Posted by: Footler PJ28 MAY 2009
Like many pharmacists of his generation Footler is prone to bouts of nostalgia. He is likely to reminisce about the days when we actually made things rather than faxing an order to a “specials” manufacturer.
Most pharmacies, he will grumble, have no use for an ointment slab or a dispensary balance and only need measures when reconstituting antibiotic mixtures.
Many people would say good riddance to all those dusty bottles of chemicals and I suppose we really do not have the time or staff, or indeed the professional freedom, to indulge in a little old-fashioned pharmaceutical creativity.
However, along with all those old mixtures we have lost their containers. The rows of Winchesters have gone, replaced with a small selection of plastic bottles containing those few bulk mixtures we still use.
Winchester bottles took their name from the archaic Winchester measure. This is a set of legal standards of volume defined during Anglo-Saxon times and in use, with some modifications, until the present day.
During the 10th century AD, Winchester was King Edgar’s capital city. Under his direction the first standard measures of volume such as the bushel, the peck, gallon and quart were set and held at court.
London became the capital city soon after the Norman conquest but whenever the national standards, which by then included weight and length, were reaffirmed it was by reference to the Winchester standards.
In 1670 a statute decreed that only the Winchester bushel could be used for grain and salt sold in England. In 1824 a new Act defined a gallon as the volume of 10 pounds of pure water at 62F. Other measurements of volume were brought into line.
The Winchester bushel, although smaller than the “new” bushel, continued to be used in the English grain trade until 1835. It was later adopted by the US and it remains the US standard for dealing in grain to this day.
Neither the original Winchester bushel (probably made of wood) nor any of Edgar’s other standard measures remain. We do, however, have standard bushel, gallon and quart measures made of bronze which were issued in 1497 and stamped with the mark of Henry VII.
I wonder whether anyone will reminisce over a plastic bottle in future.