Our History

Since its doors first opened in 1734 as an official apothecary offering locals traditional cures and remedies for their ailments, the pharmacy has dispensed pills, pots and potions for both residents and passing travellers alike. Follow our historic journey through time as medicinal advancement and family ownership have changed through the ages.

Apothecary - from Middle English apothēcārius meaning seller of spices and drugs;
Latin, apothēc(a), shop, storehouse

1401

The precise date of the construction of the building can be traced back as early as 1401, the original timbers being scientifically assigned to this specific year. The blackened roof timbers are indicative of a traditional open fire at the front of the building, endorsing its use as an ancient coaching inn. Whilst customers could eat, drink and stay here, there is no evidence of stabling provision, unlike some of the other hotels and inns in Burford.

The building was first used as a public house, known as ‘Novum Hospitium Angulare’, or ‘New Pub on the Corner” and most likely extended to include the building next door, which is now The Madhatter Book Shop, as well as incorporating buildings leading further up Sheep Street. Subsequently documented under the name The Crown Inn, it continued trading as a public house for around 300 years. Public houses of old were also suppliers of basic medicinal remedies, much as village shops and post offices frequently are incorporated as part of village pubs in rural communities today.

The front of the building was set back further than it is today, most likely to the large, wooden pillar located just inside the current entrance doorway. The addition of an extended front incorporating glazed windows to the lower and upper storeys, topped with a flat roof, indicate this extension was made to accommodate modern shop front styling, although the actual date for this remains unknown.

1401 1401
1552

1552

As The Crown Inn public house, records prove that it was held by Royalist General Eyres as his headquarters during the Civil War in England; the local parish church endorses this with a registered account from 1552 stating that “a soldier [was] slain at ye Crowne, buried 15 of May”.

From this time little is known of the owners and how the Crown Inn developed until the 18th century, although there is evidence that it was also used as a chandler business, supplying herbs and dry goods, possibly for medicinal purposes.

1734

On 16th July, 1734, the building was leased as an official chemist by Nicholas Willet and its historic significance as such began.

Little is known of Willett’s successors, but Thomas O’Reilly purchased the chemist during the 1840’s and continued trading for some 20 years, after which his wife continued to serve local customers. There remains a label bearing O’Reilly’s name stuck inside one of the wooden, Victorian pharmacy drawers to this day.

In 1841, the Pharmaceutical Society was founded in London and thus began the regulating and formalising of pharmacies and dispensing pharmacists. Whilst Queen Victoria granted a royal charter in 1843, the society did not commence the use of ‘Royal Pharmaceutical Society’ until as recently as 1988.

1734
1899

1899

At the end of the 19th century, Edwin Ballard took over the chemist and ran the business with his son.

From 1899, Ballard kept records logged in a register which remains onsite to this day. These records were original prescription lists drawn up by local physicians detailing ingredients to be made up into pills or syrups by the Chemist. The original Victorian traditional remedies “recipe book” also dates back to this period and is still held on site; some of these ancient remedies continue to be prepared for customers to this day as and when required.

1918

In 1918 Edwin Ballard sold the family business to Robert Reavley, a fully qualified pharmacist from Jarrow in Northumberland.

Robert Reavley had worked in India after qualifying as a pharmaceutical chemist at the turn of the 20th century, returning to England and marrying Rachel Penman. As Rachel’s brother, Roger, lived in Cheltenham, the Reavleys settled in Burford to be closer to her family.

Robert Reavley Dispensing Chemist, as it now became known, was only half the size of the current shop, with only one outside water tap and lavatory and the northern section being the family front parlour. Burford and indeed the Cotswolds were poor areas at this time.

The shop was, by this time, furnished with traditional, bespoke, Victorian mahogany apothecary drawers and cabinets, each finished with a painted label denoting the contents and which remain in place (although no longer used to house individual ingredients) to this day.

1918

Robert Reavley’s Pharmaceutical Society certificate, dated 1901

Early 20th Century

Early 20th Century

Robert and Rachel Reavley bore one son, Eric, in 1909 who went on to attend the local grammar school and subsequently take up clerical work near Woodstock at the cement factory. Whilst originally a school for boys, in the 1920s the school became co-educational, admitting girls, one of whom was Sybil Miles from a neighbouring village, Shipton-under-Wychwood. Sybil later decided to join the family business as a trainee pharmacist under Robert Reavley, attending college and then marrying Robert’s son, Eric, in January 1935 just ten months before qualifying.

Eric and Sybil continued to run the family business after Robert died in 1955, expanding the accommodation for their growing family with the arrival of three children, Nigel, Alison and Cedric. Following the death of Rachel Reavley in 1967, the layout of their home and business premises was altered to allow for a larger retail area, still incorporating the original Victorian features and fittings.

Cedric Reavley was the only child who decided to follow in his parents’ and grandparents’ footsteps by training as a chemist, having lived among the world of apothecary in Burford all his life. Qualifying in 1974, he proudly joined his mother in partnership as third generation Reavley to run the business. His father, Eric, had died in 1976 and his mother followed in 1994, leaving Cedric at the helm of the traditional chemist.

Late 20th Century

Cedric recalled that his earliest memory in the pharmacy was being lifted up by his grandfather, Robert Reavley, to see over the counter, and also peering into the till to see all the copper and silver coins.  Of course, it was the time of imperial currency (pounds, shillings and pence) and Cedric said that it was rare to receive payment in the form of a note.

During his early years at the helm of the pharmacy, many of Cedric’s customers were from small farms in the area who would come to him to purchase provisions such as a gallon of Jeyes fluid or Dettol; landowners would come in for cyanide and strychnine for getting rid of moles, wasps and other pests.  Of course, it is no longer legal to supply these poisons today and the customer base has changed to mostly domestic consumers and visiting tourists.

During this third generation of Reavley management, medicinal advances were such that prescriptions were no longer made to order using the traditional Troy unit measurements for ingredients: grains, scruples and drams; the metric system was introduced and ensured, to quote Cedric, that pharmacists effectively were now “without any scruples!”.

Still calling upon traditional remedies, however, some of which were still made as bespoke prescriptions for local residents, Cedric continued to serve his loyal customers.  They, in turn, supported Reavley’s and Cedric by successfully fighting off High Street chain rivals intent on invading the Burford market, favouring the comfort of their traditional, trusted, family run pharmacy instead.

In 1998 Ye Olde Chymist Shoppe in Knaresborough closed its doors as a chemist after trading since 1720, thereby making Reavley Chemist the oldest trading pharmacy in England.

Late 20th Century Late 20th Century

21st Century

Following Cedric’s retirement in February 2019, a new era of family run management began when Reavley Chemist was acquired by the Tuffour family.

Under their new ownership, Reavley Chemist is still able to call upon the wealth of traditional remedies and bespoke medicines heralding from a bygone apothecaric era, whilst offering its customers the best possible service and the latest in modern medicinal advice from the original Victorian interior.

A qualified Pharmacist, Ben already has successful, thriving, chemists in Essex and London and will continue, with the support of his wife, Ivy, to provide reliable and trusted pharmaceutical services to the local area.

Ben has previously worked with recognised major High Street chemists as well as local village and GP pharmacies. His extensive commercial and pharmaceutical experience, wealth of knowledge and business acumen will enrich and enhance this historic treasure as it remains the prevailing authority for visitors and locals alike.

In the autumn of 2019, the chemist was featured in an episode of the Channel 4’s investigative Dispatches series. Reavley Chemist was proud to provide the backdrop for the analytical exploration of the differing cost of prescription drugs.

Since their arrival in Burford, The Tuffour family has increased the number of pharmacists, each with additional, specialist areas of expertise. There are plans to introduce many new initiatives to support the local community, as well as welcoming the increased interest from both locals and tourists alike who visit the chemist, not just for essential supplies and advice, but to enjoy this treasured, celebrated, historic destination.

The family regard the chemist as a national treasure and iconic monument; it is their vision and intention to preserve and share with the world that which they have been privileged in taking on this local business, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to see, touch and feel the relics and fascinating archives of apothecary history.

Now open 7 days per week, Reavley Chemist intend offering apprenticeships to the local community for those wishing to pursue a career in pharmacy. They will also be recruiting and training new pharmacist graduates in their pre-registration year, welcoming them into the business to ensure that continuity of expert knowledge remains available for residents and visitors in the years to come.

1401

1401

The precise date of the construction of the building can be traced back as early as 1401, the original timbers being scientifically assigned to this specific year. The blackened roof timbers are indicative of a traditional open fire at the front of the building, endorsing its use as an ancient coaching inn. Whilst customers could eat, drink and stay here, there is no evidence of stabling provision, unlike some of the other hotels and inns in Burford.

The building was first used as a public house, known as ‘Novum Hospitium Angulare’, or ‘New Pub on the Corner” and most likely extended to include the building next door, which is now The Madhatter Book Shop, as well as incorporating buildings leading further up Sheep Street. Subsequently documented under the name The Crown Inn, it continued trading as a public house for around 300 years. Public houses of old were also suppliers of basic medicinal remedies, much as village shops and post offices frequently are incorporated as part of village pubs in rural communities today.

The front of the building was set back further than it is today, most likely to the large, wooden pillar located just inside the current entrance doorway. The addition of an extended front incorporating glazed windows to the lower and upper storeys, topped with a flat roof, indicate this extension was made to accommodate modern shop front styling, although the actual date for this remains unknown.

1552

1552

As The Crown Inn public house, records prove that it was held by Royalist General Eyres as his headquarters during the Civil War in England; the local parish church endorses this with a registered account from 1552 stating that “a soldier [was] slain at ye Crowne, buried 15 of May”.

From this time little is known of the owners and how the Crown Inn developed until the 18th century, although there is evidence that it was also used as a chandler business, supplying herbs and dry goods, possibly for medicinal purposes.

1734

1734

On 16th July, 1734, the building was leased as an official chemist by Nicholas Willet and its historic significance as such began.

Little is known of Willett’s successors, but Thomas O’Reilly purchased the chemist during the 1840’s and continued trading for some 20 years, after which his wife continued to serve local customers. There remains a label bearing O’Reilly’s name stuck inside one of the wooden, Victorian pharmacy drawers to this day.

In 1841, the Pharmaceutical Society was founded in London and thus began the regulating and formalising of pharmacies and dispensing pharmacists. Whilst Queen Victoria granted a royal charter in 1843, the society did not commence the use of ‘Royal Pharmaceutical Society’ until as recently as 1988.

1899

1899

At the end of the 19th century, Edwin Ballard took over the chemist and ran the business with his son.

From 1899, Ballard kept records logged in a register which remains onsite to this day. These records were original prescription lists drawn up by local physicians detailing ingredients to be made up into pills or syrups by the Chemist. The original Victorian traditional remedies “recipe book” also dates back to this period and is still held on site; some of these ancient remedies continue to be prepared for customers to this day as and when required.

1918

1918

In 1918 Edwin Ballard sold the family business to Robert Reavley, a fully qualified pharmacist from Jarrow in Northumberland.

Robert Reavley had worked in India after qualifying as a pharmaceutical chemist at the turn of the 20th century, returning to England and marrying Rachel Penman. As Rachel’s brother, Roger, lived in Cheltenham, the Reavleys settled in Burford to be closer to her family.

Robert Reavley Dispensing Chemist, as it now became known, was only half the size of the current shop, with only one outside water tap and lavatory and the northern section being the family front parlour. Burford and indeed the Cotswolds were poor areas at this time.

The shop was, by this time, furnished with traditional, bespoke, Victorian mahogany apothecary drawers and cabinets, each finished with a painted label denoting the contents and which remain in place (although no longer used to house individual ingredients) to this day.

Early 20th Century

Early 20th Century

Robert and Rachel Reavley bore one son, Eric, in 1909 who went on to attend the local grammar school and subsequently take up clerical work near Woodstock at the cement factory. Whilst originally a school for boys, in the 1920s the school became co-educational, admitting girls, one of whom was Sybil Miles from a neighbouring village, Shipton-under-Wychwood. Sybil later decided to join the family business as a trainee pharmacist under Robert Reavley, attending college and then marrying Robert’s son, Eric, in January 1935 just ten months before qualifying.

Eric and Sybil continued to run the family business after Robert died in 1955, expanding the accommodation for their growing family with the arrival of three children, Nigel, Alison and Cedric. Following the death of Rachel Reavley in 1967, the layout of their home and business premises was altered to allow for a larger retail area, still incorporating the original Victorian features and fittings.

Cedric Reavley was the only child who decided to follow in his parents’ and grandparents’ footsteps by training as a chemist, having lived among the world of apothecary in Burford all his life. Qualifying in 1974, he proudly joined his mother in partnership as third generation Reavley to run the business. His father, Eric, had died in 1976 and his mother followed in 1994, leaving Cedric at the helm of the traditional chemist.

Late 20th Century

Late 20th Century

Cedric recalled that his earliest memory in the pharmacy was being lifted up by his grandfather, Robert Reavley, to see over the counter, and also peering into the till to see all the copper and silver coins.  Of course, it was the time of imperial currency (pounds, shillings and pence) and Cedric said that it was rare to receive payment in the form of a note.

During his early years at the helm of the pharmacy, many of Cedric’s customers were from small farms in the area who would come to him to purchase provisions such as a gallon of Jeyes fluid or Dettol; landowners would come in for cyanide and strychnine for getting rid of moles, wasps and other pests.  Of course, it is no longer legal to supply these poisons today and the customer base has changed to mostly domestic consumers and visiting tourists.

During this third generation of Reavley management, medicinal advances were such that prescriptions were no longer made to order using the traditional Troy unit measurements for ingredients: grains, scruples and drams; the metric system was introduced and ensured, to quote Cedric, that pharmacists effectively were now “without any scruples!”.

Still calling upon traditional remedies, however, some of which were still made as bespoke prescriptions for local residents, Cedric continued to serve his loyal customers.  They, in turn, supported Reavley’s and Cedric by successfully fighting off High Street chain rivals intent on invading the Burford market, favouring the comfort of their traditional, trusted, family run pharmacy instead.

In 1998 Ye Olde Chymist Shoppe in Knaresborough closed its doors as a chemist after trading since 1720, thereby making Reavley Chemist the oldest trading pharmacy in England.

21st Century

Following Cedric’s retirement in February 2019, a new era of family run management began when Reavley Chemist was acquired by the Tuffour family.

Under their new ownership, Reavley Chemist is still able to call upon the wealth of traditional remedies and bespoke medicines heralding from a bygone apothecaric era, whilst offering its customers the best possible service and the latest in modern medicinal advice from the original Victorian interior.

A qualified Pharmacist, Ben already has successful, thriving, chemists in Essex and London and will continue, with the support of his wife, Ivy, to provide reliable and trusted pharmaceutical services to the local area.

Ben has previously worked with recognised major High Street chemists as well as local village and GP pharmacies. His extensive commercial and pharmaceutical experience, wealth of knowledge and business acumen will enrich and enhance this historic treasure as it remains the prevailing authority for visitors and locals alike.

In the autumn of 2019, the chemist was featured in an episode of the Channel 4’s investigative Dispatches series. Reavley Chemist was proud to provide the backdrop for the analytical exploration of the differing cost of prescription drugs.

Since their arrival in Burford, The Tuffour family has increased the number of pharmacists, each with additional, specialist areas of expertise. There are plans to introduce many new initiatives to support the local community, as well as welcoming the increased interest from both locals and tourists alike who visit the chemist, not just for essential supplies and advice, but to enjoy this treasured, celebrated, historic destination.

The family regard the chemist as a national treasure and iconic monument; it is their vision and intention to preserve and share with the world that which they have been privileged in taking on this local business, ensuring everyone has the opportunity to see, touch and feel the relics and fascinating archives of apothecary history.

Now open 7 days per week, Reavley Chemist intend offering apprenticeships to the local community for those wishing to pursue a career in pharmacy. They will also be recruiting and training new pharmacist graduates in their pre-registration year, welcoming them into the business to ensure that continuity of expert knowledge remains available for residents and visitors in the years to come.

  • Royal Pharmaceutical Society
  • General Pharmaceutical Council
  • NHS Services
  • Pharmacy
  • Cotswolds Clinic
  • NHS Choices