Wilson Chemists

The staff who served the Community

By Joan Baterip (née Sarfas)

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Wilson Chemists' page

Doris Sarfas née Martin

The Shop just before it closed.

Staff who worked at Wilson's Chemist.

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Wilson Chemists' page

Doris Sarfas née Martin


Mr W. G. WilsonDoris Martin   Barbara SheppardRuth Doe

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Wilson Chemists' page

Doris Sarfas née Martin

Barbara SheppardDoris MartinMrs Agnes WilsonRuth Doe

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Wilson Chemists' page

Doris Sarfas née Martin

Ruth DoeTom WebsterMr WilsonVera Martin  Doris Martin

Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Wilson Chemists' page

Doris Sarfas née Martin

Mr WilsonMargaret French
(née Webster)
Tom WebsterMrs WilsonDoris Martin
This page was added by Joan Baterip on 07/03/2012.
Comments about this page (Add a comment about this page)

Wilsons Chemist shop in the early sixties was the only place in Laindon that I knew of to buy records. I bought my very first one from there and paid 6s 3d for it, Joe Brown & the Bruvvers, 'Picture of You'. Not what I went for though as I wanted 'Warpaint' by The Brooks Brothers and it hadn't come in yet. Never did get it!

By Donald Joy
On 30/08/2015

I wonder how much of the stock was out of date, by todays standards.

By Jemima Chapman
On 15/12/2013

It has been lovely to see the photographs of my mother, Barbara Sheppard, with the staff of Wilson's chemist. I have recently found a reference written by Mr Wilson, which states that she worked for him from autumn 1949 to Christmas 1955, so the suggestion of the date being 1953/4 seems likely.

By Marion Giles
On 08/05/2012

Sadly, Barbara Sheppard, whose cheerful face appears in two the photographs of Wilson the Chemist’s staff, died very recently before she could be made aware the pictures had been added to the website. Born in 1929, Barbara grew up at “Hawley”, Tyler Avenue, Laindon. She attended Markham’s Chase School (now known as Janet Dukes), winning a scholarship at the beginning of WW2, to Palmers Girl’s School, Grays. From there she went on to qualify in Pharmacy in London. In 1954 she married Malcolm Roberts, son of a long-time resident of the district from Osborne Road, Langdon Hills, moving to Billericay a short time later, before moving to Bungay, Suffolk in 1963. After she and Malcolm retired they took up residence in Ferndown, Dorset, to be nearer their two daughters and five grandchildren.

By John Bathurst
On 05/05/2012

On speaking to my sister-in-law Doris Sarfas, she seems to think the photos inside the chemist shop were taken in 1953/1954. We are not 100% sure, but it was around those dates.

By Joan Baterip
On 26/04/2012

We think the date of the photographs inside the chemist shop is 1953/1954.

By Joan Baterip
On 27/04/2012

In the 1960s a visiting vet would park his car outside Wilsons, and conduct an open air surgery on the tailgate of the car. Later the PDSA would park their van outside the Laindon Hotel.

By Mary Cole
On 21/04/2012

Oh dear some sad animal comments on this article, thank goodness most and note I say most people now respect animals much more than in those times. Now thank goodness tail docking, blood sports and such no longer play a part in these more civilised times at least not in Britain by most mature intelligent minded adults anyway. Anyone that knows me will agree that I am a champion of all animals and will fight their causes with no thought for my own wellbeing to the end.  

In the late 40s early 50s a PDSA lorry used to come to the car park at the Laindon Hotel and our pets were treated there free of charge.

As much as it sickens me now I remember taking my cat Sandy there to be snipped, I could not have been much older than 8 years old when he was placed in a glass box gassed and the necessary bits pulled off as I stood by watching. A site to this day remains vivid in my mind. But at the time this was the accepted way, people through no fault of their own being ignorant of the needs of other animals on the planet.

Thank goodness things have now changed for the better. The point I am making is whatever was done to animals in those days was not done in malice but through ignorance which I am sure most of us were guilty of, thank goodness times have now changed and the less I for one are reminded about it the better.

By Gloria Sewell
On 11/05/2012

In respect of the Wilsons photographs, the suggested date of Alan Davies of 1949/1950 was wrong for the one showing Margaret Webster, as pre-war I knew the family well and at the outbresak of war, Margaret and her slightly younger sister Dorothy had not yet started primary school and ten years later would not have been the mature young lady in the photograph.

By W.H.Diment
On 19/04/2012

I have just read the new addition from Alan Davis, and phoned my sister-in-law about his comments. We know that over the years memories get a bit vague, but I have asked the editor to remove the inaccuracy regarding Doris' health. 

Just to add a note, Doris worked at Green Stores before going to Wilsons Chemist and thankfully is still a smashing sister-in-law to me.

Editor: I have amend Alan's comment to remove the inaccuracy.

By Joan Baterip
On 20/03/2012

Can I just add a comment regarding the tail docking at Wilson's Chemist.

Speaking to people who knew the chemists in its day, I have been told that a vet used to come to the chemists on certain days from Brentwood to do tail docking and probably other bits and pieces. Therefore, it would not have been carried out by Mr. Wilson the chemist.

By Joan Baterip
On 19/03/2012

The absolute earliest date for these photographs is 1949-50. Why? A little later, I knew Doris Martin, shown as an employee in the photographs. We were in the same class at Langdon Hills and for two years at Laindon High Road before I went on to Chelmsford Technical College.  She would have graduated in 1949, so even if she joined Wilson's straight from school it could not have been earlier.

Like quite a few of my contemporaries, Doris suffered from some pre modern medicine health problems, but she played sports as well as any of the girls. 

Doris lived in Railway Cottages as did her cousin Tom Monk. Tom is a long time friend with whom I still communicate. Doris married David Sarfas while Tom married Jean Grindle of Douglas Road. Jean's brother Jim Grindle was one of my best friends. 

Jim, after attending Grays Palmers won a scholarship to St Edmund Hall, Oxford. This was the era after the war when the Labour government was attempting to open up a few university posts to the "wrong side of the tracks" population. Jim majored in Anglo Saxon and Ancient Welsh. One of his tutors was J.R.R. Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings.  

The last I heard of Doris, she and David were living in Victoria Road or as we old Laindoners might have said "behind the cop shop."

A final word about Tom Monk.  Tom's father was a campanologist at St Mary's over the Crown Hill. Tom took after his father. Tom and Jean lived in Witham and for many years Tom has been a bell ringer at the local church.  A famous former resident of Witham (her house deserving of the emblematic blue medallion) is Dorothy L. Sayers. Apparently, Sayers received inspiration for her novel 'The Nine Tailors' while attending church where Tom now tolls the bell.

Ruth Doe (also in the photographs) I recognise by sight. I wonder if she is kin to Audrey Doe (and brother Edwin) who was the organist at the tiny mission church of St Nicholas (St Peters I think) just behind the Hiawatha on the left hand side of St Nicholas Lane as you turned from the High Road?

By Alan Davies
On 20/03/2012

Poor dogs, that's disgusting and I realise my first dog, a Cocker Spaniel, would have gone through that. Thank goodness it has been banned, but I did see a Dobermann recently that had had its ears clipped - I was informed by a Dobe owner that it is a very painful procedure that lasts for three months. Crazy world.

By Andrea
On 18/03/2012

Alan. That made me feel quite sick. That was a horrendous thing to do to a little puppy and even more so while you were holding him. Almost unbelievably cruel. We never had any of our dogs’ tails docked. We loved to see their long tails wagging. Tail docking was banned in England on 6th April 2007, except for medical reasons and on certain working dogs and then only performed by a qualified Vet, not the local Chemist! (In Scotland it is banned completely). It is said we are a Country of animal lovers but in the early fifties when I was very young, I heard some awful stories involving animals, such as unwanted litters of puppies and kittens being drowned by being held down in a bucket of water. (Nobody could afford Vets back then). I heard one or two other things regarding animals that I would rather not repeat, as they are too distressing. (I still carry one or two emotional scars from my childhood regarding animals). I hope little Chum recovered to live a long and happy life and that you weren’t left too emotionally scarred by the experience. Best wishes.

By Nina Humphrey(née Burton)
On 17/03/2012

The year was probably 1943 (or thereabouts). I was nine years old. We had a Heinz57 puppy who was majority fox terrier. Chum. My father decided Chum needed his tail "seen to." Docked was the term, I think. I was sent off, with Chum in tow, to Wilson's the chemist. It seems that chemists (rather like barbers who at one time also served as surgeons) performed services which would surprise us today. On a bright afternoon, Chum and I followed the chemist outside to the north side of the building alongside a concrete driveway where he parked his car. There I was told to hold Chum very firmly under my left arm, his head to the rear, and with my right hand ensure that he did not move. All this standing in the driveway. Then, to my horror, Mr Wilson took a pair of scissors and sawed of Chum's tail. What a noise. Why Chum did not bite me I will never know. What happened next is hazy. I have no recollection if disinfectant, ointment or bandage was used. All I can remember is getting home with a most unhappy Chum, reciting our tale of woe to my father and his anger at my being made to be part of the proceedings. Maybe that is why we always used Relph's the competing chemist.

By Alan Davies
On 16/03/2012

These photos are brilliant and are so evocative of the 1950s and 60s. In particular, I can remember the Wisdom toothbrush stands and the combs on their display cards. I wonder what the baby requisites were? Certainly, Ruth Doe could have stepped straight out of the Pears Soap advert behind her, what an attractive young lady. Let’s have more photos like this.

By Richard Haines
On 10/03/2012

I can't take all the credit for the photographs as they were given by my brother and his wife Doris Sarfas (nee Martin). Vera who is in one of the photos is Doris's sister, and her married name is Patching. They all look so happy don't they.

By Joan Baterip
On 09/03/2012

Pre-war, W.G.Wilson had three shops. The main one being located near the Radion just south of Underdowns and Squires, with two branch shops, with one in the High Rd, north of the Arterial Rd, and another in High Rd, Langdon Hills. Although I have not seen any photographs of these.

By W.H.Diment
On 07/03/2012

Joan. Your photos of inside Wilson’s Chemist shop are wonderful to see, especially all those little bottles on the shelves. I remember the shop very well for several reasons. I used to buy flashcubes for my camera there and Plaster of Paris to make models. 

Around 1955 when I was 9 years old, I was taken to see Dr Chowdhary. I can’t remember my symptoms but he told my mother that I was using up too much energy and I was not to do PE at school for at least a month. He then wrote out a prescription and handed it to my mum saying “She must take this, as much as she likes and as often as she can”. I thought “Oh no, yuk”. (Previously for another reason, I’d had to take Milk of Magnesia which I hated). However, we handed the prescription to an assistant at Wilsons who read it and then handed us a very large cardboard box of glucose powder. Oh boy, it was delicious and even better than sherbert. I certainly did take my medicine and was very happy to do so. 

My mum later worked mornings in Wilsons for a few years, approximately between 1966 and 1970 just before the new Laindon Centre opened.

By Nina Humphrey (née Burton)
On 07/03/2012
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