Allen & Hanburys Ltd.


The roots of Allen & Hanburys, Limited lie deep in English, not American, soil. It originated as the Plough Court Pharmacy in London in 1715, and its founder, Silvanus Beven, born in 1691, was accepted into the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries only after a seven years apprenticeship. That society, in turn, traced its beginnings to the Society of Pepperers, chartered in 1180. Beven traveled in well-to-do circles, marrying the daughter of the Royal clockmaker. His family followed him into the business, which continued during the Eighteenth Century as a succession of partnerships.

In 1792, William Allen became associated with the partnership, and soon came to dominate it. He was elected to the Royal Society for his work in botany and chemistry, spoke several languages and befriended some of the rulers of Europe, including George III of England and the Czar of Russia. Being a Quaker, Allen held strong abolitionist opinions, was a founding member of the British anti-slavery society that is now the oldest human rights organization in the world, and helped sponsor the first worldwide anti-slavery convention held in London in 1840. Allen survived his first two wives, and through the family of his second wife Charlotte, Daniel Bell Hanbury, who became a renowned scientist in his own right, apprenticed to the partnership in 1808.

Allen & Hanburys cancelled 1 1/4 cent proprietary stamps

After Allen’s death in 1843, Daniel Bell Hanbury and then his son, a second Daniel Bell Hanbury, took control of the business. In 1879, the American Pharmaceutical Association began awarding a gold medal for significant discoveries or advances in the pharmaceutical field in honor of the younger Hanbury, whose scientific achievements apparently even surpassed his father’s, but who suffered from a weak constitution and died in 1875. Daniel Bell’s second son, Thomas, having participated and grown wealthy in the business, became a notable horticulturist and after 1867 restored an estate on the Riviera , whose Hanbury Gardens remain renowned today. Because there were multiple Hanburys, by 1858 the company name was fixed as the plural, Allen & Hanburys, not Allen & Hanbury. Its incorporation in 1878 added the title “Ltd.” The company grew to have branch offices in Canada, South Africa, Australia, India, Malaysia and Argentina and agencies in many other countries. A reporter watching the manufacture of pastilles at one of the factories in 1906 marveled that “from the time the liquid mass leaves the pan until the pastilles reach the customer … a human hand shall not have touched them.”

At the turn of the Twentieth Century, when Allen & Hanburys, Ltd canceled battleship revenues at their warehouse in Niagara Falls, NY to comply with American tax requirements, it was involved in a variety of pharmaceutical businesses. As well as manufacturing a variety of infant formulas, up to and including Allenbury’s Rusks, a special first solid food for babies, the company also produced some eighty different varieties of Allenbury’s pastilles, as well as castor oil, soaps, and malt extracts, at that time considered particularly invigorating as a supplement for general nourishment. It was among the leaders in introducing cod liver oil to England and purchased special facilities for its manufacture on Norway’s Lofoten Island. The company also expanded into fabricating surgical instruments and even manufactured specialized operating tables for London’s notable St. Bart’s Hospital. It survived severe bombing damage inflicted on its plants during World Wars I and II. In 1958, the corporation was purchased by Glaxo. In 1968 it launched a treatment for asthma still utilized and respected today. At present, Allen & Hanburys, Ltd. operates under its own name as a division of GlaxoSmithKline.


© Malcolm A. Goldstein 2012



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