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Wallis Wilkerson
shop in 2020 Orell - chemist
Victoria Buildings - 118a to 112 High Street - built in 1888
Photo taken in 2020
Chemist's 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.

In 1886 he married Elizabeth Jane Hawkins, of Shawford, Hampshire. Here, their daughter, Elizabeth, was born in 1888.

Wallis bought a plot of land at the corner of Victoria Road in 1888, and had a row of 5 shops built, with living accommodation above, and he moved into the corner property, known as Victoria Buildings.

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 September 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 September 1890.

Embrocation bottle Toothpaste -  lid Toothpaste pot lid
Toothpaste lids.
toothpaste - lid
Blue glass bottle
A glass bottle of 'Wilkerson's Embrocation'
Wallace Wilkerson chemist and druggist only appears in trade directories for 1885 and 1890.
H W Patrick does not appear to have advertised in the directories.

How much his business was affected 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.

1897 advert
His buiness was taken over in 1897 by Henry Munkman Hames.

According to the Census, by 1901 William 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.

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