yeovil people

James Francis

Pharmaceutical Chemist & Druggist


James Francis was born in 1847 at Shobrooke, Devon. He was one of the seven children of farmer William Francis (1811-1871) and his wife Louisa Fanny (1808-1870). In the 1851 census the family were listed at Row Farm, Shobrooke, and William gave his occupation as a farmer of 126 acres employing four labourers. Listed with William and Louisa were their children, all born in Shobrooke; William H (b1840), John (b1841), Lucy (b1843), Matilda (b1845), James, Hugo (b1849), and Elizabeth (b1851). By 1861 William had moved his family to his birthplace of Crediton, Devon. They were recorded in the census at High Street, Crediton, where William gave his occupation as a land proprietor. 14-year old James was listed as a scholar.

By 1871 James had left home and was living with his uncle John Francis and his family at Fairbrook Villa, Exeter St Sidwell, Devon. James, now aged 24, gave his occupation as a chemist's assistant. The 1881 census saw James lodging in Sidwell Street, Exeter St Sidwell, and working as a chemist's commercial traveller.

It would appear that, during the 1880s, James and Emily Faraday (1859-1897) had two children; Ernest John (b1880) and Lucy B (b1882), both born in Newton Abbot, Devon. James and Emily were married in Woolwich, London, in the autumn of 1890.

In December 1886, James bought the chemist's business of HT Harwood, established for half a century, at 23a Middle Street.


In the 1891 edition of 'Where to Buy' James Francis's business was given the following description -

Mr J Francis
Dispensing and Family Chemist
23, Middle Street

In the present day when most of us lead a more or less artificial life, and when, therefore, new and obscure diseases are on the increase, it is of great importance that our chemist should be a man of education and experience, as we depend as much on the way he discharges his duty in dispensing, as on the ability of the physician who prescribes. The chemist's shop at 23, Middle Street (formerly at Hendford), has been an active institution for half a century, and, during the past four years, has been conducted by Mr J Francis. The shop is well stocked with the most approved drugs and remedies, and an admirable selection of perfumes and other toilet requisites.

There are many specialties of Mr Francis' own make, amongst which may be particularly mentioned his Instantaneous Cure for Tooth Ache, a little of which applied to the 'acher' on wool, affords speedy relief; another remarkable efficacious remedy is the Corn Solvent, and Francis's Compound Hop Tonic Bitters, a valuable remedy for indigestion, and his Indigestion Pills, are in great demand. Two other specialties, also emanating from this house, are the Pulmonic Elixir, for adults, and Balsam of Honey for children, both invaluable remedies for coughs and colds. Mr Francis is also proprietor of the 'Grape Saline', an invaluable preparation for the summer months, cooling and invigorating, and at the same time keeping the blood in an healthy state, Tonic Liver Mixture, Quinine and Iron Tonic, Cosmetic Lotion, Neuralgia Mixture, and Hair Restorer, these all enjoy a large and increasing sale. Perhaps one of the greatest of Mr Francis's successes is the 'Hendford Bouquet', this is a choice and lasting perfume, and finds ready appreciation amongst a large class of the votaries of 'Flora' as existing in this particular form. He is also agent for the 'Tower Tea'. In a chemist's business, however, the dispensing department is the most important, and to this Mr Francis pays the most careful attention, and personally dispenses all prescriptions and recipes. The connection is extensive, and among his patrons Mr Francis is recognised as an able, courteous, and obliging chemist.


By the time of the 1891 census, James and his family were living above his chemist's shop at 23 Middle Street. He described himself as a chemist and druggist. Living with the family were Emily's brother Henry Faraday, her cousin Rosa Merrifield and a domestic servant. In the autumn of 1897 Emily died, aged just 38.

In 1892 James Francis advertised in Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser (one of very few advertisements). Reproduced below, this was for his own 'Pulmonic Elixir', 'Balsam of Honey' and his 'Celebrated Female Pills'.

The 1901 census listed widower James, now aged 54, as a pharmaceutical chemist at 23a Middle Street. Living with him were his daughter Lucy aged 20 and her 24-year old cousin Matilda Francis, who both worked as assistants in the shop, as did James' brother Hugo. James' mother-in-law, Priscilla Faraday née Merrifield, was listed as the housekeeper.

James Francis was still at 23a Middle Street at the time of the 1911 census. Now aged 64, he gave his occupation as a pharmaceutical chemist. Living with him were his 62-year old brother Hugo and his 30-year old son Ernest - both working as assistants in James' shop - as well as a 60-year old housekeeper, Harriett James, who was also born in Shobrooke.

I could not trace James' death record due to the sheer number of men with the name. His death is not recorded in Yeovil.




A report in the 28 January 1956 edition of the Taunton Courier confirming that James Francis bought the chemist's shop in Middle Street in December 1886.


James' advertisement in the 1889 edition of Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser.


James' advertisement in the 1892 edition of Whitby's Yeovil Almanack Advertiser.


James' advertisement placed in the 16 February 1900 edition of the Western Chronicle.