Thomas Perry and Son Bilston

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In the dispensary of Dow’s pharmacy there’s a rather impressive safe made by Thomas Perry and Son of Bilston near Wolverhampton in England.

The safe is pretty substantial, and painted with a rather nice wood grain effectDows Back room 181

We can guess that the safe was made some time before 1900 as Thomas Perry and Son became Thomas Perry and Son Ltd in the last years of the nineteenth century.

In their time Thomas Perry were quite famous, supplying safes to the Titanic, so I thought that they might have left a long tail of documentation allowing us to date the safe a little more accurately.

No such luck. Despite the help and advice of archivists at the Black Country Living history museum, Wolverhampton City Archives and Sandwell Archives, there’s nothing available online that would pin down the date with any accuracy.

I did however come away seriously impressed with the work done on Thomas Perry by a local history society in the area, and the quality of the Black Country Archives website.

This doesn’t however help with the question as to why a country pharmacist would have such an impressive safe.

Gold was discovered in Chiltern in 1859, and in the early wild post goldrush years the area was alive with bushrangers, all heavily armed with guns obtained from America in the wake of the American civil war (One of O’Farrell’s guns used in the 1868 assasination attempt on Prince Alfred was obtained this way).

Equally, gold rush boom towns were awash with banks, so it would not have been difficult for the pharmacist to bank the bulk of his takings daily, and compared with the richer pickings to be had they were probably comparitively modest.

But of course the town chemist would have had the skills and equipment to assay and accurately weigh gold. And if he did it would make sense to have a substantial safe, both to hold gold and the ready cash to pay for it.

Can I prove it? Not at all. But it makes an entertaining story and may even be true …

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About dgm

Former IT professional, previously a digital archiving and repository person, ex research psychologist, blogger, twitterer, and amateur classical medieval and nineteenth century historian ...
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