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Eleanor Crow’s Chemists

March 26, 2020
by the gentle author

These days, chemists have become the heroes of the High Street and what better way to celebrate them than with this gallery of paintings by Eleanor Crow, including examples as far apart as Belgravia and Woodford Green.

“Some of the most successful and long-lasting small shops are chemists. It is significant that strict rules govern location and competition, protecting an existing viable pharmacy business from the arrival of a new competitor. It is a policy that results in a chemist within a short distance of most residential areas and everyone benefit from this as well as the shopkeepers. Longevity is a marker of success in the world of shops and I was delighted by the large number of chemists retaining their historic frontages.” Eleanor Crow



W & CK King, Amwell St, Clerkenwell

W & CK King has been on Amwell St since 1843, retaining its Victorian fascia and Edwardian fittings. Most of the shops in this row, known as Thompson’s Terrace, were purpose-built in the eighteen-twenties as part of the New River and Lloyd Baker estates. Like Lloyd & Son, just down the street, they are a rare survival.



Chrystall, The Broadway, Woodford Green

Chrystall has been a chemist for over a century. Situated close to the Edwardian Monkhams Estate in Woodford on the border with Essex, the surrounding suburb grew up as the railway extended from London in the nineteenth century. This is now the last Edwardian frontage left in a run that originally contained all the necessary small shops including a fishmonger and an ironmonger.



Walden Chymist, Elizabeth St, Belgravia

EstablIshed in 1846 and serving this quiet corner of Belgravia for over one hundred and fifty years, Walden Chymist is still an independently-run pharmacy. The shopfront is Grade II listed and Lata Patel, who has run the business since 1980, is proud of her splendid facade with its old gilded letters and original architectural detailing.



Allchin & Co, Englands Lane, Belsize Park

The shop was opened by Alfred Allchin, a nineteenth-century pharmaceutical chemist and creator of Allchin’s Smelling Salts. Still an independent pharmacy, the current owners retain the name of the business but have recently chosen to conceal the original signs with their elegant gilded lettering behind new plastic ones.



A Maitland & Co, Piccadilly, St James


Chemist, Vallance Rd, Whitechapel

ThIs curIous single-storey shop on the corner of Whitechapel Rd was the site of a three-storey building that housed an apothecary and a surgeon in the nineteenth century, reflecting the proximity of the Royal London Hospital. Rebuilt as a chemist after bomb damage in the Second World War, it acquired large shop windows on both sides in the fifties. Chemists J. Liff traded here until the sixties when another chemist, Beck & Sherman, took over. They boarded over the windows on the Vallance Rd side and installed the mosaic tiling that first caught my attention, creating a dynamic contrast with the bold type and arrow pointing around the corner to the Whitechapel Rd.


Click here to order a copy for £14.99

At a time of momentous change in the high street, Eleanor’s witty and fascinating personal survey champions the enduring culture of Britain’s small neighbourhood shops.

As our high streets decline into generic monotony, we cherish the independent shops and family businesses that enrich our city with their characterful frontages and distinctive typography.

Eleanor’s collection includes more than hundred of her watercolours of the capital’s bakers, cafés, butchers, fishmongers, greengrocers, chemists, launderettes, hardware stores, eel & pie shops, bookshops and stationers. Her pictures are accompanied by the stories of the shops, their history and their shopkeepers – stretching from Chelsea in the west to Bethnal Green and Walthamstow in the east.

6 Responses leave one →
  1. Jill Wilson permalink
    March 26, 2020

    Lovely to see some beautiful shop front architecture – so much more appealing than the bland plate glass and vinyl frontages which have replaced so many other shopfronts, and bear no relation to the rest of the buildings.

    Long may they (and the chemists!) continue.

  2. Jan permalink
    March 26, 2020

    Lovely pictures thank you.. I always enjoy going into a good chemist, one that sells everything from asprin to toothpaste to lipstick. Sadly our local chemist has transformed into a pharmacy which sells mostly medical supplies with minimal extras such as soap, toothpaste, shampoo etc. As it’s a small rural town access to the extras is missed

  3. March 26, 2020

    Glorious illustrations. Congratulations on this very beautiful book. Our small neighbourhood shops are going to need championing more than ever in the months ahead.

  4. Esther Wilkinson Rank permalink
    March 26, 2020

    Lovely book which I was very glad to receive for Mother’s Day last Sunday!

  5. Ian Silverton permalink
    March 31, 2020

    Remember using Maitlands and Co corner of Piccadilly and Piccadilly Arcade opposite Burlington Arcade when working in Mayfair,great place for Sponges and Ivory handle hairbrushes,also they did and still do a great Men’s Fragrance the name of which escapes me today, living as we do away from all the action of London Town,loved the pictures Miss the Town!!! Be back when the all clear goes.

  6. Suzy permalink
    April 1, 2020

    I LOVE THIS! I’ve now found and given Eleanor a follow on IG. It makes me want to illustrate my own local independent shop heros. And yes, can’t imagine what pressure pharmacies have felt these last few weeks. :o(

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