Heath Pharmacy was built in the early 1890s and opened by Clement Fielding. The shop was given to him by his father who decided to set up a chemists for each of his sons (Clement’s brother had a shop on Queens Rd that is now closed). Clement was a scientist and botanist. He had a wide reputation for counter prescribing and was successful in his business. He must have looked very young when first opening – his son tells us that customers would come in, take one look at him and ask if his father was in! In addition to the pharmaceutical services that he offered, Clement would also pull teeth at sixpence a time until this became illegal.
In those days there was a living room behind the shop (where the dispensary is now), and a small garden in Clovarden in Clover Hill Road that was Mrs Fielding’s pride and joy. Another garden, walled on three sides, faced Free School Lane. On his retirement in 1923, Clement taught botany at Halifax Technical College to students preparing to take ‘Part One’ – the preliminary scientific examination of the Pharmaceutical Society.
Clement was succeeded by R.H. Brown who owned the pharmacy between 1923 and 1928. He was a young man who travelled from Leeds daily. Clement and his wife continued to live in the house attached to the shop. Mr Brown was not as successful as Clement. Legend has it that he would repair his motorbike on the shop front and then dip his hands into a jar of lozenges without thinking to wash them first. Needless to say, this sort of behaviour did not appeal to the Savile Park customers!
W. Josty was the next owner, from 1928 to 1935. He was a former Boots manager and not a success. He made and packed a range of his own products including toothpaste. The economic depression of those years and Josty’s personality caused the business to decline. His ownership has been described as the nadir of the pharmacy’s history.
H.C. Priestley, a chemist’s son from Bradford, owned the pharmacy from 1935 to 1942. He was an enterprising young man who set the business in an upward trend. He was very happy and it was with regret that he eventually had to return to Bradford to take over his father’s business.
Miss Elsie Walton took over, running the business in the latter years of the Second World War. Following the war, she married a pharmacist named Harold Auld. The business continued to grow during their thirteen years of ownership.
In 1955, Heath Pharmacy was taken over by Fiona and George Sutcliffe. They had a real passion for the place and during their years at the premises many dramatic developments occured. George described the shop as “the last word in late-Victorian elegance”.
Mrs Fielding, the widow of Clement, lived in the house until her death in 1960. The Sutcliffes then acquired the remainder of the property, having previously owned only the shop and cellar. The wall between the two cellars was demolished and the trap door which had previously enabled access from the shop was rendered obsolete. Mrs Fielding’s living room became a new dispensary. The floor above the shop was also considerably transformed and a new shop front was later installed.
Meanwhile business increased year by year with the motor car and ease of parking helping to bring in more custom. Where forty years earlier there had not been enough work for one pharmacist on his own, two pharmacists and two assistants were now hard pressed to cope at times.
In 1975 the business passed into the ownership of John E. Pyke. He owned the shop for just over two years, selling it to Mr K.R. Rutter who already owned two chemist shops in Leeds. He branched out in order to establish one of his employees in his own shop.
David Wilkinson had been a student with the Rutters and, when qualified, he wanted to move nearer to his fiancee who lived in Rochdale. A compromise was found in Halifax, being equadistant between Leeds and Rochdale. He travelled from Leeds daily for the first year until his marriage in 1979 at the local St. Judes Church. David and his new wife Jayne then moved into the flat above the shop. This enabled family life and work to go hand-in-hand and it was not until July 1983, when their second child was a toddler, that they felt it necessary to move house. They found a semi-detached a couple of streets away and the flat was used as a store room.
The layout of the shop has again altered drastically in David’s time at the premises. It started as a two room shop (i.e. dispensary and shop) with a dividing wall and door. In the early 80s half of the wall was knocked down, opening up the area. Later, the remaining wall had a prescription hatch fitted.
The business itself has gone from strength to strength over the years. A new doctors surgery opened at the bottom of Free School Lane in 1994, increasing prescription numbers. Local nursing and residential homes also bring in a significant amount of business, most of which take advantage of the monitored dosage system that is now offered. A collection and delivery service was also initiated during David’s time at the business.
David bought Heath Pharmacy from K.R.Rutter Ltd in 1992, having worked for them for fifteen years. He had the dispensary refitted in 1997 and air conditioning was later installed. Refurbmishments have also been carried out in teh shop area. David has since trained around thirty pre-reg pharmacy students and now employs around ten members of staff.
In 2001 the Calderdale Royal Infirmary, just over the road from Heath Pharmacy, closed its doors due to the opening of the Calderdale Royal Hospital on the site that was previously home to Halifax General Hospital. For a number of years the site remained empty until the site was developed retaining some of the wards and the central administration block as apartments with gardens and the remaining land used for housing. Parts of the building and boundary wall are Grade II listed buildings.
2008 saw further development of the shop, with the ground floor being extended to create a new shop front, office and consulting room. The consulting room meant that a new level of privacy could be offered to patients and that services such as medicine reviews could be offered.
The pharmacy is gradually introducing an Electronic Prescription Service which will enable prescribers such as GPs and practice nurses to send prescriptions electronically. This will make the prescribing and dispensing process safer and more convenient for patients and staff. It’s all a far cry from the days of Clement Fielding’s counter prescribing and botany!