Shops & Businesses

Here we take a stroll down Main Street and a walk into the past

Arthur Wilson Tew – chemist, 9, Main Street Kirby Muxloe

Arthur Wilson Tew was born in Warwick in 1876, one of five siblings, four boys and one girl. His father worked as a Gas Works manager and two of Arthur’s brothers, at least, followed their father to find employment at the Gas Works. Arthur had set his sights on a different path and we find him in the 1901 census living in South Audley Street, in London’s Mayfair, and working as a Chemist’s drug assistant. Soon Arthur became a member of the pharmaceutical society (M.P.S.), holding that qualification for over 60 years. The life of a village “chemist” was very different to the life of the village pharmacist today. Generally, the chemist was responsible for mixing up medicines, as in the early years pre-packed medicines did not exist. The chemist’s dispensing area would be full of bottles of tinctures and medicines, a pestle and mortar, different sized bottles, jars and corks, and white paper to hold powder medicines.

Fast forward to 1928, when Arthur, at the age of 52, together with his wife Edith and her son Jim Lucas, are living in Kirby Muxloe. Arthur was looking forward to a few quiet years before retirement, or so he thought! During the bombing of the village in 1940, the chemist’s shop was badly damaged due to its proximity to the Free Church and had to be demolished. The Tew family then went to live with the Wilshere sisters (Olive and Marjory) at Guillet Close on Gullet Lane, until their house was rebuilt. Jonathan Wilshere in his memoires remembered going to the chemist’s shop on the Saturday after the bombing and helping to clear the stock – he was allowed to keep the soap (Wright’s Coal Tar), which lasted the rest of the war.

After the bombing, the Junior Football Pavilion was moved from the Reccy to the now cleared Main Street site and was used as a temporary chemist’s shop, until 1949, when the Tew’s house and shop were rebuilt. Mr Tew is remembered fondly by one late resident as a “nice little man, who was sceptical about new drugs”. He is also remembered for having a basket on the scales in his shop, ready to weigh any baby that was brought in. As part of his services as the village chemist, Mr Tew developed most peoples’ photographs. He was a keen photographer himself and had a number of albums in his shop which people could look at whilst waiting for their prescriptions. Mrs Tew is remembered for handing out honey sandwiches, a treat for boys who were mainly brought up on dripping!

Mr Tew eventually retired in 1963, aged 87. He celebrated his 100th birthday in 1976, dying the following year. For many years after his retirement, Kirby Muxloe did not have a village pharmacy. In 1999, a new pharmacy opened, to be taken over in 2006 by the very popular “Village Pharmacy”.

A Wilson Tew shop before 1940

A Wilson Tew shop before 1940 (photograph courtesy "The Wilshere Collection")