The Chemist’s Collectables: The Estate of Chemists William Allen

The Chemist’s Collectables Auction 31st October 2020: The Estate of Chemists William Ditchfield Alle

27/08/2020     General News

The Chemist’s Collectables

Auction 31st October 2020: The Estate of Chemists William Ditchfield Allen & Son of Oadby, Leicestershire.

By Auctioneer & Valuer Jessica Wall


Stamford Auction Rooms are delighted to be selling the large collection of pharmaceutical and collectors items belonging to the late William Ditchfield Allen, and his son William John Allen of Oadby in Leicestershire, who set up shop in 1928 after WD Allen obtained his Pharmaceutical Society Certificate dated September 22nd 1922.




The vast collection includes medical and pharmaceutical equipment such as apothecary bottles, ointment jars, carboys, specie jars, lozenge jars, accessories, but also collections of photographic equipment including cameras, developing accessories, and also a collection of musical instruments, all of which have been accumulated in the shop since 1928 and in WD Allen’s own words ‘the collection is of fixtures, fittings and apparatus used in a small village chemist’s shop. As economy was necessary in the original fitting our some fittings would have been second hand and will be earlier than 1928’ and goes on to recount ‘other shelving would have been made from soft wood and stained by the local village carpenter (Mr Peabody)’.





The collection is being sold on 31st October 2020 at the Stamford Auction Rooms, and I have been provided with the original writings of W.D. Allen, which is an incredible insight into his life and work, and makes the collection all the more historically exciting, particularly with descriptive exerts such as ‘The shop in the thirties was lit by a single 100w bulb retained and heated with a single electric bowl fire, not retained as it was unpleasantly cold in winter’ and he goes on to describe that ‘icicles were known to form on the concrete ceiling of the single storey dispensary’.





W.D Allen has a wonderful way of describing the appearance of the shop ‘the exposed inner walls were painted with yellow distemper’ and that ‘during the war windows had blackout curtains and there was a cubicle of blackout curtaining round the shop door’, providing us with an insight into what the shop was like at this time.


In addition, he recounts that ‘the telephone Oadby 222 had a separate ear piece and one rotated a separate handle to call the Oadby exchange to ask to be put through to the number required’ which really brings home how far technology has come since he started the business.

I am very much looking forward to selling this wonderful and incredibly varied lifetime collection, it is a privilege for an auctioneer to receive such untouched historical artefacts and collectables with the back story that this collection has.






With many tempting items coming up for auction, be sure to view the catalogue, which will be available three weeks prior to the auction at





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