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Stone and Sons, Chemist – an old Exeter Company

Page updated 4th August 2016

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It was in 1760 that the Exeter pharmacist, Dr Stone, invented a pure beeswax furniture cream. It does not seem like a likely invention, but this was the golden age of English furniture making. Thomas Chippendale, Robert Adam and Thomas Sheraton created a market for fine Georgian furniture that needed polishing. What better product than a furniture cream.

Situated at 166 Fore Street, in what is now Adams Hardware Store, the business expanded into making pharmaceutical products for both human and animal use. A favourite was Stone's Rennet, which was used to make cheese and junkets - the name lives on today with another manufacturer. They stocked a complete range of patent medicines, including a treatment for scab in sheep, and from 1894, they stocked homeopathic medicines.

By 1900, there was a small production line devoted to making furniture cream and other products and they were listed as a drugs wholesaler, on the Exeter Insurance Map of 1911. The early 20th century saw Hilda Stone, and her cousin Alan, managing the business.

Disaster struck in May 1942, when bombing destroyed the shop and manufacturing premises, along with Marks and Spencer, Liptons and Freeths Confectioners, all in the same block, by fire and water. During the early 1950s, the bus stop by the shattered building was colloquilly known as the 'Golden Eagle' before the facade and bird were demolished for redevelopment.

The business moved to a new shop in Mary Arches Street, in what is now, Butlers. Hilda and Alan retired soon after, the last Stone's to be associated with the business, which was passed on to their old employees.

A local manufacturing chemist, Jackson's bought the business in 1960, who in turn were purchased by Cadbury Schweppes in 1989. Production of the furniture cream ceased, as it did not fit in with the giant company's product range. However, Jackson's still manufacture and sell Stone's Rennet for making junkets.

Soon after, in 1989, Louisa Wragg asked a former employee of Stone's if there was any stock left, as she could no longer buy it in the shops. The friend confirmed that there was no stock left, but they would give Louisa's husband, David, the recipe and method of production. Manufacturing started again, based in Crediton, making and selling the original 1760 product. The company, run by Christopher Chanter, supplies furniture cream to several national chains and many furniture and antique dealers. Manufacturing consumes a ton of pharmaceutical beeswax per annum, using the same recipe and method of manufacture, that Dr Stone devised in 1760.

Sources - Stones website, Exeter Burning by Peter Thomas, 1911 Insurance Map More information on Stones products may be found on their website at stonesfurniturecream.co.uk

The Stones shop

The Stones shop at the top of Fore Street circa 1900. Courtesy of Stones.

An advert from a guidebook

An advert from a guidebook.

A jar of the modern furniture cream

A jar of the modern furniture cream.

The traditional Stones 'beeswax' cream

The traditional Stones 'beeswax' cream.

An advert from 1892

An advert from 1892 showing a range of products from Stones.

An advert from 1940

An advert from 1940, and a tonic to make you feel young.

 

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