s 159 Woodhouse Lane - Hull Museums Collections

159 Woodhouse Lane

Detail from Castelow's shop front

159 Woodhouse Lane

Mr Walter Thomas Castelow's shop at 159 Woodhouse Lane was the oldest surviving chemist shop in Leeds when it was demolished for the redevelopment of the University in 1976.

Chemist Shop

Opening in 1841 under the name Bentley's, the shop had a long history and operated under the names Dearden's and Brown's, before finally coming into the hands of Walter Thomas Castelow in 1907. Over the course of the twentieth century the world outside was to undergo a great deal of change; however the little shop was to retain its Victorian character and atmosphere throughout.

Original fittings

Many of the original 1840s fittings remained, the sturdy mahogany counter, the drug run, the glass fronted cabinets, showcases and shelves, gilt labelled jars, coloured bottles, and huge glass rounds which contained liquids, powders, tablets and pills, continued to be used by Castelow until his death in 1974.

Like his shop Mr Castelow's own appearance was unique; throughout his life he continued to wear the smart, professional dress of his Edwardian youth, he refused to wear the white lab coat and instead opted for a waistcoat, jacket, cravat and stiffly starched two inch collar. He struck an imposing figure but his warm smile quickly put people at ease.

Traditional Remedies

Mr Castelow's medical consultations often ended with him issuing a traditional remedy rather than dispensing a factory made brand drug. Mr Castelow was a traditional Edwardian chemist; 'cooking up' his medicines in house. He would consult his hard leather bound pharmacopoeia, his hand written equations and Latin notes to concoct the correct preparation.

He would pick his ingredients by hand from his drug run and shelves; grinding dried ingredients in the large pestle and mortar, measuring out syrups, treacles and other liquids with nothing but his steady hand and some Victorian glass measures, and turning pastes into tablets, suppositories and even pills with the use if his Victorian pill making machine.

Despite increasing restriction and even the removal of some of the traditional ingredients under the poisons act and other regulations, Mr Castelow was still a great believer in many of the traditional remedies, as were his customers, some of whom travelled all over the country to sample Castelow's curious cures, for anything from headaches to bronchitis.