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Wilkerson - Hames - Griffiths
Orell - chemist
Chemist's shop at 9 & 11 High Street

Research and article by Richard Hall, 2017

Wallis Wilkerson appears to have been the first properly trained chemist and druggist to have opened a business in Rushden.

He was born in 1855 in Renhold, Bedfordshire, the eldest son of a farmer, William Wilkerson. In the 1871 Census he is shown as a chemist’s apprentice.

Although his name was Wallis he seems to have also adopted the names of William and Walter in later life.

We know that he opened his shop in Rushden in September 1880 as he placed an advertisement in the Wellingborough and Kettering News to that effect. He appears from the same advertisement to have actually started in business in Irthlingborough as he says he intends to continue with the Irthlingborough business in charge of a manager.

The Rushden shop seems to have been located at 92 High St and in January 1888 we are told that the Northamptonshire Union Bank was so busy at its office in Higham Ferrers that they arranged to operate a Rushden agency in part of the house of local chemist Wallis Wilkerson before opening a branch in the town.

Disaster struck on Sunday 21st December 1890 at about midnight when a row of shops in the High Street were set on fire by an overheated confectioners oven. The last shop at the other end of the row was that of Mr Wilkerson and the whole row was destroyed according to the report in the Wellingborough News of 26th December 1890.

How much this affected his business after the fire is not certain as it appears that Mr Wilkerson was already using the premises at 9 - 11 High Street which remained a chemists until Mr Fleeman retired in 1964 and is now Charles Orlebar’s estate agency. This can be inferred from an advertisement he placed in the Wesleyan Bazaar programme at Easter 1890 saying to note especially that his shop was opposite the church which may have been drawing attention to his having moved.

According to the Census, by 1901 he had retired to live at Bedford with his wife and 12 year old daughter Elizabeth who had been born in Rushden. Pharmacy in Rushden must have been profitable as in the 1910 valuation list he is shown as owning quite a lot of property in Rushden in Victoria Road and Church Street.

He died in 1928 in Bedford.

Henry Monkman Hames

Wallis Wilkerson appears to have been succeeded by Harry Monkman Hames in the shop at 9 High Street. The only references I can find to his being a chemist in Rushden is his name appearing in the Electoral Register for 1899 and a small advertisement in the Echo on 11th March 1898, in which he is described as a Chymist!

What is known that he was born in Boston, Lincs in 1870, he married Emma Jane Dant in Thrapston in 1894, his daughter Dorothy was born in Thrapston in 1896 so he came to Rushden in or after 1896.

By 1901 the census tells us that he had moved away back to his home town of Boston where he was working as the manager of a Chemist and Druggist and was still there in the 1911 census.

Matthew Griffiths

He was followed at the shop in Rushden by Matthew Griffiths who is shown as living there in the 1901 census with his son Gordon and sister in  law, Edith Mansfield. The 1901 census shows the house numbers for the first time and Matthew is shown as living at No.9 High St. whilst No.11 is occupied by Elizabeth  Robinson, grocer and her children.

Rushden Echo, 23 March 1900
1900 advert

Rushden Echo, June 1901
1901 advert

Matthew was born at Weston super Mare and in 1881 is shown as living at Downham Market. He is living with the widow of a chemist and her son, Augustus Baker, who evidently owned his father’s business and Matthew was his assistant.


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