’s site had changed and this is seen in another photograph in the same book by Richard Milward.  A photograph (No. 181) shows shops on Wimbledon Bridge and the photograph’s caption states “The shops on the Bridge, c. 1970. They illustrate the short life-expectancy of buildings in modern Wimbledon. Put up in the early 1930’s, those on the left of the bridge, together with most on Hill Road up to Ely’s, have since been pulled down and replaced by modern glass-fronted blocks”(12).  This suggests that the drug store site would have changed twice in the years of the 1930’s and the 1970’s. Photograph No. 181 also indicated that the shops in this part of Wimbledon Hill Road and the junction with St Georges Road did not suffer any damage or destruction in WW2. The incident map in Norman Plastow’s book Safe as Houses also confirmed this (13). In 1978 the street number of the end building (Lloyds Bank Ltd), in the row of shops on Wimbledon Hill Road up to the junction with St George’s Road was now number 10.  On the other side of the Wimbledon Hill Road and St George’s Road junction the street number of the business there (National Westminster Bank Ltd) was number 16 (14). Further development in this area of Wimbledon Hill Road occurred in 1980’s and 1990’s with the development of large office blocks in St George’s Road (15). In the 1980’s and 1990’s there was a Dorothy Perkins clothes shop on the drug store site at the corner of Wimbledon Hill Road and St George’s Road (16).   A 1988 colour photograph in the Merton photo-archive website shows a large red stone building with five very large upper floor windows each two glass- panes wide and also a white roof structure at numbers 2-10 Wimbledon Hill Road (seen at centre- right of the photograph) (17). The red stone building looks very similar to the building at 2-10 Wimbledon Hill Road today, but today’s building is very pristine and the large upper floor windows are four glass- panes wide; also the white roof structure is not seen. This suggests that some work had been carried- out on the building probably in the 1990’s (18). A good view of 2-10 Wimbledon Hill Road can be seen on the Google Maps website (19).

In conclusion there had been four redevelopments to the site of Parkes Drug Store, which today is unit 5, 2-10 Wimbledon Hill Road, during the 1930’s, 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s. It is interesting how redevelopment has changed the street scene and made this commercial centre of Wimbledon more imposing. There has been a loss of local history but there has been a gain in commercial history. The other two Merton drug stores documented in the 2019 article were in Haydon’s Road and Kingston Road South Wimbledon (20). They were used as controls in this present study. Neither of these two drug store building sites had been redeveloped although both sites had suffered damage in WW2 as seen on the WW2 incident map of Wimbledon (21). They would have been rebuilt after the war.

Acknowledgements

Thank you to Dr Pamela Greenwood Curator of Wimbledon Museum and Miss Elisabeth Janovsky Curatorial Assistant of Wimbledon Museum and Ms Sarah Gould Heritage Officer, Local Studies Centre, Merton Council, Morden for their help in obtaining information for this project during the Covid 19 Lockdown.

Endnotes and References

March 2020 pp 1 & 3 

Cox, Norma. 2019. Bulletin No 212: Merton Historical Society pp. 10-11

Cox, Norma. 2020. Bulletin No 216: Merton Historical Society p. 9

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patent medicines

www.merton.gov.uk/assets/Documents/FW%/20SPD%20Jan%2020/20%20lr.pdf section 2.214 p. 17

Electoral Registers 1868-1890 and Post Office Home Counties Directory 1887

Personal communication 2 July 2020 from Dr Pamela Greenwood, Curator and Miss Elisabeth Janovsky, Curatorial Assistant. Wimbledon Museum 

www.jstor.org/stable/25203965?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contacts 

www.oldbaileyonline.org/browse.jsp?id=def1-367-18820227&dw=t18820227-367

1881 census.  Blenheim School was at Blenheim House No.2 St Georges Road Wimbledon. Personal communication 28th September 2020 from Dr Pamela Greenwood, Curator and Miss Elisabeth Janovsky, Curatorial Assistant. Wimbledon Museum

Milward, R. 1994.Wimbledon: A Pictorial History. Phillimore, Hampshire, photograph No 120

Parkes Drug Store first recorded at 14 Wimbledon Hill Road in Post Office Home Counties Directory 1894. Personal communication 2 July 2020, from Dr Pamela Greenwood, Curator and Miss Elisabeth Janovsky, Curatorial Assistant. Wimbledon Museum 

 Milward, R. 1994. See Note 10,  photograph No 181

 Plastow, Norman. 1972. Safe as Houses: Wimbledon at war 1939-1945. Wimbledon Society Museum of Local History; incident map of Wimbledon inside back cover

Kelly’s Post Office Directory of London. 1978 

 Development of St Georges Road in 1980’s. See Note 5 section 2.39 p 20

Personal communication 5th June 2020 from Sarah Gould. Heritage Officer. Local Studies centre. London Borough of Merton

www.photoarchive merton.gov.uk