|Research and article by Richard Hall, 2017
Charles Alfred Hedley opened a Pharmacy in around 1906 at 92 High Street. These were the premises formerly owned by Wallis Wilkerson and which burnt down in 1890. The buildings burnt down in the fire had evidently been rebuilt in some form or other but before Charles Hedley moved in this address was shown in the 1901 Census as being occupied by a surgeon, Edward Freeman.
Charles Hedley was born in October 1859 in Durham, son of a colliery engineman, and in the 1861 Census he is shown as the youngest of five children. By 1881 he is living at Westoe, South Shields with his grandmother, Matilda Elliott and is shown as being a medical student. However, he apparently didn’t pursue a career in medicine as by 1891 he is shown as a Chemist and Druggist, unemployed and living on his own as a widower at Olney, Bucks. Why he had moved to Olney from Durham isn’t known except that he did then marry a girl from Olney, Marion Page and in 1901 he is in the census in South Shields working as a chemist and with a daughter Freda.
By 1911 the census shows him living at 92 High Street Rushden and he now has two more children, Thomas born in Sunderland, of whom more later, and another daughter Kathleen born in Rushden in 1908.
In 1926 Charles opened another pharmacy in Higham Ferrers on the Market Square in the premises now occupied by Sidey Design. This shop traded as C.A. Hedley and Son, as did the Rushden shop in the 30’s, although it was run by his son Tom who by now was a qualified chemist and druggist.
Charles Hedley died in 1936 although the shop continued to trade after his death, presumably with a manager although one of his daughters did work in the shop. In the 1939 Register three of the family are shown as still living at 92 High Street, Charles’s wife Marion, and two daughters, Freda a retail Chemist assistant and Kathleen the secretary to the Headmistress of the County High School. I don’t know when the shop did finally close although I can remember going into it and being served by Miss Hedley. When the business did close the premises were taken over by Phillips the drapers and I believe Miss Hedley then helped her brother at the shop in Higham.