Finding a Headquarters


LDRPS: SZ830 17 Bloomsbury Square. In the 1860s the country’s first pharmaceutical chemistry laboratories were added as the top floor, funded by Jacob Bell’s bequest

In December 1841 the Society took a lease of a house at 17 Bloomsbury Square as its headquarters, and the Council met there for the first time in January 1842. The Society immediately set about hosting lectures at the new premises, as well as setting up a museum, library and laboratory. In 1857 it acquired more space at 72 and 73 Great Russell Street. The internal spaces, including the lecture theatre, examination rooms and laboratories were all extended and updated.  

Established initially as an educational resource, the primary focus of the museum was to have a collection of sample drugs and ingredients, also known as materia medica, for students to study. In practice, the collection was primarily used for lecture resources or to test purity samples by comparison, and by the 1950s it was transferred to the University of Bradford and then to the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, having lost its relevance to new students. Since the 1930s the museum has focused on objects relating to the history of pharmacy, such as traditional dispensing equipment, proprietary medicines and drug storage containers

A New School

LDRPS: SZ1055 Portrait of Theophilus Redwood who was instrumental in founding the Society's School, Museum and Library

Education was an important policy for the Pharmaceutical Society, as previously there was no centralised standard to pharmacy education. Many felt that regulating the education of the profession would lead to better quality chemists. In 1842 the Society’s School of Pharmacy was formally founded, and in the 1860s the headquarters were fitted with a state-of-the-art pharmacy laboratory. 

 Full membership, and the title of pharmaceutical chemist, was granted after the major exam was passed. Initially there was a minor exam for chemist’s assistants which would grant associate membership to the Society, but the 1868 Pharmacy Act changed the focus of the minor exam to qualifying chemists and druggists. 

Throughout the late 19th and early 20th century, discoveries in medical sciences changed the nature of the syllabus, with courses added to incorporate new fields such as bacteriology. In 1924 the first bachelor’s degree course for pharmacy was launched by the University of London, and by 1967 all pharmacy students had to take a degree course. The Society was instrumental in approving which schools could teach the national syllabus. In 1949 the school separated from the Society and joined the University of London, later becoming part of UCL in 2012.