The druggist shop where Branwell Brontë bought his laudanum is now a gift shop selling a wonderful range of olde worlde remedies and household products
At the time of the Brontës this shop at the top of Main Street was a druggist shop run by Betty Hardacre. Being opposite the church and parsonage, it was a convenient place for Branwell, brother of the famous sisters, to purchase laudanum, a derivative of opium which was sold legally without prescription as a painkiller. Following a series of failures and disgraces in a number of careers, Branwell turned to drink and drugs. His serious addiction masked his illness until it was too late and he died of tuberculosis aged just 31.
When you step inside the Old Apothecary it is not difficult to imagine the druggist shop as it may have looked. Mother and daughter team Patricia and Caroline Rose have recreated a stunning Victorian-style store including authentic polished mahogany display cases, glass bottles, antique advertisements and gas lighting. The shop sells aromatic potions and lotions of its own making as well as remedies, sweets and household products which one had thought had long since disappeared from the shelves. rose-apothecary
Because the disease appeared gradually, people often didn't notice the symptoms until it was too late to treat them. This was the case with Branwell Brontë, whose laudanum addiction masked the symptoms of tuberculosis until a very late stage in the disease. In Emily's lifetime, it was commonly believed that pure air could help treat tuberculosis; this is why Catherine Earnshaw is sent to the Lintons when she gets sick––among other reasons, the characters believe that Thrushcross Grange has 'better air' than Wuthering Heights. This is also the reason for Edgar's belief that the Grange will be a healthier environment for Linton. Around the time that Emily was writing Wuthering Heights, the American Dr. John Croghan even set up a tuberculosis hospital in a cave because he believed that the unique air would cure his patients ("Cave Air Approach"). wuthering-Heights
Opium derivatives were also used in many patent medicines and sold without a prescription in great quantities in Victorian general stores and apothecaries. The most popular patent medicines which contained opium or its derivatives were Kendal Black Drop, Godfrey’s Cordial, Dover's Powder, Dalby’s Carminative, McMunn’s Elixir, Batley’s Sedative Solution, and Mother Bailey’s Quieting Syrup (Hayter 31). Opium and its derivatives were used as cheap homemade mixtures.
Following its introduction into Britain, ‘opium was first believed by many to be a medical miracle’ (Landow and Allingham, 2006) and marketed to the masses in various forms; Godfrey’s Cordial, Dalby’s Carminative, McMunn’s Elixir and Batley’s Sedative Solution are examples of just a few medicines containing opium, all sold without any regulation (Hayter 1971: 31). For many years, opium and its derivatives, including the popular laudanum, was enjoyed by the British public; young and old, rich and poor. Far from being a middle class pastime, opium was used in many households as a startlingly normal practise. It was seen as ‘central to medicine, a medicament of surpassing usefulness which undoubtedly found its way into every home’ (Berridge and Edwards 1981: xxv). It was even said that ‘The bulk of the medical evidence goes to support the verdict that it is not more injurious than the moderate use of alcohol, and that even its abusive use is less destructive to the victim and his friends than intemperance’ (Watt 1892). how-opium-was-really-used-and-abused-the-moonstone-wilkie-collins