Hales the Chemist – on Bath’s Argyle Street – occupies one of the earliest commercial premises built in the city.
It’s at one end of a remarkable line of shop fronts – along a street originally created for shopping – and has traded under the name of A.H.Hale since 1826.
While much of its frontage is original – and its interior decorated with a vivid array of old fashioned medicine bottles and carboys – from its days as an apothecary’s shop – there’s one external feature with an even more colourful story to tell.
Above the attractive Ionic-columned shop front of No 8 rests the arms of Charlotte Sophia, Queen of England and wife of George the Third.
It’s not their original home – as they have been moved around the city quite a bit – but have been here since 1982 after being discovered in the Guildhall basement.
The Queen had visited Bath and the coat of arms would have indicated Her Majesty had spent money in a shop which was then anxious to boast – by having the coat of arms made – that they were ‘By Royal Appointment’ – having been given the royal seal of approval.
Of course holders of a ‘Royal Warrant’ today still like to show they enjoy royal favour.
How this colourful landmark came to rest above an Argyle Street chemist we will come to in a moment.
I climbed the scaffolding – recently erected in front of the shop – to meet two conservators tasked with cleaning off layers of faded paint and re-colouring the royal insignia.
The World Heritage Enhancement Fund has put in the largest chunk of funding for this work to be done, with contributions from the Leche Trust, Mr Doshi and his family – who now own the chemist – and the Bath Heradic Society through.
So it has been a real collaboration between people keen to see it restored to its former glory.
Once up on the platform, I was able to speak to conservator, Teresa Llewellyn while her colleague – Joanna Pucci – continued her delicate work behind her.
The women are freelance conservators employed by Somerset-based Cliveden Conservation to carry out the project.
Here’s what Teresa had to say about the history of the coat of arms.
The Queen was in Bath in 1817 and was at a Guildhall banquet when news came through of the death of her daughter Princess Charlotte, in childbirth.
It was – for the Nation – a bit of a ‘Princess Diana moment’ as Charlotte was much loved.
I picked up another story while talking to the current owner pharmacist Mr Balwant Doshi.
It concerns another famous family and – if it’s true – shows that Jane Austen’s mother Cassandra could also ‘pen’ a word or two.
You can pop in and see the evidence next time you are in the area but l am sure the Doshi family would like you to buy something as well.
The conservators hope to finish their work by the end of next week – weather permitting.