Inventory Site Record

Apothecaries' Hall (City of London)

Brief Description

The Society of Apothecaries, originally a member of the Grocers' Society, gained its own charter in 1617. In 1632 it purchased Cobham House, once the guesthouse of the Dominican Priory of Black Friars. The external appearance of the Hall today is much like that of the late C18th, surrounding a central paved courtyard. The Society established a pharmaceutical laboratory on the ground floor of its Hall in 1671, the first large-scale drug manufacturing operation. In 1673 it founded the Chelsea Physic Garden, which it managed until 1899. The property was expanded in the 1780s as these operations developed; new west and south ranges were added to the courtyard, now entered through an archway. A retail pharmacy on the north side had a separate entrance on the street in 1823 but in 1922 the Society sold its pharmaceutical business. The colonnade in the courtyard was enclosed in 1929 and in 1967 it was repaved for the 350th anniversary of the Society's Charter.

Practical Information
Site location:
Black Friars Lane
What 3 Words:
Type of site:
City of London
Open to public?
By appointment only
Opening times:
Open weekdays 10am-5pm, apart from public holidays and summer recess last 2 weeks August, first week September (Visits: call 020 7236 1189)
Special conditions:
Has opened for Open House London
Public transport:
Tube: Blackfriars (District, Circle). Bus: 4, 11, 15, 23, 26, 45, 63, 76, 172
Research updated:
Last minor changes:

Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news. www.apothecaries.org

Full Site Description

The Society of Apothecaries was originally a member of the Grocers' Society, not gaining its own charter until 1617 when it was recognised by James I. It did not have its own hall until 15 years later when the Society bought Cobham House in 1632, so called having been the house of Lord Cobham. This was on a site that had once been part of that of the Dominican Priory of the Black Friars, dissolved in 1538. Lord Cobham had acquired much of the Friary lands post Dissolution. This burnt down in the Great Fire in 1666 and a new Hall was built from 1668-73 with work by a number of people including Thomas Lock, with an internal colonnaded courtyard. The Society's estate had been extended in 1667 when property was purchased in the area including land reclaimed from the Thames. The Apothecaries' Society supplied the Navy, among others, with drugs and from 1671 it established a pharmaceutical laboratory at the ground floor of the Great Hall on the east side of the courtyard, the first large-scale manufacturing operation of drugs.

In 1673 the Society founded the Chelsea Physic Garden, only relinquishing managerial control in 1899. Until 1786 the west side of the courtyard was bounded by large iron gates. Restoration of the property was undertaken in the 1780s as the pharmaceutical operations at the Hall expanded. A new west and south range were added to the courtyard, new premises were added behind the eastern block, and the courtyard had its entry through the archway from the street and was stuccoed. There was a retail pharmacy on the northern side of the courtyard which in 1823 had a separate entrance on the street but in 1922 the Hall sold its pharmaceutical business although the steps and railings remain.

The colonnade in the courtyard was enclosed in 1929. Although redevelopment works took place in the buildings in the 1980s, the external appearance remains that of the late C18th. Between 1981-1987 the courtyard was also redeveloped and a wall plaque records the visit by the Rt. Hon Lord Mayor Alderman Sir Greville Spratt on 18 December 1987; a further plaque beneath this commemorates the 350th anniversary of the Apothecaries' Charter of 1967 when repaving of the courtyard was undertaken 'through the generosity of the Honourable Freemen and Members of the Livery and Yeomanry'.

Sources consulted:

Simon Bradley & Nikolaus Pevsner, 'The Buildings of England, London 1: The City of London', 1997 (1999 ed.); Ben Weinreb & Christopher Hibbert, 'The London Encyclopaedia' (Macmillan, revised ed. 1993). History sheet on site and on Society of Apothecaries' website

Further Information (Planning and Conservation)
Grid ref:
TQ317810 (531730,181030)
Size in hectares:
Site ownership:
The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries
Site management:
The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries
C17th; C18th; 1981-87
Listed structures:
LBI and SAM: Apothecaries' Hall
On National Heritage List for England (NHLE), Parks & Gardens:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:


Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:
In Conservation Area:
Conservation Area name:
St Paul's Cathedral
Tree Preservation Order:
Nature Conservation Area:
Green Belt:
Metropolitan Open Land:
Special Policy Area:
Yes - St Paul's Heights Policy Area
Other LA designation:
Strategic Viewing Corridor

Apothecaries' Hall

Apothecaries' Hall Entrance on Black Friars Lane, June 2010. Photo: S Williams

Apothecaries' Hall Courtyard, December 2002. Photo: S Williams

Click a photo to enlarge.

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