A Savory & Moore Mahogany Medicine Chest, London, 19th Century.

Chests such as this were supplied by pharmacists for use whilst travelling, or simply to contain medicines that were available in London but might not be found elsewhere. 

Owners would have had a working knowledge of the substances that were supplied and would have been able to make up pills and preparations.

Some of the ingredients such as Epsom salts, tartaric acid and sodium bicarbonate were straightforward and are familiar today, but others, such as laudanum and acetate of morphine were more dangerous.

Laudanum is a derivative of opium which was widely used for many minor ailments, but overdoses were common.

Sarah, the second wife of Henry Cecil, 10th Earl and 1st Marquess of Exeter (11754-1804), was treated with the drug for complications during childbirth and it is likely that the amounts involved contributed to her tragically early death.


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