The town of Tamworth in the Midlands used to have a number of medieval and Tudor buildings which were demolished in the 1960s to make way for a shopping centre and other modern developments. Some older buildings had gone long before the 60s however. The information board outside St Editha’s church describes how one of the demolished buildings was ‘The Old Paregoric Shop’ and includes a depiction of the street at the turn of the century. This building was demolished in 1936.
The intriguing name of the shop is taken from the medical world. Originally, ‘paregoric’ described a range of soothing medicines (the word is a direct borrowing from Latin: paregoricus = soothing). So, for example, John Pechey’s English translation of Sydenham’s Works in 1696 described how
Among the Medicines […], those they call Paregoricks, such as liquid Laudanum […] excel the rest.
In the early eighteenth century a specific medicine which was known as a paregoric tincture was developed in the University town of Leiden, in the Netherlands. Initially the medicine, formulated by a chemistry professor called Jakob Le Mort (1650-1718), was used as a treatment for asthma, but it became widely used to help upset stomachs and coughs. Like laudanum and other soothing medicines, the key active ingredient of the tincture was opium, this time dissolved in water, mixed with some camphor gum and honey.
Paregoric or camphorated tincture of opium was sold and used well into the twentieth century – latterly as a treatment for babies to mothers addicted to opioids .
The shop in Tamworth sold other over the counter remedies too. The photo below shows the present street view dominated by the Co-op Department Store.