Collection Spotlight: Apothecaries Hall of Ireland
Harriet Wheelock

Collection Spotlight: Apothecaries Hall of Ireland

This month’s Collection Spotlight looks at the Apothecaries Hall of Ireland material held in the Heritage Centre.

What is the Apothecaries Hall of Ireland?
Apothecaries Hall started out as the Guild of St. Luke, which was established by Royal Charter in 1746. The Guild was established as the result of concerns about the standards of Apothecaries practising in Ireland. The College of Physicians had the power to examine Apothecaries shops.
1743 report on Apothecaries Shops in Dublin (RCPI/11/1/2)

The Apothecaries Act of 1791 established the Apothecaries Hall of Ireland, with a governor, deputy governor and thirteen directors and subscribers. Membership was open to all apothecaries in Dublin on payment of £100. Under the Apothecaries' Act no apothecary could take an apprentice who had not been examined by the Hall, and apprentices were required to serve for seven years. Under the Act no one could open an apothecary's shop without a certificate from the Hall, and there were restrictions on the sale of poisons. Appeals against the Hall decision could be made to the College of Physicians.

Under the Medical Act (1858) the qualification of Licentiate of Apothecaries' Hall was included as one of the recognised qualifications to practice medicine in the British Isle. Apothecaries' Hall was an examining and licensing body, not a teaching one. Applicants had to present evidence of adequate attendance at lectures and clinical instruction from recognised centres, before sitting the examinations. The Licentiate of Apothecaries continued to be a recognised medical qualification until 1971, when it was removed from the list by the General Medical Council and the Medical Registration Council of Ireland.
95 Merrion Square former home of the Apothecaries Hall of Ireland

Apothecaries Hall remained in its building at 95 Merrion Square until 2011, when the building was sold. At that point the archive of the Hall was transferred to the RCPI Heritage Centre.

What is in the archive collection?
The Hall’s archive contains an extensive set of records of the Guild and the Hall from 1746 to the 21st century. This includes the founding Royal Charter of the Guild (1746) and complete set of transactions (minute books) from 1747 onward.

About half the material in the archive relates to the licensing and examining function of Apothecaries Hall. This includes roll books, examination results and the records of the Court of Examiners; detailing who qualified when and with what certificate, and, for many of the 20th century graduates their exam results. This material can be particularly valuable for those carrying out family history research.
Enrolment of  certificates book (AH/5/1/3)

There are also some financial papers of the Hall, including the records of the Apothecaries Benevolent fund which provided financial support to the widows and dependants of deceased Apothecaries.

Governor's gown and mace
What other items are there?
When the Apothecaries Hall moved out of their building in 2011, RCPI offered them a meeting space and space to display their Governors’ Boards and portraits. As well as looking after these items, the Heritage Centre also stores the Hall’s ceremonial gowns and mace.

There are records relating to Apothecaries and the Hall in the RCPI archive. Under the College Charter of 1692 the College was granted powers to inspect apothecaries’ shops, and they would later be given some powers of oversight over the Hall. The College’s archive contains a number of the reports on inspections of shops from the 1740s to the 1850s. The College’s archive also holds paper relating to a number of disputes between the two bodies; mainly resulting from the College’s reluctance to recognise the Hall as a medical licensing body.

Dun’s Library also holds a copy of the only history of the Hall, which was published by James Charles MacWalter in 1916; A History of the Worshipful Company of Apothecaries of Dublin.

How can the records be viewed?
All of the material relating to Apothecaries Hall is open to researchers to consult, by appointment, in our reading room. All archive material is catalogued and can be searched on our on-line catalogue. The portraits, gowns and other objects have yet to  be catalogued, but this will be done in the near future.