Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London

The Society of Apothecaries' is taking part in the Lord Mayor's show as part of the celebrations for our 400th Anniversary. We will be reflecting our history, our place in modern medicine, and also our relationship with Save The Rhino.


The origins of the Apothecaries can be traced back to the Guild of Pepperers, which was formed in 1180. The trade in spicery and the development of pharmacy became interdependent and led to the emergence of the spicer-apothecary. By the mid-sixteenth century the apothecary had become what we call a community pharmacist today, dealing chiefly with the preparation and sale of substances for medicinal purposes.

On the 6th December 1617, King James I granted the Apothecaries’ charter of incorporation, this entitled Apothecary’s both to prescribe as well as to dispense medicines, although until 1830 they could only accept payment for the drugs, and so became forerunners of today’s General Practitioners.

Today the Society has a thriving membership of doctors and pharmacists, and it holds exams, lectures and diplomas courses. The Society examines eight different postgraduate diploma; one of the most recent diplomas, the Medical Care of Catastrophes, was encouraged by the Royal Army Medical Corps, and the Diplomas in Genitourinary Medicine and HIV Medicine are compulsory for those wishing to progress in those specialities. Several well-known people have sat exams in the Hall, John Keats, the poet, qualified LSA in July 1816, Agatha Christie, and Elizabeth Garrett (later Garrett Anderson) gained her LSA in September 1865, and so became the first woman to qualify as a doctor in Britain.

Apothecaries’ Hall was purchased in 1632, the Hall was re-built in 1672 after the Great Fire and is the oldest Hall in the City. Miraculously, and through the heroic dedication of the firewatchers during the Second World War, it has survived virtually intact through more than three centuries. The Hall is used today for Livery dinners, lectures and examinations, and is also available for hire.

Our emblem is Durer's Rhino, drawn in 1515; this rhino is on our coat of arms and is seen frequently around Apothecaries' Hall. We support Save The Rhino in their efforts in rhino conservation, and we are delighted that they have lent us one of their iconic costumes for the Lord Mayor's Show. As well as supporting rhino conservation, we also award grants to help medical students who are struggling financially and who otherwise may be unable to complete their course.